Choosing a commercial kibble is very confusing and may not be all it is cracked up to be, and cooking from scratch for your canine simply doesn’t fit in with your schedule. So, what’s your next option for a safe and nutritious means of feeding your dog? The answer may just be freeze dried dog food. Although you’re not as likely to find this product on your local grocery store shelf or even in every big box specialty pet supplier, there are several brands available.
Freeze dried dog food is actually made from cooked fresh foods with nearly all of the water content removed through a special process. The result is a light and dry product that is packaged in air tight containers for future use.
Freeze dried food is (obviously) frozen, and then a process removes the moisture from the frozen material. Freezing the food before removing the moisture preserves more vitamins and minerals than a dehydrating process. Heat destroys many nutrients, so from a pet nutrition standpoint, reconstituted freeze dried food is as close to fresh as possible.
Freeze dried dog foods come in both cooked and raw formulas. In this regard, it has got to be the most convenient way of feeding your dog a raw diet. It’s obviously not going to be as natural as feeding your own raw diet or even a prepackaged raw diet but it’s the next best alternative.
Freeze dried dog rations remain viable for years as long the packaging is not damaged or opened. This is because all micro-organisms need water to survive, so the spoilage process goes into suspended animation. When you’re ready to feed your pet, all you have to do is open the package, add a little water to reconstitute the food and dinner is ready to be served.
Freeze Drying 101: How is it Made?
Water comes in three stages: solid, liquid and gas. The freeze drying process converts the moisture in the dog food directly into vapor, skipping the liquid stage altogether.
How does this happen? The answer is in the operation of the freeze drying machine.
1. First, the dog food is placed on shelves inside of the dryer. Then, the temperature inside of the unit is lowered to freeze the food. At this point the moisture is still present but the molecules have been isolated.
2. Next, the unit generates a small amount of heat while it simultaneously operates a vacuum pump to pull air pressure out of the chamber. This lack of pressure converts the moisture straight from liquid to gas that is then pulled out of the dog food in a gradual process that can take days to complete. The moisture vapor is collected and condensed on freezing coils to gauge when the sufficient moisture is removed from the food.
3. The final product is then packaged and sealed with an oxygen absorbing material as a final preventative measure against spoiling.
Why Not Just Dehydrate?
Dehydration may seem like a slightly simpler solution to removing the moisture from the dog food, however, using the freezing process prior to extracting the moisture preserves more of the nutritional content of the food. Virtually all of the proteins, vitamins, essential fatty acids and minerals remain intact, so your pet derives the most nutrition possible from his feed.
While freeze drying can suspend spoilage for years, there is still a very small amount of moisture left in the dog food, so eventually it will go bad. However, most of us are not going to purchase a year’s worth of dog food in advance, so spoilage really shouldn’t become an issue.
If you ever find you’ve kept a package around for a few years, simply give it the sniff test to see if it has turned rancid before you feed it to your pet.
Here are some advantages of the freeze dried diet:
1. More bioavailable nutrients, amino acids, and enzymes than commercial dry foods
2. Light weight – excellent for camping trips
3. Easy to store; takes up less room
4. Long shelf life
5. Highly palatable
6. Not subject to mold and spoilage
Freeze dried foods obviously have more nutrients intact than other kibbles because of nutrients being destroyed during processing, but when it comes to a raw diet this is a much more convenient/clean alternative with those raw nutrients still intact.
If you are considering transitioning your dog to a raw food diet, freeze dried foods are a good place to start. They are nutritionally complete and easy to add in incremental amounts. The foods come with feeding instructions, so there is no guesswork involved. Busy schedules and limited space are often cause dog owners to opt for the convenience of bagged, commercial foods. Freeze dried foods require little preparation and require no space in your refrigerator or freezer.
A true BARF diet – raw meat and bones – is simply beyond the scope of daily dog feeding for many people. Freeze dried products that contain ground raw muscle meat, organ meats, and ground bones provide a similar nutritional profile without the mess. Freeze dried foods mimic the healthy diet of your dog’s wild ancestors, and it fits neatly into your kitchen cabinet.
Word of Wisdom: Always add some water to the food because although this process doesn’t the traditional dehydration process it still removes most moisture which is essential for dogs.