6 of the Best Freeze-Dried Dog Foods For the Raw Curious
A veterinary nutritionist weighs in on how best to approach the diet plan.
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These days, a trendy topic you might hear around the dog park is raw-food diets. Pup parents are making the switch in hopes that it will boost their pup’s overall health by combatting allergies, increasing energy levels, and improving digestion. While there is certainly evidence of these benefits, others fear the possible risks involved with this style of eating — specifically, eating uncooked meat. And as someone who insisted all steak be well done for most of his life, I understand the hesitation.
But if you can get past the initial unconventional nature of the diet, there’s a lot to like about feeding your pup raw foods. According to the American Kennel Club, raw diets may lead to shinier coats, healthier skin, healthier teeth, more energy, and smaller stools. A standard grocery list for meals would also include organ meats, muscle meat, whole or ground bone, raw eggs, dog-safe fresh fruits, and vegetables, as well as potentially yogurt or other dairies. Given that raw items are never cooked, they maintain more of their natural nutrients which can result in better health for your dog.
Most iterations of the diet, such as the Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods (BARF) model, suggest a regimen that’s made up of 60 to 80 percent raw, meaty bones (such as poultry necks, wings, and backs) and 20 to 40 percent fruits and veggies, meat, eggs, and dairy, along with an abundance of supplements.
If that still sounds a bit intense, there’s another, more middle-ground option: freeze-dried food. Freeze-dried food is made of raw ingredients that are dehydrated at a low temperature. While there is a freezing step, a second vaporizing step removes ice crystals, resulting in food with zero risk of spoilage. This method preserves the nutritional value of the food, but because all moisture is removed, you need to add warm water to rehydrate the food before serving.
The whole science experiment-like process preserves the food at its freshest, which makes it a great choice for your pup. Veterinary nutritionist Dr. Sally Perea adds that the freeze-drying process can make raw foods easier to handle. Plus, freeze-dried dog food is slightly more convenient than a traditional raw diet, with a much longer shelf life.
That being said, Dr. Perea does warn that this diet still has some risk of bacteria. “Freeze-drying is a process that can make raw foods easier to handle and feed but it is not considered a kill step to inactivate microorganisms on foods,” she explains. With this in mind, it’s important to buy from reputable brands for the most nutritional benefits and minimal threat of drawbacks. Below, six of our favorites.
Disclaimer alert: This article is here to share information. But, much like pineapple on pizza, the topic may be controversial. Meaning, not all vets or pet professionals agree. Because every pet is a unique weirdo with specific needs. So, talk things over with your vet when making decisions, and use your best judgment (about both your pet’s health and pizza toppings).
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Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.