What is Dehydrated Dog Food?

Dehydrated dog food is showing up in the dog food market now more than ever. But what is dehydrated dog food? How is it made differently than kibble and what are the benefits of dehydrated dog food? Smack Pet Food gives us the rundown on dehydrated dog food and suggests why you should feed it to your pet in this guest blog.

How is dehydrated dog food made?

Within the dehydrated segment, there are a few alternative processes used by pet food manufacturers to achieve a minimally-processed, dry product.  The two most common, air drying and freeze drying, vary in benefits depending on the specific application or industry.  As with any food preparation method, dehydration leaves a lot of room for variation in the final product; including the quality of sourced ingredients, formulation of the recipe, format of dried food (powder, large patties, small chunks, etc.) and the temperatures used.

What is freeze-drying?

Freeze drying (also known as lyophilization) is a modern scientific process that involves freezing a material to temperatures near -25°C (exact temperatures vary) while in an air-tight vacuum chamber.  Next the air is removed via vacuum in order to vaporize the ice (sublimation).  While most drying occurs during the frozen stage, a blast of heat, as high as 130°C, removes residual moisture to achieve an ultra-dry (1-3% moisture) product. 

What is the main benefit of freeze-drying dog food?

For food applications, retaining closeness to its original physical form – shape, aroma, and size – is the most stand-out benefit of freeze drying.

What is air-drying?

Air drying is the oldest form of food preservation.  In ancient times, the sun was used to preserve vegetables, fruits, and meat.  However in our day and age, this is not exactly practical for the production of meat-based pet foods that demand a high standard of food safety and nutrient retention.  Depending on the type of food, drying can occur at air temperatures as low as 35°C to an excess of 100°C.

What is the main benefit of air-drying dog food?

Today’s air drying technologies are capable of producing dry food that retains more nutrients than conventionally frozen raw food; many of the world’s top pharmaceutical and food companies use air drying technology to dry their often temperature-sensitive products. 

How can you distinguish between qualities of dehydrated dog food?

Dehydrated pet foods vary in quality from brand to brand.  This can impact what kinds of ingredients are used, not to mention how those ingredients are formulated.  

The following are some questions the average pet food consumer can ask to determine the right dehydrated food product for their pet:

  • What is the protein source and how was it raised?
  • Is the dehydrated meat cooked or is it dehydrated raw?
  • Is there filler content?
  • Is there enough fiber to facilitate protein digestion and nutrient absorption?  
  • Does the food contain harsh synthetic vitamin and mineral premixes?
  • Are organs included?
  • Are ground bones included or, is poorly absorbed calcium supplement used instead?
  • How much does your pet enjoy the food? 
  • Are functional superfoods a notable part of the ingredient panel?
  • Are the ingredients non-GMO?
  • How well is the food digested?
  • Do you have to add water to hydrate before serving or can the food be scooped and served?

At the end of the day, the right food for your pet is the one which you feel combines overall health benefits, integrity, enjoyment, convenience, and cost. 

Looking for Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Foods?

If you are looking for some quality dehydrated or freeze-dried food options, check out any of the following brands: