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Many dog parents know I'm a proponent of giving our dogs a complete and balanced diet with as high-quality ingredients as possible - whether that's dry dog food, raw dog food, freeze dried dog food or home-prepared cooked dog food.
I'm often asked which commercial dog food brands I recommend, especially when it comes to commercial options that offer an alternative to kibble - options such as freeze-dried raw foods or dehydrated foods. Here are my recommendations...
Not every dog's diet can be raw food or home-cooked meals. And that's okay! Freeze-dried food or dehydrated foods can offer similar benefits as a raw diet or home cooked meals, but they're much easier to store and don't require any cooking.
Freeze-dried dog food is made by taking fresh, raw ingredients and removing the water content through a freeze drying process. Dehydrated dog food is made in a similar way, but the ingredients are first cooked before the water is removed.
Because freeze drying and dehydrating removes water but not heat, these processes preserve more nutrients than cooking, which can destroy some nutrients.
Freeze-dried dog food and dehydrated foods are often more palatable for dogs than kibble, since they contain more odor and flavor.
Freeze-dried dog foods and dehydrated foods can be used as toppers or mix-ins to add flavor and nutrition to your dog's meals.
Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are much more convenient than raw diets, since they don't require any thawing or cooking.
In general, freeze-dried food or dehydrated food is a good in-between choice for those who want to go with a commercial dog food and might not be able to afford raw or cooked pre-made commercial diets but are looking for something more than kibble.
Both freeze dried dog food and dehydrated food offer much more palatable meals for dogs than kibble and are actual pieces of real food that have been freeze-dried or dehydrated, that then are re-hydrated with warm water prior to serving to your dog. Particularly in the case of freeze-dried food, the real food includes things like beef liver or turkey liver, sweet potatoes, organic fruits, pumpkin seeds, and other raw foods.
The freeze-drying process avoids the high-heat processing used for kibbles so the nutritional qualities of the raw food remain more intact as they would in a traditionally prepared fresh or raw diet.
Since it's minimally processed, freeze-dried raw dog food is more easily digestible, making it possible to absorb more essential nutrients that your dog's body can utilize. An additional benefit from more accessible nutrients and the absence of artificial additives is you're less likely to see food sensitivities in your dog.
The only issue I take with many of the freeze-dried dog food brands is that they are mostly all grain free. Grains can play an important role depending on the dog but it's also easy enough to add in some oats or quinoa to any of these brands below. I do this often with all of my clients' freeze-dried meals.
I'm a big fan of supplements and I think they can be extremely helpful when it comes to boosting nutrition, especially in the case of freeze-dried foods which have had most of the water removed (and therefore some nutrients as well).
While you're re-hydrating your dog's freeze dried food, it's also a good opportunity to enhance your dog's bowl with bone broth or some green tea or apple cider vinegar (all great immune boosters) in addition to the water.
And lastly, if you want to give your dog an extra nutritional punch, you can always mix in some raw ground meat, bone meal, and/or organs to any of these brands of freeze-dried food. Just be sure to not overdo it so you don't throw off the balance of your dog's food.
Now, on to the brands...
This list is in order of the brands I like from top to bottom.
If there is a particular brand you don't recognize and you would like more information on it from me, please feel free to ask in the Community discussion in the Improving Kibble Channel here on Dogly. I'm always here to help you navigate the best nutrition for your dog!
A "dehydrated dog food" is air-dried, a method that removes moisture slowly using low heat.
The only brand in the dehydrated food category I recommend is:
That's because they've been offering this kind of food the longest and do it very well. Honest Kitchen also offers whole grain formulations, a good option for most dogs.
You'll want to continue to have in mind the different types of formulations available depending on your dog's life stage. For example, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods for puppies will have a different balance of nutrients than those for an adult or senior dog.
As I mentioned in our Support Group on choosing the right food for your dogs, a diet formulated for an adult dog is not suitable for a puppy. You need puppy or "all life stages" formulated food. Senior diets are also best for seniors. (You can learn more about why and the nutritional needs for each life stage in my "feeding for life stage" step-by-step guide here.)
I hope seeing which freeze dried dog food and dehydrated dog food brands I recommend and why gives you more confidence in selecting food for your dog. If you missed my recommendations for dry dog food, you can check it out here. Or jump back to part one in this series on how to choose the right food for your dog.
If you have any additional questions, you can always ask me in the Community discussion in the Improving Kibble Channel here on Dogly.
Or, if you would like more individually-focused help on your dog's nutrition, you can work one-on-one with me here.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this website and community is based on the research, expertise, and views of each respective author. Information here is not intended to replace your one-on-one relationship with your veterinarian, but as a sharing of information and knowledge to help arm dog parents to make more informed choices. We encourage you to make health care decisions based on your research and in partnership with your vet. In cases of distress, medical issues, or emergency, always consult your veterinarian.