Freeze Dried, Air Dried, & Dehydrated Pet Foods, Oh My! | Tomlinson's Feed

Freeze Dried, Air Dried, & Dehydrated Pet Foods, Oh My!

As pet parents learn more about high quality nutrition for their four legged companions, questions arise about freeze dried, air dried, and dehydrated foods.

They all are all similar in that they are without moisture, but are these terms interchangeable? Let’s take a look at each variety.


Air Dried Pet Food

air dried pet food

Air Dried Dog Food by ZiwiPeak

ZiwiPeak makes air-dried food for cats and dogs, and says the “air-drying process minimizes any damage to proteins, vitamins, sensitive nutrients and enzymes. All we do is take [fresh, high-quality ingredients] and gently remove the water.”

Essentially, the air drying process is between that of freeze drying and traditional dehydration using heat. Compare it to making jerky that is hung up and left to dehydrate at room temperature.

Because air drying is such a unique process, ZiwiPeak is the only air-dried formula Tomlinson’s carries.


Freeze Dried Pet Food

Freeze Dried Dog Food

Photo: Primal Pet Foods

The freeze drying process is a bit more complicated, and is created through the process of “sublimation.”

To make freeze dried food, raw food is put in a pressurized chamber and frozen solid. By controlling the temperature and pressure, water is extracted from the food through sublimation: when ice converts directly into water vapor, skipping the liquid phase completely, without any changes to the food.

Freeze drying is a slow process that preserves nutrients, enzymes, and protein structures while making the food shelf stable. To feed, simply crumble the freeze dried patties or nuggets and rehydrate with water.

Find Stella & Chewy’s, Primal, Nature’s Variety, and Vital Essentials freeze dried diets for dogs and cats at all Tomlinson’s locations.

Dehydrated Pet Food

dehydrated pet food

Photo: The Honest Kitchen

Dehydrated pet food is made by taking wholesome, raw ingredients and gently removing the moisture from them. This process is done at a low temperature so as to not break down naturally occurring nutrients and enzymes.

If you’ve ever made beef jerky, meringue, or kale chips at home, then you’ve essentially made a dehydrated food.

To feed dehydrated pet food, simply add moisture back in the form of warm water, bone broth, or goats milk. Stir and serve!

Sojos and The Honest Kitchen are both high-quality dehydrated diets that please even the pickiest of pets.



The main difference is the temperature each process uses to remove moisture. Freeze dried foods remain frozen during the dehydration process, hence the name. Dehydrated foods, on the other hand, use higher temperatures to evaporate the moisture.

Dehydrated dog food

To feed dehydrated pet foods, add water and serve! Photo: The Honest Kitchen

Further, some foods that have had the moisture removed need to be rehydrated, while others can be fed as is. Traditionally dehydrated diets must be rehydrated before consumption. While freeze dried foods don’t necessarily have to be re-hydrated, it is recommended to increase moisture content- which we know is a key part of overall health and wellness in our pets.


Air dried and freeze dried foods are considered raw, as the ingredients were never at a temperature high enough to cook.

Dehydrated foods are generally not considered raw, due to the higher temperatures at which they were dehydrated. However, often times the meat in these formulas has been freeze dried. If this is the case, then the meat is technically raw.

If you have a question about how the ingredients in your pet’s food was prepared, consult the company website. Most pet food companies detail ingredient information, such as sourcing, safety and manufacturing processes.


Most of the above foods are always complete, balanced diets with all the nutrients your pet needs. But, be sure to check the label.

When pet food makers list their food as ‘complete and balanced’, they mean it was especially formulated to meet all nutritional needs. Some dehydrated foods are labeled as ‘mixes,’ to which you’ll need to add your own meat.


Each has its strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t think your pup is patient enough to wait for his food to re-hydrate, then opt for a ready-to-eat air dried formula.

Freeze Dried Dog Food

Prince Charming stands by his complete and balanced freeze-dried diet.

On the other hand, adding water to a dehydrated food is an excellent option for our feline friends, as we know they need extra moisture in their diet.

Ultimately, you know your pet best. Now that you’re armed with the information, you can make an educated decision based on your pet’s individual needs.

If your pretty kitty or precious pup is on a freeze dried, dehydrated, or air dried diet, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Chime in over on our Facebook page, or in the comments below!


Sources: Sojos, Nature’s Variety, ZiwiPeak

1 Response

  1. I’ve been using ZiwiPeak for about a year now for my 2 Maltese and havanese. I changed my dogs over to a strict raw diet when my Havanese was diagnosed with liver problems. They were on raw foods for about a year, but always worried if they were getting a well balance diet, so I switched around with a few freeze dried foods, and I found Ziwi, and so far so good. The only problem I’ve found with this product is that it doesn’t have enough green vegetables for my vets liking, so I give them wheat grass and few other greens separate in the morning. My dogs like this food and they are super healthy now, and that’s all that matters to me. This food is definitely not cheap, but I shop around to get a decent price and I stock up. In the long run from what I save on vet bills, it’s worth the price of this food. I would recommend this to anyone especially for people who feel they must give their pets dry food.