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.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Air Dried Pet Food
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
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.
Dehydrated Pet Food
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!
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
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.
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.
SO ARE THESE RAW PET FOODS?
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.
ARE THESE COMPLETE, BALANCED DIETS?
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.
WHICH IS BETTER?
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.
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!