When you walk into your local pet store you will find a variety of different dog food brands, each with their own unique recipes. What many dog owners do not realize is that, in addition to there being a variety of different dog food brands, there are also many different types of dog food. You are probably familiar with kibble as the most popular type of dog food, but there are many other options that you should consider if you are looking for a high-quality diet for your dog – one of these options is dehydrated dog food. Keep reading to learn more about what dehydrated dog food is, the benefits it provides, and some useful tips and information to help you when you are shopping for this type of food – you will also receive recommendations for the top brands of dehydrated dog food.
What is Dehydrated Dog Food?
According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of dehydrate is, “to remove water from food in order to preserve and store it. When it comes to dehydrated dog food, this is one of the primary goals, but it is not the only goal – nor is it the most important goal. In addition to increasing the shelf-life of the product and negating the need for preservatives, the dehydration process also helps to preserve the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients used in the food. The process through which most traditional kibbles are made is called extrusion and it involves subjecting the ingredients to extremely high temperatures. This type of heat destroys many of the nutrients found in the raw ingredients – this is why many kibbles have dozens of nutritional supplements listed on their ingredients lists.
The process of dehydrating dog food does involve heat, but it is a much lower temperature than the temperature at which traditional dry food is cooked. According to the Whole Dog Journal, dehydrating dog food “can be accomplished at low temperatures, but it leaves meats and fats vulnerable to oxidation (spoilage)”. For this reason, traditional dry foods are usually cooked at temperatures between 140˚F and 180 ˚F. Dehydrated foods are also cooked to prevent the meats and fats from spoiling, but they are cooked at a very low temperature over a long period of time which actually changes the cellular structure of the meat which prevents it from spoiling. Unfortunately, this process may also change the appearance and texture of the raw ingredients.
Many pet food brands that sell dehydrated food use the term “air-dried” instead. According to Tomlinson’s, however, air-drying is actually a separate process that is somewhere between dehydrating and freeze-drying – it still involves removing moisture from the raw ingredients but with a minimum amount of heat. Though these two products are very similar, there is one key difference between them – air-dried dog foods do not need to be rehydrated with water prior to feeding like dehydrated foods do. For nutritional purposes, however, these products are extremely similar and the terms “air-dried” and “dehydrated” are often used interchangeably.
The Benefits of Dehydrated Food for Dogs
When you open up a package of dehydrated dog food, you might be a little put off by its appearance. The slow-drying process of dehydration affects the appearance as well as the texture of the raw ingredients. Adding water to rehydrate the product for feeding improves the texture a little bit, making it similar to canned dog food. Still, it might take a little while to get your dog used to eating dehydrated pet food. Many pet parents have success in slowly transitioning their dog onto a dehydrated dog food diet by first switching their dog over to canned food and then mixing some of the rehydrated food in with that in increasingly larger portions over the course of 5 to 7 days. There are some dogs, however, who accept the new food without any trouble at all.
When it comes to the benefits of dehydrated dog food, they are very similar to the benefits of raw dog food because, after all, dehydrated food is made from raw ingredients. The actual dehydration process involves blowing a gentle stream of warm air over the ingredients for a period of several hours. In addition to gently removing moisture, this process activates the natural enzymes in the raw ingredients which jump-starts the digestive process, making the finished product easier for your dog’s body to digest and utilize. The process of dehydration also slow-cooks the proteins at temperatures low enough that the nutrients are preserved, but high enough to kill any pathogens found in the raw meat. This also explains why dehydrated dog food doesn’t need any added preservatives – it is completely shelf-stable with no need for freezing or refrigeration.
In order to truly understand the benefits of dehydrated dog food it is not enough to simply say that the dehydration process preserves the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients. Below you will find a list of specific health benefits your dog may experience in switching to a dehydrated dog food diet:
- Healthier skin and coat – By preserving the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients, dehydrated dog food helps to make sure that your dog gets the healthy fats he needs to support his skin and coat condition. This type of pet food can actually make his coat shinier.
- Improved digestion – The dehydration process not only preserves the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients but it also activates the enzymes, starting the digestive process. This makes the final product easier for your dog to digest which, in turn, increases his absorption of healthy nutrients. All of these things combined support healthy and regular digestion as well as smaller, more compact stools.
- Improved energy levels – As previously mentioned, the dehydration process makes these foods easier for your dog’s body to digest which improves his ability to absorb and utilize key nutrients. This, in turn, will lead to higher energy levels and improved overall wellbeing.
- Stronger immune system – Related to the previous point, an increase in nutrient absorption will also help to improve the strength of your dog’s immune system. Many dog owners do not realize that a large portion of their dog’s immune cells are located in the digestive system, so improved digestion is frequently linked with improved immune health.
- Healthy weight maintenance – Most dehydrated dog foods are rich in protein with moderate fat and low carbohydrate content – this is the ideal formula for healthy weight maintenance. Dogs need plenty of protein in their diets to support lean muscle mass with moderate amounts of fat to provide concentrated energy without driving up the calorie content of the product.
Every dog is different so your dog’s individual reaction to dehydrated dog food could be different from that of another dog. Even if your dog doesn’t experience drastic benefits after a few days, that doesn’t mean that the food isn’t working! Your dog’s body needs time to adjust to such a drastic change in diet so just keep feeding him the dehydrated food and eventually his body will catch up.
Shopping and Feeding Tips for Dehydrated Dog Food
If you are thinking about switching your dog to a different kind of food, you need to take your time with the decision no matter what kind of food you are switching to. Not all dog foods are created equal – there is a great deal of variation in terms of quality for various commercial pet food products. When it comes to dehydrated pet food, you can rest assured that nearly any product you choose will deliver high nutritional quality. This is because raw ingredients are used to create dehydrated dog food and the dehydration process negates the need for artificial preservatives and other additives. It may be technically possible to make dehydrated dog food with low-quality ingredients, but there is simply no need to do so and any company committed enough to quality nutrition to make dehydrated pet food will also be committed to using high-quality ingredients.
All of this being true, you still need to be careful when shopping around for dehydrated dog food. While many dehydrated dog food products are grain-free, there are some that aren’t. Grains are not necessarily a bad thing because they can be a valuable source of digestible fiber (especially whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal). For dogs that suffer from food allergies and those who have digestive problems, however, consuming grains may exacerbate those issues. If your dog has food sensitivities or other health problems, you should make sure to look for a grain-free dehydrated dog food. Some dogs are also allergic or sensitive to common proteins like chicken or beef – in cases like these, you should look for a dehydrated dog food product made with novel proteins like rabbit or duck.
In terms of feeding your dog dehydrated dog food, you may encounter several challenges. As it has already been mentioned, dehydrated dog food needs to be rehydrated before offering it to your dog and this could result in a unique texture that some dogs need time to get used to. If your dog is having trouble getting used to the new texture, try mixing it with his old food or add some traditional canned food to ease him into it. In addition to rehydrating dehydrated dog food, you will also need to adjust the actual amount of food you are feeding your dog. Dehydrated food is very nutrient-dense – some brands contain as many as 500 calories per cup. Be sure to follow the feeding instructions on the package carefully to make sure you aren’t overfeeding your dog. You should also keep an eye on his condition in case you need to make adjustments. If your dog is becoming lethargic or losing weight, try increasing his daily ration – if he gains too much weight, cut back a little bit.
Recommended Brands of Dehydrated Dog Food
While dehydrated raw food is still a relatively new product, there are a variety of different brands that currently offer it. Remember, not all dog food products are created equal so you need to do your research and examine the label for new pet food products before you buy them. As it has been mentioned, most dehydrated pet food products offer high-quality nutrition simply because they are made from premium ingredients, but you should always check the label to be safe. To help you get started with your search you will find reviews of some of the top brands of dehydrated dog food below:
Wellness CORE Air-Dried Dog Food – The Wellness brand of dog food is owned by WellPet, LLC and some of their products are manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods, one of the largest pet food manufacturers in the world. Wellness markets themselves as a natural pet food company that follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition. This company makes it their goal to make pet food products that “feeds their souls, sustains their lives and protects their bodies”. Wellness offers their customers what they call the “wellness difference” which promises the use of certain key ingredients in their products such as live active probiotics, a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and natural sources for antibiotics as well as other key vitamins and minerals. Plus, all of these ingredients are combined in a way that maximizes the nutritional power of each one of Wellness’ pet food products.
When it comes to their dog food products, Wellness offers a small assortment of air-dried recipes as part of the CORE product line. The CORE line of products is naturally grain-free and it includes both air-dried and traditional dry dog food recipes. For their air-dried recipes, there are three options – Original Dog; Chicken, Turkey & Salmon Puppy Formula; and Ocean Whitefish and Salmon Formula. Each of these recipes is made with 70% raw protein ingredients and balanced with grain-free superfoods like chickpeas, green peas, and flaxseed. All of Wellness’ air-dried dog foods are supplemented with chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption as well as fresh fruits and vegetables as natural sources for key vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, all of Wellness’ products are free from corn, wheat, and soy as well as artificial additives and fillers.
The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Dog Food – The Honest Kitchen is an all-natural pet food brand that offers a large assortment of dehydrated dog food products. This company was founded in 2002 and all of its products are manufactured in human-grade facilities in Illinois. The Honest Kitchen offers their customers what they call “the honest difference” which makes several promises. For one thing, this company uses only healthy, human-grade whole food ingredients to ensure nutritional integrity and positive health benefits for pets. In fact, The Honest Kitchen believes that quality nutrition has the power to solve a variety of health problems in pets ranging from poor coat condition and digestive issues to dental health and healthy bodyweight. If you are looking for a high-quality dehydrated dog food, try The Honest Kitchen.
The Honest Kitchen is unique from other pet food manufacturers in that the only dry dog food products they offer are dehydrated. This brand offers a collection of grain-free diets as well as whole grain diets, so you can choose the option that is best for your dog’s individual nutritional needs. Each recipe begins with a premium-quality protein such as chicken, turkey, or duck and all of their recipes are complemented with fresh fruits and vegetables for nutritional balance. In addition to using high-quality ingredients in each of their products, The Honest Kitchen also guarantees certain ingredients that they do NOT use. This includes corn, wheat, and soy ingredients as well as artificial additives such as flavors, colors, and preservatives. Simply put, The Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated dog foods offer wholesome and natural nutrition.
ZiwiPeak Air-Dried Dog Food – ZiwiPeak is quality pet food brand based in New Zealand, though they do have a branch in the United States. This brand was the first to offer true air-dried dog food and, according to the ZiwiPeak website, their products are “more convenient to feed than raw, freeze-dried or dehydrated food with no need to thaw or add water”. The ZiwiPeak website states that their air-dried products provide some unique health benefits. The nutritional power of raw ingredients will improve the condition of your dog’s skin and coat while also improving and regulating his digestion. This type of dog food is ideal for dogs suffering from food allergies as well as those with digestive problems because it contains only fresh, natural ingredients and no irritating additives. Each recipe is formulated to mimic the natural ancestral diet that wild dogs have been following for centuries.
In addition to being nutritionally similar to raw food, ZiwiPeak’s air-dried dog food contains no grains, corn, soy, or wheat and they are all free from artificial additives. Each recipe starts with a premium-quality protein as the primary ingredient with plenty of organ meats included as well. Each recipe is fortified with green-lipped mussels for joint-supporting nutrients and a select variety of vitamins, minerals, and extracts for nutritional balance. When it comes to their product offerings, ZiwiPeak only has four different air-dried recipes to choose from but you can rest assured that each one offers excellent nutritional value and unmatched natural flavor. It may take some time for your dog to get used to the unique texture of air-dried dog food, but you will love the health benefits it provides.
I and Love and You Dehydrated Dog Food – Though this company has a strange name, it is not a name that you will soon forget. The I and Love and You company markets itself as a natural brand of pet food that follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition. All of their formulas are grain-free and made with fresh, wholesome ingredients to ensure complete and balanced nutrition for pets in all life stages. This brand promises that real meat is the first ingredient in every recipe and each recipe is formulated with input from holistic veterinarians and pet nutrition experts using premium-quality ingredients. Furthermore, I and Love and You guarantees that all of their products are non-GMO and free from artificial additives like colors, flavors, and preservatives.
When it comes to their dehydrated dog food products, I and Love and You offers four different recipes featuring quality proteins like beef, turkey, chicken, and lamb. These recipes are gently dehydrated to preserve the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients which also preserves their natural flavor. In addition to quality proteins, these recipes are also made with fresh fruits and vegetables for nutritional balance as well as gluten- and grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potatoes. These products are all made in the United States from human-grade ingredients which adds to their nutritional value. If you are looking for a dog food product that will maximize your dog’s nutrition, improve his digestion, and increase his energy levels, consider I and Love and You dehydrated dog food.
Real Meat Air-Dried Dog Food – The Real Meat Company may not be one of the largest or most recognizable brands of dog food but, if you are looking for a quality air-dried product, they are hard to beat. This company uses high-quality ingredients such as premium meats sources from the U.S. and New Zealand as well as fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure nutritional balance. As a smaller brand of dog food, The Real Meat Company only offers three different recipes for dogs and three for cats. This brand exclusively offers air-dried pet food, however, so you can rest assured that even though their product offering is limited, each product is an example of high quality. Furthermore, their air-dried products can be fed as-is or they can be rehydrated with water or broth to help increase your dog’s moisture intake.
Although The Real Meat Company only offers three choices for air-dried dog food, each recipe is positively packed with premium proteins and balanced with fresh sources of key vitamins and minerals. The three flavor options available are beef, lamb, and chicken. In addition to using plenty of fresh meat, The Real Meat Company also uses organ meats and ground raw bone – this makes their products very similar to the type of diet followed by wild wolves. If you check the ingredients list for The Real Meat Company’s air-dried dog foods you will find that it is short compared to many traditional dog foods. This company only uses premium proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy supplements in their recipes – no corn, wheat, or soy ingredients and absolutely no artificial additives. Simply put, your dog would be lucky to enjoy any of The Real Meat Company’s air-dried dog foods.
Dehydrated dog food offers superior nutritional quality over many traditional dry dog food products, but it may not be the right choice for every dog. This type of dog food offers a wide variety of health benefits, but it does have a unique texture that some dogs simply may not like. When it comes to quality, however, dehydrated dog food is hard to beat. If you decide that dehydrated food is the right choice for your dog, consider starting with one of the recommended dog food brands reviewed above.