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Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food vs. Air Dried Dog Food

Written by: Arlene D.
Arlene A. Divina, a resident of the Philippines, is a devoted fur mom to two adorable dogs: a Shih Tzu and a Beagle. With a passion for animals and storytelling, Arlene has channeled her love for dogs into her career as a content writer at iHeartDogs. Her writing captures the essence of the bond between humans and their furry companions, offering insights, tips, and heartfelt stories to a wide audience of dog enthusiasts. Read more
| Published on November 1, 2023

Reviewed by: Dr. Theresa Fossum

Reviewed by:

Dr. Theresa Fossum

Meet Dr. Theresa (Terry) W. Fossum, DVM, MS. Ph.D., Diplomate ACVS – a remarkable animal lover whose passion for animal care and innovative solutions has left an indelible mark on the veterinary world. As the CEO of both Phoenix Animal Wellness and Epic Veterinary Specialists, she's ensuring dogs and cats receive the highest level of care and compassion.Read more

The dog food industry has seen significant advancements over the years. Traditional kibble and canned foods are now accompanied by a slew of high-quality alternatives. Among these alternatives, freeze-dried raw and air-dried dog foods have emerged as top contenders for those seeking premium nutrition for their pets. Here, we’ll dissect the differences between these two food types, evaluate their benefits, and delve into the associated costs. Don’t forget to view our review of the best freeze dried dog foods here.

1. Getting Acquainted with Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food

Freeze-dried raw dog food is a process that involves freezing the food and then removing almost all its moisture in a vacuum. This method retains the raw nutritional content and flavor of the ingredients.


  • Preservation of Nutrients: Since it undergoes minimal processing, the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes remain mostly intact.
  • Long Shelf Life: Its extended longevity means that preservatives are unnecessary.
  • Raw Diet Benefits: Offering a diet closer to what dogs might consume in the wild, many claim it leads to shinier coats, better digestion, and increased energy.

Estimated Cost: Prices can vary, but freeze-dried raw dog food usually costs between $25 to $50 per pound.

2. Unpacking Air Dried Dog Food

Air-dried dog food is prepared by exposing the food to warm air, which evaporates the moisture. The method is gentle and slow, ensuring the preservation of nutrients without actually cooking the food.


  • Nutrient Density: The slow-drying process retains most of the food’s natural nutrients.
  • Ease of Use: Doesn’t usually require rehydration; it’s ready to serve right out of the bag.
  • Convenience: Lighter than wet food and doesn’t need refrigeration, making it perfect for traveling or storage.

Estimated Cost: On average, air-dried dog food can range from $20 to $40 per pound, but prices may vary based on brand and ingredient quality.

3. Nutritional Distinctions

  • Freeze-Dried Raw: Because it’s essentially raw food with moisture removed, it provides a diet rich in natural enzymes and nutrients.
  • Air Dried: Retains a large portion of its nutritional profile, but exposure to warm air might slightly degrade certain vitamins and enzymes.

Related: I Test 11 Freeze Dried Dog Foods for 30 Days with My Picky Dog. Here’s Our Findings


4. Convenience and Preparation

  • Freeze-Dried Raw: Often requires rehydration, which means adding water before serving.
  • Air Dried: Typically can be served straight from the bag without any additional steps.

5. Shelf Life and Storage Needs

  • Freeze-Dried Raw: Can be stored for a long time, often years, given its minimal moisture content.
  • Air Dried: While it also boasts a lengthy shelf life, it might not last quite as long as freeze-dried food, especially once the bag is opened.

6. Taste and Palatability

  • Freeze-Dried Raw: When rehydrated, it offers a texture and taste similar to fresh food, which can be a hit with many dogs.
  • Air Dried: Provides a unique, often chewy texture which might appeal to dogs that prefer something in between crunchy kibble and soft wet food.

7. Digestibility and Health Perks

  • Freeze-Dried Raw: The raw nature of the food often means enhanced digestibility, which can translate to improved gut health, energy, and coat quality.
  • Air Dried: While still easy to digest for most dogs, it might not offer the same raw food benefits as its freeze-dried counterpart.

8. Potential Safety Concerns

  • Freeze-Dried Raw: There is always a slight risk associated with raw diets, such as bacterial contamination. However, reputable brands ensure their process minimizes these risks.
  • Air Dried: The warm air drying method can reduce some pathogens, but it’s still crucial to handle and store the food correctly.

9. Environmental Considerations

  • Freeze-Dried Raw: The freeze-drying process can be energy-intensive.
  • Air Dried: Uses a more passive method of drying, which might be slightly more eco-friendly.


Both freeze-dried raw and air-dried dog foods stand as a testament to the evolving world of pet nutrition, offering high-quality alternatives to traditional dog foods. Choosing between them will hinge on individual preferences, your dog’s specific needs, and budget constraints. Always remember to transition slowly when introducing new foods and consult with a veterinarian to ensure you’re making the best nutritional choice for your canine companion.


Frequently Asked Questions About Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food vs. Air-Dried Dog Food

1. What is the main difference between freeze-dried and air-dried dog food?

Freeze-dried dog food is made by freezing the raw ingredients and then removing the moisture in a vacuum, which preserves the food’s nutrients and raw qualities. In contrast, air-dried dog food removes moisture through evaporation in a process that slightly cooks the food, which can decrease certain pathogens.

2. Is freeze-dried dog food considered raw?

Yes, freeze-dried dog food is considered raw because the freeze-drying process does not cook the food; it merely removes moisture, preserving the raw nutritional qualities of the ingredients.

3. Can freeze-dried dog food be the sole diet for my dog?

Freeze-dried dog food can be a complete diet if it’s balanced and formulated to meet all of a dog’s nutritional needs. It’s essential to choose a brand that is AAFCO-compliant for a complete and balanced diet.

4. How does the nutritional content compare between freeze-dried and air-dried dog food?

Freeze-dried dog food typically retains more of the raw ingredients’ nutrients, enzymes, and proteins due to the absence of heat in the drying process. Air-dried food may lose some nutrients due to the gentle heat, but it still retains more nutrients than traditional kibble.

5. Is air-dried dog food cooked?

Air-dried dog food is not cooked in the traditional sense; it undergoes a gentle drying process that uses warm air to remove moisture, which can slightly cook the food and reduce the presence of pathogens.

6. How long does freeze-dried dog food last after opening?

Once opened, freeze-dried dog food generally needs to be consumed within a month. Some manufacturers recommend refrigerating it after opening to maintain freshness.

7. Is air-dried dog food better than kibble?

Air-dried dog food is often considered better than kibble because it typically contains more protein and fewer fillers. It undergoes minimal processing, which helps preserve nutrients and flavor.

8. Does freeze-dried dog food need to be rehydrated?

While freeze-dried dog food can be fed dry, rehydrating it can aid in digestion and make it more palatable for some dogs. Always follow the feeding instructions provided by the manufacturer.

9. How do you store air-dried dog food?

Air-dried dog food should be stored in a cool, dry place. Ensure the bag is sealed properly after each use to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage.

10. Can I switch my dog from kibble to freeze-dried or air-dried food?

Transitioning your dog from kibble to freeze-dried or air-dried food should be done gradually to avoid digestive upset. Start by mixing a small amount of the new food with the old and slowly increase the proportion over time.

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