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When you hear the words “freeze-dried,” what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of fruit snacks or those little oxygen packs that keep your beer cold. You probably don’t think about dog treats.
Freeze-dried dog treats and food have been gaining popularity over the last few years. Freeze drying is a process that preserves nutrients in raw food ingredients, producing a shelf-stable and lightweight dog food product.
So, can dogs safely eat freeze-fried dog treats? And if so, are there any benefits? Are they better than regular dog treats?
We answer these and all your questions about these treats. Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents 📖
- What Are Freeze Dried Dog Treats?
- Nutritional Value
- Why Feed Them to Fido?
- Freeze-Dried vs Dehydrated
- Where to Buy
- What To Look For
- Homemade Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Freeze Dried Dog Treats?
According to the FDA, freeze-drying is the process in which water is removed from a product [ingredient] after it is frozen and placed under a vacuum, allowing the ice to change directly from solid to vapor without passing through a liquid phase.1 This direct transition of a solid to a gas is known as sublimation.
This process is good at preserving nutrients and protein structures, making these treats highly nutritious and shelf-stable. Thanks to sublimation, freeze-drying does not significantly affect the texture, taste, and nutrition of the food when rehydrated, states Utah State University.
This process does not use chemicals and is considered healthier and more nutritious than regular dog treats, hence its growing popularity among dog parents.
Typically, most freeze-dried dog treats are made with high-quality ingredients. Manufactures tend to use human-grade meats and other organic. Organ meat is also common in freeze-dried dog snacks.
In simpler words, it’s a process that uses cold temperatures to remove moisture from raw meats, fruits, and veggies without destroying their nutrients.
*Freeze-dried is not the same as dehydrated. We explain below.
Freeze-dried dog treats can be fed like regular dog treats or food toppers. You don’t have to add water with some, but others require rehydration before your dog eats them. Adding water to freeze-dried pet treats helps bulk it up and improves the texture. If you feed it to your pup straight from the bag, once in your dog’s mouth, his saliva can rehydrate the treats.
Storage & Shelflife
How long do freeze-dried dog treats last?
These treats do not require refrigeration to stay fresh. You can keep it at room temperature. Unopened freeze-dried dog treat products can last from 15 to 18 months. You can store open products on your shelf for up to one year. All you need to do is keep them away from humidity and direct sunlight.
Benefits of Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Are freeze-dried treats good for dogs? Why should you feed freeze-dried dog treats to your dogs? The benefits might surprise you.
According to Chewy, dogs are built to absorb enzymes and nutrients from raw meat. Freeze-dried dog food and treats provide dogs with these enzymes and nutrients giving them the optimal support they need to keep their gut flora balanced. A balanced gut gives their immune systems a better chance of fighting off bad bacteria, allergies, and yeast.2
And because freeze-dried dog edibles are generally made without fillers, artificial ingredients, preservatives, or harmful chemicals. This can improve digestion, smaller, virtually odorless poops, and breath.
Other benefits may include
- Healthier weight
- Shiny coat
- Increased energy
- Safe and convenient
- Doesn’t need to be cooked or refrigerated
- Benefits of raw nutrition without eating raw
- Minimally processed
- Preserves taste of meat ingredients
- Preserves ingredient nutritional value
- Long shelf life
- Lightweight product
- Super tasty
- Better overall nutrition (nutrients are not damaged)
- Premium meats and ingredients
- Freeze-dried treats are lightweight, and easy to handle, making them great for travel or taking on outdoor activities for your dog.
- Freeze drying does not significantly change the texture, flavor, or smell of meat
Because there is virtually zero water activity in freeze-dried dog treats and bacteria and microorganisms need moisture to thrive, freeze-drying kills a percentage of bacteria.3
Freeze-Dried Dog Risks & Concerns
Are freeze-dried dog treats safe?
Freeze-dried canine treats are generally safe. The best companies of freeze-dried dog food and treats have an additional process in place before the freeze-drying process that ensures the safety of their products. The process is known as high-pressure processing (HPP). HPP is a pasteurization process used to eliminate bacteria before the freeze-drying process. HPP maintains the integrity of the ingredients. Furthermore, reputable manufacturers source their ingredients from USDA-certified and FDA-approved farms and make them in human-grade kitchens.
However, because the freeze-drying process doesn’t normally involve cooking meat, there is a higher risk of bacteria contamination (Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.) that can make you or your pup sick.
While it is true that freeze-drying removes the moisture from a piece of the treat (meat) and reduces the rate that bacteria can reproduce, there is always a chance of ingredient contamination.
Fortunately, the Food Safety Modernization Act has a zero-tolerance policy for bacteria in pet foods. So, most manufacturers are forced to have adopted HPP. The FDA also regulates and has guidance documents for all pet food products, including commercially available raw food for pets.
We suggest you speak with your vet before feeding your dog freeze-dried treats.
Freezing-Drying & Nutritional Content
Freeze-drying preserves nutrients better than the traditional baking process that uses high heat, common in dog treats.
According to Harvest Right, a freeze-drier manufacturing equipment company, freeze-drying maintains nearly all of the nutritional value of fresh food, up 97%. Other preservation methods, such as canning and dehydrating, are only 60% and 40%, respectively. This is because the high temperatures destroy much of the food value.4
Easily, the freeze-drying process locks in all the healthy stuff. Traditional dog treats and other types are over-processed and lacking in essential nutrients.
This is another added benefit of freeze-dried dog treats and why more dog parents are moving away from traditionally cooked dog treats.
What Are The Downsize of Freeze-Dried Dog Treats?
Freeze-dried dog treats are typically more expensive than regular dog treats. This is mainly due to the laborious freeze-drying processing and premium ingredients. The costs may be substantial when feeding many medium to large dogs. Freeze-dried products can sometimess can get flaky during transportation due to their soft texture.
Nevertheless, opting to feed your dog healthier treats like freeze-dried treats is better for the dog and cheaper than repeated veterinary visits and expensive medications down the road due to unhealthy ingredients and chemicals in dog treats.
Why Feed Freeze-Dried Dog Treats?
Aside from all the benefits described above, here is probably the biggest reason you should consider freeze-dried dog treats.
Unfortunately, most commercially available dog treats contain a range of undefined ingredients, including sugars, and often exceed the recommended daily energy allowance for treats, warns researchers in a study published in the journal Vet Record.5
The study found that three out of four (76%) treats contained four to nine ingredients that were not described precisely on the label. TODAY points out that that confusing or vague dog-treat labels could contribute to poor health and pet obesity.6
So why are freeze-dried dog treats a better option? Are freeze-dried dog treats healthier than regular dog treats?
Yes, freeze-dried dog treats are generally healthier than regular dog treats.
For starters, most freeze-dried dog treats contain one single ingredient. Additionally, most if not all freeze-dried dog treat manufacturers also use human-grade ingredients. To top it all, the freeze-drying process does not involve adding additives, artificial ingredients, sugar, or anything chemical.
Unlike many run-of-the-mill canine snacks on the market typically mixed with grains, dyes, or other mystery ingredients, freeze-dried dog food and treats are basically fresh food ingredients without processing.
What’s The Difference Between Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Dog Treats?
While both processes remove water from raw foods, they differ in key aspects.
Freeze-Dried Dog Treats vs. Dehydrated Dog Treats
Dehydrated dog treats use a low heat environment and air circulation to remove the water and moisture. Because heat is used for an extended period, the food is in a way cooked. The nutritional content of the food partially remains after dehydration. Vitamins A and C are often broken down or lost by the heat.7 Thiamin can be lost as well.
In contrast, freeze-dried dog treats are not heated at any point during the manufacturing process and maintain more of the raw ingredients’ nutritional content than dehydrated dog treats. The process involves freezing at very low temperatures and sublimation (drying phase). Because no heating is involved, most nutrients show minimal damage. The literature indicates nutrient loss is more dramatic in dehydrated food than in freeze-dried food. A study showed that freeze-dried was able to retain 63% vitamin C, whereas heat pump dryer retained only 25%. in plant-based foods.8
Check out this quick video that goes into more detail about the differences.
Types of Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Here are the most common varieties of freeze-dried dog treats you’re likely to come across as you shop for the perfect treat.
Single-ingredient – Made from a single meat source (i.e., chicken breast, pure beef)
Organ meat – Made with organ meat sources. (i.e., chicken liver)
Raw diet: Resembles a raw diet. It includes fresh muscle meat, organs, bones, and other animal parts.
Where to Buy Freeze Dried Dog Treats
There are many places to buy freeze-dried dog treats. The most obvious place to start your search is your local pet store. However, we recommend buying online to find the best brands and deals.
We’ve tried and tested dozens of freeze-dried dog treats. Check out our best freeze-dried dog treats review article if you are interested in getting some for your pup.
What To Look For In Freeze Dried Dog Treats
These are some of the most important characteristics you should look for when buying freeze-dried dog treats.
- Opt for treats that go through high-pressure processing (HPP), a pasteurization process that kills bacteria before the freeze-drying process.
- If your dog is allergic to certain foods, choose novelty meat freeze-dried treats (i.e.. venison, bison, lamb, etc.) or single-ingredient options. These are less likely to cause food sensitivities or allergies.
- Always check the label to ensure that your treat contains the right ingredients and is safe for your pet.
- Preferably, get treats made and processed in the U.S. Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or Western Europe also have strict standards and regulations on pet food ingredients.
- Poor packaging can affect the treats’ treats’ condition by letting moisture seep in where bacteria can grow. Make sure the packaging is high-quality.
- Flavor, taste and smell are key factors in dog treats. Be sure your dog loves the ingredients and the aroma otherwise, they won’t eat it.
Freeze Dried Dog Treats Reddit
There is a lot of chater on Reddit about freeze-dried dog treats. We analyze the threads and bring you some key takeaways and tips from real dog parents on this topic. We could identify that freeze-dried liver treats were a popular recommendation, although one dog’s parents said it didn’t work for his dog and that chicken was better. We saw brands like Vital Essentials, Stewards Pro Treats, Pupford, Origen, and Acana being recommended and mentioned. A user notes Great Jacks for freeze-dried is amazing.
Freeze-dried flavor liver and apples and sweet potatoes were also mentioned as something that works great.
One user says, “you can dehydrate your own treats. Go to Costco and get a big thin of flank steak and cut it into little pieces, then dehydrate it. Much cheaper than buying treats, and you know exactly what’s in it.”
While dehydrated is not the same,, freeze-drying is better than regular treats.
How To Make Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Do you want to learn how to make freeze-dried liver dog treats? Or how to freeze-dry meat for dog treats in general?
There are two alternatives. You can buy a freeze dryer, but honestly, those are expensive. So here are a couple of homemade freeze-dried dog treat recipes you can try out and replicate the same process for other meats and ingredients.
Freeze-Dried Beef Liver Dog Treats Recipe
Learn how to freeze-dry beef liver for your pup with this simple, easy-to-doo recipe.9
- Rinse beef liver with cool water
- Boil a large pot of water
- Add the liver to the boiling water
- Simmer the liver for 30 to 45 minutes until its well-done
- Let the liver cool in the pot
- Cut liver into bite-sized pieces
- Place the liver pieces on a foil-covered baking sheet
- Place them in your kitchen freezer for 5 to 7 days (the longer these treats stay in the freezer, the better)
- Test out your liver treats before getting them all out of the freezer. Grab a piece out of the freezer and let it thaw. If there’s any moisture left, you’ll need to keep them in the freezer for longer.
- After you’ve ensured the treats are entirely dried out, store them in a plastic bag or jar in a cool, dry place for about a week. For a longer shelf life, you can store them in your freezer.
How To Freeze Dry Chicken Liver Dog Treats
This recipe teaches you how to freeze-dried chicken liver into a delicious and nutritious dog treat.10
- Rinse chicken liver with cool water
- Boil a large pot of water
- Add the chicken liver to the boiling water
- Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Allow chicken livers to cool in the pot
- Cut chicken livers into small, uniform pieces.
- Place livers on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Put the cookie sheet in the freezer for one week.
- Test your chicken liver treats before getting them out of the freezer. Grab a piece out of the freezer and let it thaw. If there’s any moisture left, you’ll need to keep them in the freezer for three more days.
- After you’ve ensured the treats are entirely dried out (no moisture is present), place treats in a bag or jar to store for up to one week or bag and freeze for long storage.
How To Freeze Dry Meat For Dog Treats
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to freeze-dried meat for dog treats.
Buy your meat of choice and rinse thoroughly. After that, build the meat in a pot of water for about 30 to 45 minutes. Bring the meat out of the pot and let it cool down. Then, proceed to cut the meal into small bite-size pieces. Place the meat on a foil-covered baking sheet and freeze for about 7 to 10 days. Pull the treats out and let them tawn. There should be no moisture present. Finally, store them in a plastic bag or jar at room temperature for a week. For longer shelf life, you can keep them in your freezer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Freeze-Dried Dog Treats Healthy?
Freeze-dried dog treats are healthy. The freeze-drying process does not involve preservatives or harmful additives commonly found in regular dog treats. Most of the ingredients’ nutritional value remains in the ingredient after they have been freeze-dried.
Are Freeze-Dried Dog Treats Cooked?
The freeze-drying process does not use heat or cooking. Freeze-dried is a “fresh live” food, just like frozen raw. Freeze-drying doesn’t kill the nutrients or denature the ingredients as cooking does.
What Are The Best Freeze-Dried Dog Foods?
According to our research, our top picks for the best freeze-dried dog treats will be Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Dog Treats, Stewart Freeze-Dried Dog Treats Review, Pupford Training Treats, and Halo Liv-A-Littles. However, picking the best treat mostly depends on your dog’s flavor preferences which is why we’ve ranked the best freeze-dried dog treats by flavor.
Freeze-Dried Dog Treats Vs. Raw Dog Treats
Freeze-dried dog treats are nutritionally equal to raw treats, except for the lack of moisture. Typically, freeze-dried dog foods show around 5%-7% moisture compared to 70% or more frozen raw food. However, freeze-dried dog treats rehydrate in minutes. It retains the taste, texture, and smell of raw food.
Should You Feed Freeze Dried Treats to Your Dog?
Freeze-dried treats are an excellent way to provide your dog with nutrients and hydration, and they can be a fun addition to your pet’s diet. Make sure you choose the right type of freeze-dried treat for your dog and don’t overdo it. And as always, consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s diet.