Are Freeze-Dried Dog Treats Healthy and Safe?
Freeze-dried dog treats are among the most popular and prevalent types of products to give your pooch. By freeze-drying treats, the moisture is removed, and your dog enjoys a raw or minimally-processed high meat product.
Unlike baking and heating dog treats which alters their chemical composition, freeze drying retains more texture, flavor, and nutrients. Since most freeze-dried treats are made with one ingredient, dogs with allergies or food sensitivities may benefit.
Most freeze-dried treats are made without artificial ingredients and preservatives, making them a healthier option than commercial treats packed with artificial ingredients. Here’s everything you need to know about the safety, advantages, and types of freeze-dried treats to consider for your dog.
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What Are Freeze Dried Dog Treats?
Manufacturers of freeze-dried treats start with an ingredient such as salmon, rabbit, or liver and freeze it at low temperatures. As a result, the meat gets icy, and nutrients are preserved. Moisture is then removed, and treats are packed in a container to prevent spoilage.
Greg Aldrich, the pet food program coordinator at Kansas State University, states, “Freeze-drying removes moisture by converting ice directly to vapor by sublimation rather than transitioning through a liquid phase.”
The fact that freeze-dried treats are processed at very low temperatures means the chemical composition of the ingredients is not altered in processing.
Freeze drying preserves raw ingredients like fresh beef or fresh chicken. Since the meat is never heated up, it can be called raw. Freeze drying is performed when the meat is fresh, so you don’t have to worry about refrigerating the treats.
What Are The Advantages of Freeze Drying Dog Treats?
There are many reasons to feed freeze-dried treats to your dogs in addition to or in place of other treats. Here are a few advantages:
Most freeze-dried dog snacks are limited to one ingredient. If it is meat, it will generally be high in protein. Most of them contain no dyes, chemicals, or artificial preservatives and are generally grain free.
High in Nutrients
Because they are less processed and made by freezing the protein at lower temperatures, the nutrients remain.
Freeze-dried treats are lightweight due to their manufacturing process. Your dog can carry around her own trail mix on hikes and walks.
It would be very costly if you tried to replicate the process yourself. You’d need to learn the process, purchase the best cut of meat or organ meat, and then spend time freeze-drying if possible.
Most freeze-dried treats are made to be stored at room temperature. Be sure to follow the expiration date listed on the product packaging.
What To Look For In Freeze Dried Dog Treats
Like all pet products, they aren’t all created equal. Look for a high-quality freeze-dried treat for your dog based on:
- Ingredients: Never mind the adorable dog running through a field of flowers on the front of the bag. Flip the bag around the read the ingredients. You want to see one ingredient for the most part. Things like salmon, beef, rabbit, etc.
- Flavor: Not all dogs like the same things. He loves rabbit and salmon. What does your dog prefer?
- Allergies and Skin Sensitivities: Depending on your dog’s individual needs, you can rest assured each bag contains one ingredient. For dogs suffering from itchy skin, skin sensitivities, or food-related allergies, freeze-dried treats are a dog-send.
- Made in the USA: This will appear on the packaging.
- Packaging: Be cognizant of how the product is packed and when the treats expire. Stay away from cheap, low-quality packaging, which can cause moisture to seep it. You want a resealable bag and/or airtight packaging.
- Hidden Junk: If you see any sort of fillers, artificial flavors or colors, sugar, salt, or hormonal products, don’t buy them.
- Storage: Most freeze-dried treats will not require refrigeration, but read the packaging directions closely before purchasing. You’ll need to store them in a cool, dry place.
Are Freeze Dried Treats for Dogs Raw?
Yes, they can be. Freeze-dried treats can be raw. The preservation process the product goes through kills off most pathogens found in raw food. It also makes storage a lot easier for a longer period of time than a plain raw product.
If the treats are prepared without being heated, they can be called raw. After the initial low-temperature freeze, the product goes through a process called sublimation. This is a fancy word for turning a solid into a gas.
Freeze drying preserves the integrity of the product and its nutrients and renders the final product shelf stable. Freeze drying does not involve cooking. Freeze-dried treats lack moisture, which prevents things like yeast, mold, and bacteria from affecting them.
Our Favorite Freeze-Dried Treats for Dogs
In her New York Times bestselling book, The Forever Dog, Dr. Karen Becker writes regarding dog treats, “Ditch the ultra-processed treats in the cupboard. Thankfully, the pet industry is brimming with biologically appropriate freeze-dried and dehydrated all-meat dog treats.”
She and co-author Rodney Habib recommend single ingredient, all-meat or veggie treats because they are low-glycemic, have no added fillers or preservatives, and are available in human-grade, organic, and free-range options.
They say true labels should be understandable and simple and say things like “dehydrated free-range rabbit” or “freeze-dried lamb lung.”
Our favorite trio of freeze-dried dog treats are from Dr. Harveys. We feed and recommend:
Dr. Harvey’s Wild Alaskan Salmon Bites
Dr. Harvey’s Wild Alaskan Salmon Bites are my Cocker Spaniel’s favorite fishy freeze-dried snack made in the USA with pure salmon. The salmon is gently freeze-dried to retain its nutrient.
I love that they are small enough to place in a treat ball or canine brain game. They are perfectly sized for training, contain 42 percent protein, and arrive in a generous 7-ounce bag.
Dr. Harvey’s Rabbit Bites
Made with 37 percent protein, I rotate the salmon bites with the freeze-dried rabbit bites. When taking day trips or long walks, I mix both varieties in a bag for a canine trail mix.
Like all of Dr. Harvey’s freeze-dried treat varieties, they are safe to use for dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds.
Dr. Harvey’s Chicken Hearts
Once you get past the nature of the product, keep in mind how good a high-quality chicken heart is for your dog.
Each piece contains 65 percent pure protein with a mere 5 percent fat. These are great snacks for a dog’s heart and overall diet.
Although no refrigeration is required, the manufacturer advises your dog to eat the contents within 30 days once the bag is opened.
Frequently Asked Questions About Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Follow the instructions on each package or container, but in many cases, freeze-dried treats do have a longer shelf life than their heat-cooked counterparts.
Like any dog treat, pets can suffer from dietary indiscretion side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, etc. Always try any new treat in moderation and on its own to determine if it is the cause of any stomach upset or gastric distress. Never overfeed any treat to your dog.
Follow storage instructions explicitly. I always wash my hands after feeding any sort of treat to my dog. Do not store freeze-dried treats in heat or light; be sure to reseal the package and store them as indicated.
If you have specific questions about ingredients in a diet, always consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist who believes in holistic feeding with freeze-dried foods and treats.
The process of freeze drying does not remove nutrients. On the contrary, proteins retain their nutrients due to the process by which the meat is freeze-dried.
Dr. Becker says treats should not exceed 10 percent of a dog’s daily diet. Read the package directions, but don’t let your dog become overweight or obese.
Freeze drying reduces pet treats’ weight and size, so they will be smaller in most cases.
I don’t give my dog a lot of liver treats. Freeze-dried liver is a popular dog treat, but excessive consumption of liver treats can cause toxicity. Do not give many freeze-dried liver treats per week to your dog.
No. Most freeze-dried food is raw unless otherwise indicated. Dehydrated or air-dried food can be delivered at lower temperatures, but it takes longer. It also leaves meats and fats more prone to spoilage. Dehydration uses heat.