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I realize that walking into Calvin & Susie can be overwhelming sometimes.

Today I was looking at our shelves and the varieties of pet food available now is staggering. Grain free, with grain, high protein, low protein, potato free, low glycemic index, large breed, small breed… the list goes on and on and on. The age of “designer dog food” is truly upon us.

When you ask for a certain category of dog food, let’s say a canned food, gone are the days when your biggest decision was beef or chicken — if you had a such a choice. And who ever thought to read the label?

Now, since pet owners and in turn pet food companies are becoming more and more educated and savvy, not only do you have categories of pet food — in simplest terms canned, kibble or raw — but there various sub-categories and distinctions within the sub-categories.

The category of food that seems to give pet owners the most pause is the “raw” category.

Beyond uncooked raw food — fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, etc. — there are the “freeze dried” and “dehydrated” varieties.

“What is the difference between dehydrated and freeze dried?”, is a question we get all the time in regard to raw feeding.

So, to aid in your becoming an even MORE educated and savvy consumer, thus fueling the pet food industry to become even MORE creative and “designer”, here is a quick reference to the difference between dehydrated and freeze dried pet foods.


Typically, a dehydrated dog food is one that has had the moisture removed from it through a process of low heat for a long period. The raw meat and other raw ingredients are prepared then subjected to warm air, under 200 degrees, that is circulated over and around the food. The food is not cooked and retains most of it’s nutritional value and enzymatic properties.

The Honest Kitchen is a great example of a wholesome dehydrated pet food.

Dehydrated food, though prepared typically with raw (Uncooked, to be exact. Some would say that if the food is altered in any way i.e. vegetables or vitamins added, the food is no longer “raw” because it is no longer in a raw state it has undergone some “processing”, but I digress.) ingredients, because the process of dehydration does warm the ingredients, it is not fully raw. The processing does not render the food cooked either, so the food is still much closer to raw, especially since the food is still “alive” with enzymes, nutrients, amino acids, and vitamins.

Dehydrated food falls into the raw category because dehydrated food’s nutritional value is extremely close to that of raw (that being said a food is only as good as it’s ingredients SO REMEMBER TO READ YOUR LABELS!) and because the dehydration process does not cook the food.

Freeze Dried

Essentially freeze drying, in terms of pet food, is removing the liquid from the food, while keeping it frozen, thus never moving the food beyond it’s raw (uncooked) state. Remember your chemistry now, matter has three phases, solid, liquid and gas. In simplest terms a raw meat, vegetables or any other food with a moisture content, is frozen. Then through a process of super low temperature and low pressure, the liquid in the raw food is phased directly from a solid (frozen) to a gas (water vapor), thus removing the moisture from inside the food and bypassing the liquid state all together.

Why is the liquid state bypassed? Mainly to avoid ice crystals that, upon forming, can damage cell walls and effect the nutritional value of the food. Freeze drying preserves all the nutrition and enzymatic properties of raw food.

Since freeze dried food has not been subjected to temperatures above freezing while it was being processed, it is almost nutritionally identical to it’s uncooked counterpart, except with no water in it.

Here are some Primal Pet Foods freeze dried nuggets.

And lastly you may encounter…

Air Dried

Again, really simply, air dried pet food has had the moisture removed from it via evaporation. It essentially IS dehydration, but the use of heat is not always used. Many raw pet food companies are using air drying, or a patented form of air drying, to preserve the nutritional value of meats while maintaining it’s “rawness”.

ZiwiPeak is a quality air dried food. Pictured here is their air dried cat food.

PHEW! It’s a lot to digest huh?

At the end of the day, the best way to feed your dog is between you and your pet (well, and sometimes your vet). We love that our Calvin & Susie customers are discerning and educated when it comes to picking your pet’s food. Raw feeding is a great way to feed or supplement your pet, and with so many different options available now, it is easier than ever to give it a try.

Have a delicious day!

~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger

NOTE: Please, always check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt always ask a vet.

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