People have been dehydrating food for centuries. In fact, it’s the oldest form of food preservation – for obvious reasons: the sun was traditionally (and sometimes still) used as a natural food drying source. At least for human food.
People often choose to take dehydrated food when out hiking or camping because it’s a convenient and safe way to continue eating the nutrients and quality of food you’re used to having at home, rather than relying on processed and canned foods which are usually packed with additives and unhealthy preservatives – which is of course the case in so many wet and dry commercial dog foods.
Weight saving is of course another benefit, but perhaps not one at the top of your mind when it comes to dog food (unless hiking and camping with your dog is on your agenda of course, as well as long road trips!).
Dehydrating foods makes it possible to carry or store a lot of food in a small package, while also providing a way to preserve certain foods that are only available certain times of year – so they can be enjoyed year round.
So that’s some of the big benefits of dehydrated foods for humans – but what about for our dogs?
What Is Dehydrated Dog Food?
This type of dog food makes use of the food preservation method of dehydrated – to feed your dog a dehydrated meal you usually just need to add water to the formula.
Its the moisture in food that puts it at risk of spoiling, mold and bacteria. By dehydrating the food, this moisture is removed so not only does the food take up considerably less space, it will also have a MUCH longer shelf life than if it were left fresh.
This is the core principal behind the idea of dehydrated dog food: high quality ingredients in small, convenient and easy to feed packages that you can buy in bulk and not have to worry about going off or mouldy. It’s not until you add water (according to the instructions if you’re buying commercial food), that your dog’s food becomes “active” again – and ready to be eaten fresh.
Quality brands of dehydrated dog foods (and there aren’t that many of them) use only natural ingredients that are preserved (dehydrated) when at their freshest so that no nutrients are lost. For fans of dehydrated food, it’s a way of feeding high quality ingredients comparable to a raw food diet, without the mess of feeding raw.
When dog food (or any other foods) is dehydrated, all water is taken out of it. This allows the manufacturer to package a very large quantity of food into a small package – it’s quite normal to be able to purchase this type of dog food at a quarter of the weight of what you’ll actually be feeding your dog once you’ve rehydrated the food before serving it.
What are the benefits or dehydrated dog food?
- Less messy than raw food
- Convenient, small packaging that stores a large amount of food in a compact size
- Handy for travelling or when out at remote locations: just add warm water (instructions can vary between products, so read the labels)
- Can simplify your dog’s meals on busy days
- Excellent emergency food – long shelf life means you can keep it on hand
Are there any downsides?
As with any dog food, the dehydrated food is only going to be as good as the ingredients used in it as well as the quality of the dehydration process.
Sticking to the recommended brands covered in this guide is a safe bet because they have a top reputation for quality. Naturally, downsides will exist if you select low quality brands, and wherever I discover these I have pointed out their potential issues in this guide as well.
Poor quality dehydration technique results in too much moisture being retained in the food – and the more moisture that’s left in, the shorter the shelf life of the dog food will be
If wanting to feed raw, still has some nutritional benefit but the texture may not be the same as a purely fresh raw meal.
DIY: Dehdyrating your own dog food at home
If you’re keen to try dehydrating your home made dog food, it’s important to be aware of the basic theory behind food dehydration (which is pretty simple: removing as much moisture as possible) and of course, the methods of doing it.
The easiest way to DIY at home is by using a food dehydrator machine that you can purchase specifically for the purpose. It can also be done in the oven, but this takes considerably more caution as you do not want to be cooking the food, only drying it.
More importantly though, using an oven to dry food rather than cook it requires leaving the oven door slightly ajar – something very few people are rightly comfortable in doing.
The safest way to dehydrate is most certainly using one of the available devices which I will briefly cover here.
Thankfully these are now very affordable and are a no brainer when it comes to home food dehydration as they are built from the ground up especially for this purpose!
Keep in mind that some foods, like some vegetables, are recommended to be slightly steamed or blanched before drying them. Food dehydrators usually come with their own tips and recommendations, as well as recipes (for humans at least), and following these recommendations for your dog’s food is also going to increase your chance of creating some fantastic home made dehydrated dog food.
Dehdrated vs Freeze Dried Dog Food
Freeze drying removes more moisture from food than regular dehydration does, allowing an longer shelf life. While top quality dehydrated food for dogs can be safely stored for many years, freeze drying can extend food storage time to over 20 years. this is unlikely to be a practical worry for us dog owners though, with dehydrated food (provided its been done well) providing more than ample storage time for most people.
Some foods, like the Only Natural Pet EasyRaw range do indeed make use of both freeze drying and dehydration methods – with the meat being freeze dried and the vegetables and other ingredients being dehydrated.
Reviews of the best dehydrated food brands for dogs
This guide focuses on the current 6 best, most widely regarded and popular brands of dehydrated dog foods. Most of these brands have multiple products in their ranges. I’ll be covering them all in detail, as well as doing a comparison to provide a quick look at what differentiates one from the next.
Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Pre-Mix Dog Food
I debated whether to include the Dr Harvey’s line in this guide because these are not complete meals. Despite that, I feel these are exceptionally worthy of consideration for those looking to save time with home cooked or raw dog diets while taking advantage of quality ingredients in dehydrated form.
What are the Dr Harvey’s foods all about then?
Dr. Harvey’s remove much of the preparation work of home cooked dog food.
What these foods are about is providing you with the bulk of a homemade diet to which you can then add your choice of meats and other ingredients to. The idea is to take the majority of the work out of homemade dog food, with the Canine Health Pre-mix containing a blend of dehydrated vegetables and grains, and the Veg-To-Bowl range being made up of just vegetables (grain-free).
Veg-To-Bowl is available in two versions: regular and the special Fine Ground that is simply much smaller pieces of vegetables for dogs who are picky eaters.
Dr. Harvey’s dehydrated dog foods can be bought at Only Natural Pet
Only Natural Pet Dehydrated Dog Food Reviews
Only Natural Pet has a company mission of providing pets with high quality food that contains only human grade ingredients without artificial additives or junk byproducts. They also specifically state that they do not use any ingredients sourced from China. In short, this is a company that cares about the source of their dog food ingredients.
There are two lines of Only Natural dehydrated dog foods: EasyRaw and Wholesome Homemade. This review will cover both of them, including highlighting the differences between these two popular dehydrated foods.
Like all dehydrated food, the packages you receive from Only Natural Pet weigh a fraction of the volume of dog food that you’ll actually be able to make up from it.
The smallest 2 pound package of raw food will give you 12lbs of dog food in total – making it easy to buy in bulk and having plenty of dog food on hand for a long time.
To get the best consistency and ensure maximum rehydration of this food before serving it up it’s a simple process of mixing in the appropriate amount of water, stirring it well and importantly: letting it sit for at least 15 minutes so the food has time to absorb the water properly.
It’s more ideal however to make up the food the previous night and allow it to soak in the fridge overnight – then serve at room temperature the next day. It’s also completely safe to make up a batch of up to four days of meals at once, provided you store them in sealed containers in the refrigerator – this is an awesome time saver. While there’s nothing wrong with serving the meals up after they’ve been left to soak for the required 15 minute minimum, ultimate rehydration and consistency really does come about from overnight refrigerated soaking.
Only Natural Pet Wholesome Homemade Dehydrated Dog Food
Making your own dog food is the holy grail for anyone who wants to provide a completely natural diet – the downside is it can be time consuming and even stresful if you don’t feel confident about exactly what you should be putting into the meals to ensure you’re providing a balanced diet that contains every required nutrient, without leaving out anything important.
That’s the goal behind the Wholesome Homemade range of Only Natural Pet dehydrated foods – basically taking out the stress, time and uncertainty of making your own dog meals at home by creating a grain-free line of meals that only need water added to them thanks to the dehydration process.
The meat used in the Wholesome Homemade range is cooked and combined with nutritionally packed foods like sweet potato, spinach and cranberries.
The current best price on the Only Natural Pet Wholesome Homemade range of dehydrated dog foods is directly at Only Natural Pet right here
It is also available at Amazon
Only Natural Pet EasyRaw Dehydrated Dog Food
As you would assume from the name, is this is raw food in dehydrated food. Have you been wanting to feed your dog a raw food diet but don’t have the time or inclination to deal with preparing the raw ingredients? That’s the goal of this food – raw, then dehydrated, all ready to eat after adding water without a loss of nutrients.
In keeping with Only Natural Pet’s philosophy, there are no genetically modified ingredients (GMO) used in the formula, nor any filler ingredients or preservatives (remember, dehydration in itself IS the preservation method).
The food contains raw meat that has been freeze dried, plus vegetables and fruits which have been dehydrated after they’ve been slightly cooked to bring out their maximum nutritional value and increase their bioavailiability and ease of digestion. This makes it a freeze-dry/dehydrated combo type formula, with the company choose the best methods of preserving each type of ingredient with freeze drying being the ideal option for meat.
The cheapest place to buy EasyRaw is directly from Only Natural Pets right here
You can also get EasyRaw at Amazon
What’s the difference between EasyRaw and Wholesome Homemade?
Besides the specific combination of ingredients in each product, the main difference between these two lines of dehydrated dog foods is simple: EasyRaw contains only raw meat, while the Wholesome Homemade range makes use of meat that has been cooked.
Your preference for raw or cooked meat is going to be the deciding factor between which of these two dehydrated foods is right for your dog.
Dehydrated Dog Food FAQ
How long can you store dehydrated food for?
One of the big beneifts of dehydrated dog foods is of course that you can buy it in bulk, have it take up very little space, and store it for a long time – providing potentially years of food supply purchased in one go.
There are factors however that can greatly influence just how long the food will stay fresh in storage: the quality and methods of dehydration being the biggest – the best brands know how to remove maximum moisture which increases shelf life.
Additionally, your storage environment will be a factor – the food should be stored in cooler temperatures to prolong its life. 70f or under is generally recommended, but check the packaging for specific recommendations for the particular food you’ve purchased.