Freeze drying is a fast-growing method of food preservation across the US. The availability of cheaper and more readily available home freeze-drying units means that many people are beginning to start doing this themselves. Of course, this extends beyond just people’s food, and many people are starting to see the benefits of feeding their canine companions freeze-dried foods too.
Freeze-drying dog kibble may not be worth it, as it already has a shelf-life of up to several months. Freeze-drying foods (like meat and prepared snacks) for a dog’s consumption may be worth it both financially and for storage, especially if the dog eats a more natural or raw diet.
Freeze-dried food lasts for an extremely long time, as well as retaining taste and texture benefits that other storage solutions don’t. But is this a good way to make feeding your pooch that little bit easier? Read on to find out more in our comprehensive guide to how you can make your dog’s food last that little bit longer…
Can You Freeze-Dry Dog Kibble?
Freeze-drying dog kibble would make it last slightly longer. In reality, there’s little point, as kibble already has low water content, which means there is a limited benefit to freeze-drying it.
In fact, even an ordinary home freezer will keep dog kibble plenty fresh enough – and that’s if you don’t have a cool pantry or cold storage. As long as you have enough space, you can stock up on awesome short-dated food at discount prices without having to worry about expiration dates.
Can You Freeze-Dry Dog Foods (Beyond Kibble)?
Freeze-drying non-kibble and raw dog foods is a great idea, as it means the dog will have a stock of food on hand that can be purchased or processed at home more efficiently and at significant cost savings.
When it comes to other types of dog food, however, you’ll find that there are way more benefits. If you’re like me, you’ll have experienced the pain of keeping a whole fridgeful of dog food only to realize it’s been there too long and has to be thrown out.
Freeze-drying eliminates both these problems and more, as it keeps the food in a packaging that takes up less space, doesn’t smell, and can last for an extremely long time safely without needing to be refrigerated.
Freeze-drying dog food can also open up greater possibilities of feeding your friend a healthy natural diet rather than sticking to commercial options. You will need to consult a veterinarian or canine nutritionist before making this kind of switch, but if you’re happy to do that, then freeze-drying may be a handy tool for you!
What is the Best Way to Store Dry Dog Food?
The best way to store dry dog food is in an airtight container in temperate conditions. This eliminates the risk of pests, and mold, and lengthens the expiry date of the food. Common storage solutions are food bins and jars, or just the original packaging.
Different people offer different advice about how you should store dry dog food. Personally, I just keep mine in the original bag, which has a ziplock seal, and that’s enough for me as I’ve never had a problem with pests or mold (at least when I don’t forget to seal it!).
If you have lots of dogs (or maybe just one very big and hungry one) so are using multiple bags of food, storage bins can be a great way to keep huge quantities in an airtight environment. Bear in mind that unless you’re going to make it through all that food in a shortish amount of time it’s better to keep it sealed until you really need it.
For smaller dogs, airtight jars might also be a great way to store food. My pooch is fairly big and hungry so gets through her food too quickly for this to be a solution for me, but many owners swear by it.
If you’ve bought a lot of food (perhaps due to a particular in-store bargain) and you’re worried your dog won’t get through it before the expiry date, freezing is a good option to preserve it a bit longer. Your only consideration will be how much freezer space you have to spare, as dog food can take up a fair bit of room!
Ultimately, you need to keep the food in conditions that aren’t too hot (ideally below 75 degrees Fahrenheit), that don’t become contaminated with moisture, bacteria, or pests (always use a scoop for food rather than your hands), and are airtight. Anything that meets all three criteria is a valid dry food storage solution.
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In case you’re wondering which container we use to store both our dry dog and cat food, this is what we use (click here to see the current pricing on Amazon).
If you get the 50-pound size option as we did, it’ll easily hold a 40-50 pound bag of dog food. Our pets do well on the Costco brand of animal kibble, so we buy it in bulk.
We keep two in our kitchen, next to their food dishes. One for the cat’s kibble and another for the dog’s kibble. We then also keep two more in our cold storage room, with one for each animal. It’s a great way to make sure we’ve got at least a couple of months’ worth of food storage for our animals without it taking up much space.
We use the containers because we’ve had incidents where the kids forget to close the pantry – and the cat likes to use the feed bags as a scratching post, which has been a problem creating kibble waste.
Is Freeze-Dried Raw Food Good for Dogs?
Freeze-dried raw food can be good for dogs, just like normal raw feeding. However, it will need to be handled with care and treated like normal raw food, and may not be suitable for all breeds or specific dogs.
Raw diets aren’t for every dog or owner. But if your dog is on a raw diet? Then freeze-drying raw foods for storage for your dog can be a great option. You’ll just want to remember a few important points.
Freeze-drying doesn’t expose the food to heat, so any harmful bacteria are not killed during this process. For this reason, commercial freeze-dried feeds sometimes use a pasteurization or pressurization process that can kill bacteria in their preparation.
Freeze-dried food also doesn’t always agree with a dog’s stomach, especially if you aren’t reconstituting it first. If your dog has unusual bowel movements (either diarrhea or constipation) it may be a good idea to change back from this kind of diet. As with all things relating to your dog’s needs, if you’re in doubt it’s best to consult a veterinarian if this happens.
Furthermore, raw foods (especially raw meats) will need to always be handled separately. So make sure you wash any surfaces, containers, freeze-dry trays, and utensils used with raw foods both before and after handling. Also, make sure you wash your hands, too!
Is Freeze-Dried Dog Food Better than Raw?
Freeze-dried dog food can offer all the benefits of raw feeding with less hassle. It is a simpler, lighter storage solution that retains all the nutritional benefits of raw food. It is however a more expensive option than kibble, though, so it does depend on your budget.
Commercial freeze-drying is an awesome substitute for raw feeding, especially if you’re keen to feed your dog as naturally as possible. However just like I said above, as with any diet you’ll need to consult a veterinarian or canine nutritionist to be sure of exactly what your dog needs.
Beware feeds that are too high in protein, as (although this sounds great on the packaging) dogs are not pure carnivores and an imbalance between protein and other nutrients (especially calcium) in their diet can cause health issues.
Do You Have to Reconstitute Freeze-dried Dog Food?
Not all freeze-dried dog food has to be reconstituted before your dog can eat it, as long as they have enough water to drink. If in doubt, reconstitute it and/or check the manufacturer’s advice, which can normally be found on the back of the packaging.
If you’re feeding something you’ve freeze-dried yourself rather than a commercial brand, it’s a good idea to rehydrate or reconstitute the food before feeding it. While it might not be strictly necessary, it won’t cause any harm and likely you’ll find that your dog prefers it as the texture of freeze-dried food can be a little strange!
Pro tip: Reconstitute raw foods before feeding them to your dog. Freeze-dried foods (even foods your dog is used to) can cause diarrhea or bloat due to the lack of water.
If you want to try feeding your dog a small freeze-dried treat to see how they do, just make sure they have a full water dish first. And then don’t give them any more freeze-dried foods until they’ve had plenty to drink.
Which Kinds of Dog Food to Freeze-Dry
The foods that benefit most from freeze-drying are natural foods that you want to feed to your dog but also need to store. Consider freeze-drying meat and vegetables, as these can benefit most from the process, becoming light and keeping way longer.
Bear in mind that as well as these foods, you should also feed your dog carbohydrates such as cereals or rice to have a properly balanced diet. It’s quite difficult to create a healthy diet for your dog from fresh foods but can be worth it for the nutritional benefits. The nutritional benefits will keep your dog’s coat shiny, and the taste benefits will keep their tail wagging!
I’ve said it a few times but it bears saying as it’s super important – if you’re unsure about what to feed your dog, the best person to advise you is a veterinarian or nutritionist.
Our dog loves to eat scrambled eggs that we make from freeze-dried raw eggs. He gives it a very enthusiastic tail wag of approval.
Just in case you were wondering… our cat isn’t as impressed by the scrambled eggs, even if they’re fresh.
How to Freeze Dry Dog Food
Dog foods (whether kibble or raw foods) can be freeze-dried using the same steps as food for human consumption.
If you are lucky enough to have a home freeze-dryer, then great! Thankfully the process of freeze-drying is pretty simple. You just need to prepare food in smallish pieces on the freeze-dryer trays, then place it in the machine, seal it, and press “go” on the machine. The hardest part of the process is just waiting for it to be ready.
If you don’t have a freeze-dryer but you want to freeze-dry your dog’s food, then you’ve got three options.
- Find a friend with a freeze-dryer
- Change your plan (and don’t do freeze-dried dog foods)
- Buy a freeze-dryer to use at home
If you’re headed for option #3, I highly recommend you get a Harvest Right home freeze-dryer. We’ve got the medium size, which is the largest one you can get without needing a dedicated 20 amp 110-volt plug.
You can speed up the freeze-drying process by preparing food in small pieces and pre-freezing it before it goes in the dryer. For a more complete guide on how to use a freeze-dryer to prepare dog food, check out our guides to freeze-drying in the Food Storage section of Backyard Homestead HQ here.
If you are using raw foods, just make sure you wash the freeze-dry trays afterward.
Pros and Cons of Freeze-drying Dog Food
Let’s summarize what we’ve learned. There are a variety of pros and cons to feeding freeze-dried food to your dog. These can also vary depending on whether you’re using a commercial product, what the food is, and even just your dog.
|Storage Conditions||Potential health issues (if you aren’t careful)|
|Size/weight of the food|
Let’s go into some more depth on those, though.
Pros of using freeze-dried dog foods
Freeze-dried food lasts a seriously long time. In fact, it’s pretty likely that that food will stay safe to consume for the entirety of your canine best friend’s lifetime. This means you’re really unlikely to have to worry about expiry dates.
Freeze-dried food can be kept almost anywhere, as long as it is in a sealed vacuum. This means you won’t be using up the valuable fridge and freezer space.
Size/weight of the food
As well as being versatile in its storage conditions, freeze-dried food can be up to 98% lighter than the original food, as well as considerably reduced in size due to the low water content.
If you’re someone who’s regularly traveling with your dog, this reduced size and weight are a major benefit for you. You’ll be able to carry the same nutrition with a much smaller space and weight demand (this is actually a key reason why freeze-dried food is the staple diet for astronauts).
Cons of freeze-dried dog foods
Commercial freeze-dried dog food products are really expensive and cost around $33 per pound on average compared to just $10 per pound for conventional foods.
Even if you freeze-dry food yourself, you’ll find that the cost of the base food plus the running costs of the freeze-dryer (mainly electricity) add up over time. Most home freeze-dryers are also small and take a considerable amount of time, so it’s difficult to freeze-dry large quantities of dog food.
Potential health problems
As pointed out above, freeze-dried dog food hasn’t been heat-treated. This means that it should be treated like any other raw food, as unsafe for bacteria such as salmonella and E-coli. Amongst other problems, this can cause food poisoning for your dog and yourself.
If you treat the freeze-dried food with the same care and preparation as you would any raw food, this doesn’t necessarily have to be an issue. But take the same care you would with ordinary raw meat, for example.
If you are unsure of any health-related questions when feeding your dog freeze-dried food (if they have a change of habits, seem uncomfortable, or have toilet problems), it’s always best to consult a veterinarian or canine nutritionist.
Other Ways to Store Dog Food Long-term
Of course, there are other ways to store dog food long-term. If your pup likes canned food, that stuff can keep for ages. Conventional freezing is also a good idea, just like with people’s food. Just make sure it isn’t frozen too long, as while freezing slows down the expiry of food it doesn’t put it off forever.
For most people, the best solution is a mixture of solutions.
Personally, our dog eats mainly dry food, which we keep in an air-tight container so he doesn’t eat it all at once (he’s a part labrador, after all). But then we also supplement with some tasty extras like chicken livers and vegetables, which I normally keep in the freezer until I want to cook them.
Sometimes the food that’s frozen after being cooked (so already safe to eat) is also a great form of enrichment in hot weather, as it will last them longer like a dog popsicle! If you’re traveling lots, or storage is an issue, then a supply of freeze-dried food is a great addition to your arsenal of dog food supplies.
Being able to freeze-dry food for your pets is an amazing side benefit to having a freeze-dryer. Because if you’re going to have a pet (or livestock), then they need to have food on hand in case of an emergency, too. So make sure that you’re doing right by your pets – at the minimum, keep an extra bit (or bag) of kibble in storage.
Or if you want to go the extra mile? Start freeze-drying them with some yummy treats that’ll have your dog quite literally begging for more. You can read more about which foods freeze-dry well for yourself and/or your pets (and which don’t) right here – 77 Foods You Can Freeze Dry and 17 You Cannot: Complete Guide.
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “Can You Freeze Dry Dog Food? [Is It Safe & Still Healthy?].” Pet Educate, 15 Dec. 2020, peteducate.com/can-you-freeze-dry-dog-food.
- Grant, Bree. “The Best Freeze-Dried Dog Food: Dog Treats, Dog Food Mixers & Toppers.” Lifehacker Australia, 10 May 2021, www.lifehacker.com.au/2021/05/best-freeze-dried-dog-food
- “Is Freeze Dried Food Good for Dogs?” Wellness Pet Food, 2021, www.wellnesspetfood.com/our-community/wellness-blog/health-nutrition/diet/freeze-dried-dog-food-good.
- PawTracks. “Dog Food 101: Can You Freeze Dry Dog Food?” PawTracks, 15 July 2020, www.pawtracks.com/dogs/freeze-dry-dog-food.
- Petrilla, Molly. “Freeze-Dried Dog Food: The Pros and Cons.” Great Pet Care, 26 Nov. 2020, www.greatpetcare.com/dog-nutrition/freeze-dried-dog-food-the-pros-and-cons.