Many pet owners agonize over the best food choices for their furry companions. For years, the main decision was whether to go with wet or dry but options nowadays have expanded to grain-free, high-protein, raw, freeze-dried and more. Air-dried dog food may be lesser known but can have loads of benefits for your dog.
What Is Air-Dried Dog Food?
Air-dried products are gently dried to remove enough of the moisture through evaporation to make them shelf-stable, while still leaving enough moisture to make them palatable to your pet without rehydration.
What Are the Other Types of Dog Food?
In addition to air-dried, there are seven main types of dog food on the market:
Kibble is the most popular type, with around 80% to 90% of dog owners feeding it at least part of the time. It is made by grinding ingredients together to form a coarse flour-like substance and then heating them at very high temperatures. The heated ingredients are then pushed through the openings in perforated plates to achieve the desired shape and cut into pieces by sharp blades. Finally, a machine is used to remove excess moisture from the pieces to make the product shelf-stable.
Because the extrusion process removes much of the flavor from the ingredients, most kibble products are sprayed with animal fats to improve the smell and taste. Additionally, vitamins and minerals are added to replace the nutrients lost during the extrusion process. Some brands also add artificial colors.
Wet dog food is usually some type of ground or chopped up meat combined with other ingredients and sold in a can. It is made by grinding the protein sources and then adding a gravy that includes grains, vitamins and minerals. The ingredients are then cooked and sterilized to make them shelf-stable and kill pathogens.
Semi-moist food is processed similarly to kibble, but not as much moisture is removed. This results in a product that is softer than kibble but not as wet as wet food. Some lower-quality varieties contain artificial colors, and semi-moist foods can have more salt and sugar than other types.
Fresh pet foods are either commercially prepared or home cooked meals that more closely resemble a human diet than other types of dog foods. An example of home cooked fresh food for dogs is boiled chicken with cooked plain rice. Whilst this gives you the added benefit of knowing exactly what you’ve put in your dog’s food, it can be very time consuming and you’ll need to make sure your dog doesn’t need any extra supplements that might be added to premade dog food.
The ingredients and preparation methods used in commercially produced fresh products vary. These products are not shelf-stable and must be refrigerated or frozen. Some varieties are made with human-grade ingredients which means the ingredients used are safe for human consumption.
Raw diets are similar to fresh diets, except the ingredients are not cooked. Most people who feed raw diets use mostly raw meat, but they may also include ground bone and fresh vegetables. If not consumed immediately, raw foods need to be refrigerated or frozen.
6. Dehydrated Raw
Dehydrated raw foods are similar to air-dried dog food except that more moisture is removed and the product needs to be rehydrated before being eaten.
7. Freeze-Dried Raw
A special freezing process is used to remove all moisture from freeze-dried foods. Freeze-dried foods retain more nutrients than dehydrated foods.
How Is Air-Dried Food Different From Kibble?
Kibble is cooked at high temperatures. This processes the ingredients into kibble but can reduce the protein content of the meat. It also destroys many of the vitamins and minerals contained in any fruits and vegetables used.
Air-dried food is dehydrated in small batches so the air-drying process kills bacteria without destroying nutrients or ruining the flavor.
What Are the Benefits of Air-Dried Dog Food?
The ingredients in our product are dried from fresh and never frozen. This results in a better-tasting product.
Many vitamins, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and antioxidants are sensitive to heat and can be destroyed when foods are cooked at high temperatures. Gentle air-drying preserves more of the nutrition in your dog's diet versus baking it at high temperatures. It has close to the nutritional content of a raw diet but has a longer shelf life and lower risk of pathogens.
High-quality foods are easier for your dog to digest which results in better absorption of the nutrients and smaller, firmer stools.
Air-dried dog food has the great taste and nutrition of raw food and the shelf-stability of kibble. Our air-dried food does not need to be refrigerated to be safe for your pet.
According to experts, the best dog foods contain meat as a protein source, omega fatty acids for coat health, and fruit and vegetables for vitamins. Top-quality foods should also contain few or no fillers such as wheat, corn and soy.
Our product is made with the highest quality natural animal proteins mixed with organic vegetables and fruit. Certified organic foods contain no antibiotics, toxic pesticides, synthetic hormones or preservatives. Additionally, the ingredients are not irradiated, grown in chemical fertilizer or genetically engineered.
The friction of chewing dried foods helps maintain your dog's oral health by keeping the teeth and gums clean.
Can Use As a Meal or Topper
Air-dried dog food can be fed as a meal on its own or as a topper for your dog's kibble. If your pet is a picky eater or has special nutritional needs, adding an air-dried product as a topper can be a convenient way to add flavor and nutrition to your dog's regular diet.
Air-dried food is less messy than wet, fresh or raw products.
Microorganisms such as bacteria, mold and yeast may naturally occur in foods or contaminate foods during harvesting or processing. There are multiple methods used to ensure that potentially harmful microorganisms are destroyed or prevented from multiplying to harmful levels, such as cooking, canning, refrigerating and freezing. Additionally, exposure to air and light can cause oxidation to occur, which may cause fats to go rancid.
Preservatives are often added to commercial dog foods to slow the oxidation process and extend the shelf life of the product. The air-drying process preserves the food in a way that doesn't require preservatives to prevent the product from going rancid.
Easy To Feed
Raw and home-cooked diets require substantial preparation on the part of the pet owner. Freeze-dried foods require rehydration.
Good for Picky Eaters
Some dogs find it difficult to transition away from kibble but because air-dried food is similar to kibble in texture but smells and tastes better to many dogs, it is often easier to transition picky kibble eaters to air-dried food than to other diets.
What Should You Watch Out for With Kibble?
Whilst kibble can be a more appealing option to dog owners on a budget, it’s important you’re keeping a close eye on the label; here’s a thing to keep an eye for if you’re sticking with kibble:
Even some kibble that is labeled as "premium" may contain low-quality ingredients.
Some inexpensive kibbles use wheat gluten as a filler or to boost protein levels. This can be a very common allergy or intolerance trigger for some dogs
Unnamed Animal Protein Sources
Knowing that many pet owners are checking labels for protein content, some brands boost protein levels by using low-quality protein sources. Choose brands that specify what type of meat the product contains, the label should list a specific type of meat, such as chicken, beef or lamb. Be wary of brands that list unspecified meat sources, such as poultry meal, bone meal or meat byproducts.
Preservatives and Artificial Colors
Some dog foods contain dyes to make the product more attractive to the human eye. Dogs have no color preference when it comes to their food, so artificial colors are not beneficial. Additionally, salt, sugar, propylene glycol, BHT, BHA and ethoxyquin may be used as preservatives in some brands.
Pentobarbital is a barbiturate that is used to treat insomnia and seizures. It can cause drowsiness, excitement, dizziness, loss of balance, nystagmus, nausea and the inability to stand when consumed by dogs. High levels of the substance can cause coma or death. While it has generally only been found in low levels in some kibble brands, no level of the drug is considered acceptable by the Food and Drug Administration.
Excessive Vitamin D
Several brands of kibble have experienced recalls due to unsafe levels of vitamin D. When dogs consume products with too much vitamin D, they may develop vitamin D toxicity. Signs of this condition include loss of appetite, vomiting, excessive thirst, increase in urination, weight loss and excessive drooling.
Some brands of kibble contain ingredients sourced in other countries that may not have the same safety regulations as the United States. The law requires all pet food labels to contain the name of the party responsible for the quality and safety of the product and this can be the manufacturer or the distributor. The address does not have to be listed on the label, but must be listed in a city or telephone directory. Some brands include a toll-free number you can call to get more information.
Deceptive Marketing Strategies
Studies have found that about 40% of pet foods may contain meats that are different from those listed on the product label. These labeling issues can result in pet owners purchasing a product that does not contain what the label promises. It may also cause issues in pets with allergies involving undeclared ingredients.
How Do I Choose the Best Air-Dried Dog Food for My Dog?
According to the American Kennel Club, a good dog food should have meat, grains, vegetables and fruits, and the best brands are made with high-quality versions of these ingredients that are easily digestible for canines. Commercial dog foods are regulated and tested to ensure they are safe and meet minimum nutritional standards. However, the quality of the ingredients and preparation methods vary.
Check the Ingredient List
Just like with human food, marketers may use images and words that make dog food sound healthier than it is. Carefully check the ingredient list on the label. Most dogs do best on a protein-rich, meat-based diet.
Ingredients on pet food labels must be listed by weight with the highest weight ingredients listed first on the label. Be aware that the weights include water weight, so the order ingredients appear can be misleading. Dry ingredients, such as meat meal, have less water and so may be lighter than meat, even if they make up a substantial portion of the food.
Look for the Nutrition Adequacy Statement
High-quality dog foods should have a nutrition adequacy statement on the back label that includes details about the product, such as which age and type of dog the food is best for. However, some claims, such as a formula being appropriate for senior animals or dogs of a specific breed, have no established rules and so there can be no guarantee that the product is better for dogs in those groups.
This statement also requires any dog food claiming to be "complete and balanced" to contain ingredients that provide the level of nutrients specified in the Association of American Feed Control Officials Dog Food Nutrient Profile. Alternatively, the nutritional adequacy of the product can be demonstrated through testing that uses the AAFCO Feeding Trial Protocols.
Consider Your Dog's Breed
Large breeds are at higher risk of musculoskeletal problems than smaller dogs and may benefit from a diet that contains nutrients promoting musculoskeletal health. Small breeds may choke on large-sized kibble.
Why Purchase Front Of The Pack Air-Dried Dog Food?
Front Of The Pack air-dried dog food is all natural, organic, ready to eat and made in the USA by veterinarians. The science-backed nutrition in our product can boost your dog's bone mass and muscle function and support skin and coat health. Your dog will love the taste of our fresh and never frozen ingredients, and you will love how easy it is.