dog eating kibble from bowl

Freeze Dried Vs Air Dried Dog Food

Last updated 4 July 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Gillian Hill BVSc (Hons)

Grain-free, natural, air-dried, freeze-dried, insect-based, novel protein, therapeutic, premium... Are you overwhelmed with all the food options available for your dog? With the range of alternative dog foods now available, it's easy to get confused and to wonder which is the right one for your dog. There are several factors to consider when choosing the right food for your dog, and this guide is designed to help demystify the specialised natural foods available, specifically air-dried, freeze-dried and insect based, and help you decide if these are right for your pooch.

Air-Dried vs. Freeze-Dried vs. Insect Based: What Are The Differences?
What Is Freeze-Dried Dog Food?
What Is Air-Dried Dog Food?
What Is Insect-Based Food?
How To Choose The Right Food For Your Dog
Further reading

Air-Dried vs. Freeze-Dried vs. Insect Based: What Are The Differences?

Both air and freeze-dried dog foods are becoming increasingly sought-after, as dog owners look to offer highly nutritious foods which are also safe and practical to feed. Air and freeze-dried diets involve no cooking of the ingredients - they are minimally processed without heat to preserve the quality of the fresh ingredients without chemical additives or preservatives. They are therefore an ideal alternative to raw food diets.

With the rise in popularity of raw-feeding, clinical studies have shown that there can be some benefits to raw feeding such as improved digestibility, reduced chance of developing atopic dermatitis1 and more favourable blood parameters2. However, raw animal products are well documented to be common sources of bacterial and parasitic pathogens, posing a significant risk to both human and pet health. Air and freeze-dried products can provide a suitable alternative to help mitigate these risks while retaining the benefits of the raw ingredients.

As their names suggest, air-dried foods are made by slowly dehydrating the food by the movement of air at a low heat, which helps to lock in the nutrients and taste of the ingredients. Freeze-dried foods are made by lowering the temperature of combined raw materials to below freezing, then extracting the water from the final product. The product can then be rehydrated prior to feeding. Air-dried foods are more dense and jerky-like in texture, whereas freeze-dried foods are a little softer and crunchier.

Interest in insect-based foods is growing as dog owners seek to purchase dog foods made from sustainable sources. Certain insects have been shown to have a protein content similar to commonly used dog food proteins like chicken and fish. Using these insects as the protein source in dog food not only reduces food waste, but also uses less water and land area in production than traditional proteins like beef and chicken, thereby creating a smaller carbon footprint and environmental impact.

What Is Freeze-Dried Dog Food?

woman looking at silver packet on shelf

Freeze dried foods retain the nutritional qualities and taste of the raw products, while preserving the shelf-life of the product. Freeze-dried foods are made by dehydrating the ingredients at very low temperatures, in contrast to conventional methods of food manufacture which evaporate water from the food using heat.

How is freeze-dried food made?

To make freeze-dried foods, the raw ingredients are combined and then snap-frozen. The frozen water in the ingredient blend is then turned directly into vapour through a process called 'sublimation'. Sublimation involves lowering the pressure and supplying enough heat in order for the water in the frozen food to be removed directly as vapour. There may then be a secondary drying phase where the temperature is raised higher to ensure that the unfrozen water molecules are also removed, resulting in a dry product.

Some manufacturers also include high pressure processing in the first stage of this process. The blend of raw ingredients is subjected to a high isostatic pressure transmitted by cold water. This process inactivates pathogens and spoilage microorganisms, enhancing the safety of the finished product. The ingredients are then flash-frozen, and gently freeze dried as above.

How should I feed my dog freeze-dried food?

Freeze-dried foods are typically a little softer and crunchier than air-dried foods, and are typically rehydrated prior to serving to enhance digestibility. However, freeze-dried dog foods can be fed dry, straight from the packet, as long as you ensure that your dog has free access to fresh water at all times.

Freeze-dried foods are an excellent choice for travelling, as the stored product can be rehydrated into a much larger volume of food when required - a much more convenient alternative to lugging around cans of dog food!

Are freeze-dried foods safe to feed my dog?

Freeze-dried foods generally have excellent shelf-stability, and should be stored in a cool, dry place - not in the fridge. Once rehydrated, they may be safe to be kept refridgerated for a short period of time - we recommend following the guidelines on the product packaging for storage and rehydration instructions.

Like with air-dried raw foods, there is a potentially increased risk of food borne bacterial and parasitic contamination from freeze-dried foods also, to both you and your dog. If you do choose to feed freeze-dried foods, they should be kept separate from other foods, and proper hygiene procedures (washing hands, sanitising surfaces) should be followed.

Top Recommended Freeze-Dried Dog Foods and Treats

K9 Natural Freeze Dried Foods

Made using sustainable sourced ingredients, K9 Natural recipes contain a very high protein content, are grain free and suitable for dogs of all breeds and lifestages. They are free from additives and preservatives, and can be used as a complete meal or topper. A 500g pack makes up to 2kg of food!

The New Zealand Natural Freeze Dried Foods

Gently freeze dried in small batches, the Woof recipes can be served as a meal, treat or topper. They are very high in meal, organs and bones, as well as superfoods like coconut oil and Manuka honey.

K9 Natural Freeze Dried Treats

100% natural and Australian made, Fuzzyard freeze dried treats contain no preservatives or artificial flavours and are grain free. They are suitable for dogs of all ages though should be only used for supplementary or intermittent feeding.

K9 Natural Freeze Dried Treats

Perfect as an anytime treat, and for dogs of all breeds and sizes, K9 Natural Healthy Snacks and Treats are good for your dog as well as super tasty! These treats are only intended for supplementary feeding as they do not constitute a complete and balanced diet.

What Is Air-Dried Dog Food?

photo of raw piece of meat

How is air-dried food made?

The manufacturing process for air-dried foods involves combining raw ingredients, and then dehydrating the mixture with the movement of air. The gentle manufacturing process helps to retain the taste and nutritional benefits of the raw ingredients. The end product is similar in texture to a firm jerky.

How should I feed my dog air-dried food?

One of the major benefits of air-dried foods is that they can be fed through a range of different methods. Complete and balanced air-dried foods can be offered in a bowl in a similar way to traditional kibble or used as a topper to enhance the palatability of other foods for fussy eaters. Air-drying foods helps to retain the intense flavour and taste of the ingredients, and will not crumble, so they are also ideal to be used as treats for training or a special reward.

Are air-dried foods safe to feed my dog?

By removing the moisture from the raw ingredients through the air-drying process, the risk of contamination with pathogenic bacteria is reduced. Reputable manufacturers will also test each batch of food after manufacture, to ensure that it is safe and shelf-stable.

Air-dried foods require no refridgeration after opening. However, they should be kept in the original packaging, properly sealed, and stored away from direct sunlight and high temperatures.

Despite it's benefits in retaining the nutrients and flavours of raw ingredients, the air-drying process is not an equal substitute for cooking with heat in terms of bacterial and parasitic control, so extra caution must be taken in the handling of air-dried foods and hygiene control. Air-dried foods should be stored in their original packaging and away from other foods. Any utensils used in the preparation and feeding process should be thoroughly washed, along with all surfaces, bowls and other feeding devices.

Top Recommended Air-Dried Dog Foods and Treats

Ziwi Peak Air Dried Nutrition

Air-dried to retain raw nutrition, all Ziwi recipes are high in meat, organs and bones with beneficial inclusions like green-lipped mussel. With complete and balanced recipes, they are also grain free and all ingredients are sourced sustainably. Ziwi recipes are highly palatable, making them a great choice for fussy eaters.

Balanced Life Air Dried Raw Nutrition

Balanced Life Rehydrate recipes contain air dried raw meat, organs and bones with vegetables and fruit, and are formulated for puppies and dogs of all breeds and life stages. Designed to be rehydrated prior to feeding.

Absolute Holistic Air Dried Nutrition

Absolute Holistic Air Dried diets are made in New Zealand from New Zealand sourced meats, are high in protein, are grain free and fortified with green-lipped mussel.

Tu Meke Friend Air Dried Treats

High in protein with zero grains, fillers or additives, Tu Meke Friend Air dried treats are an ideal natural option for your dog. Available in a range of different protein types, there's sure to be one (or all!) that suit your dog.

What Is Insect-Based Food?

black soldier fly

As the globe warms and environmental sustainability becomes more important, it's not surprising that new methods of food production to feed our growing population are front of mind. Introducing... insect-based food. By no means a new phenomenon, insect-based foods for humans are growing in market value. In 2021, the estimated market value of edible insects amounted to 3.2 million U.S. dollars. This figure is forecast to increase to about 17.6 billion U.S. dollars by 20323. It follows that people looking for more sustainable food sources for humans are also looking for more sustainable ways to feed their pets. Insect-based dog foods are emerging as a preferred option for pet-owners looking for food sources that emit fewer emissions and leave a lower environmental footprint through their production process.

How is insect-based food made?

The insects used for insect-based dog food and treats include black soldier fly larvae and crickets, among others. Black-soldier fly larvae feed on unused vegetarian food and spent barley grains from the brewing process, that would otherwise be sent to landfill. Once at their maximum size, they are deyhydrated and mealed, combined with other ingredients, then cooked and extruded into kibble. The production process of black soldier fly larvae utilises substantially less water and land area, while emitting significantly less greenhouse gases than the production of more traditional proteins like beef and chicken.

How should I feed my dog insect-based food?

As it is cooked and extruded, currently available complete and balanced insect-based food has a texture similar to traditional kibble, with a earthy flavour. It can be fed in just the same way as traditional kibble - in the bowl, in puzzle-toys, for training purposes and as treats for games. Insect-based treats are formulated for intermittent or supplementary feeding - they do not constitute a complete and balanced meal.

Is insect-based food safe to feed my dog?

Yes! As the insects are mealed, combined with other ingredients, then the mixture cooked and extruded, currently available insect-based dog foods like Feed for Thought are safe for you and your dog in terms of bacterial and parasitic contamination. Storage instructions and general hygiene measures such as washing hands and bowls following feeding, should be undertaken as for any pet food.

Top Recommended Insect-Based Dog Foods and Treats

Feed for Thought Complete and Balanced Dog Food

A complete and balanced kibbled food, Feed for Thought allows you to feed your pet sustainably and help the environment at the same time. Formulated with the help of a vet and veterinary nutritionist, it is Australian made and suitable for all adult dogs over 1 year of age.

One With Everything Treats

Packed with protein, healthy fats and fibres, these treats are perfect for training or for an on-the-go energy boost. These oven baked treats have a meaty taste, with a nutty and mushroomy aroma.

TBH Pets Cricket, Camomile and Hemp Treats

Using sustainable plant-based and insect proteins, TBH treats are manufactured right here in Australia. Certified organic crickets offer an alternate complete protein source thats friendly to the planet, alongside hemp which is a rich source of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.

Dogglicious Protein Cookies

Perfect as an anytime treat, and for dogs of all breeds and sizes, Dogglicious protein cookies have crickets included as a sustainable source of protein. These treats are only intended for supplementary feeding as they do not constitute a complete and balanced diet.

How To Choose The Right Food For Your Dog

In choosing a dog food, there are several factors to consider. Ensuring that you choose the most appropriate food for your dog is one of the simplest and easiest ways you can support their health on a daily basis and help them to thrive.

Health conditions

If your dog has any underlying medical issues, it is important to consult with your veterinarian regarding the most appropriate diet for your dog. In many cases, there may be prescription diets which are the best option to help manage your dog's condition. For health support, there are a range of non-prescription, therapeutic options to help prevent certain conditions, or support your dog's specific needs.

Complete and balanced

In choosing a food, the most important consideration after any health factors is that the diet is complete and balanced for your dog's stage of life. Ensuring that it meets AAFCO or FEDIAF pet food control guidelines is crucial to ensure that your dog receives all the nutrients they require in the correct ratios.


The requirements of a large breed dog differ compared to that of a small breed dog, and so choosing specific foods based on breed or weight of your dog is important to help them not just survive, but thrive.


Just like with different breeds, dogs of different ages have very different nutritional requirements. Puppies require energy-dense food which meets their intense growth rates, while senior dogs are often less active and have a slower metabolism which means that they require fewer calories and less fat, but an easily digestible diet, to help them maintain good body condition.


Often overlooked in the search for affordable nutrition, the quality of the ingredients and the digestibility of the nutrients they provide should be a key factor in choosing a food. Premium dog foods are designed to be highly digestible (which means smaller, firmer stools) and do not change ingredients batch to batch like grocery type brands, which means less tummy upsets. They also tend to contain higher levels of added beneficial nutrients, such as omega fatty acids for joint and skin health, and some are backed by testing to ensure they deliver the results they promise. Learning how to read pet food labels and knowing the ingredients in your dog's food is a crucial part of knowing what is the best food for your dog.

Food safety

Choosing dog foods that meet Australian manufacturing standards, and pose the least potential risk of harm from bacteria, viruses and parasites to you, your dog and your family is an important way to keep everyone safe. For dogs with underlying health conditions, for very young or geriatric pets, or for households with people more vulnerable to the effects of food-borne illness, choosing the safest food that will be free from bacterial and parasitic contamination is very important. We also recommend checking out the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Guidelines to know how to select from reputable pet food brands.


Selecting a dog food that is not only going to meet your dog's needs, but will be practical to feed within your daily schedule and your dog's feeding preferences is also important. For example, if your dog likes to graze on their food, then dried or naturally preserved foods will provide a more practical, safe option for your dog than wet, raw or home prepared foods.

Your dog's preferences

Does your dog have specific preferences when it comes to textures and flavours of foods? Do they like a variety of dog foods to keep them interested, or do they have a favourite protein type?

Your preferences

Sustainably-sourced, ethically produced dog foods are becoming increasingly popular as pet-owners look for ways to support the environment and best practise animal welfare standards. Likewise, you may have a preference for grain-free dog foods or natural foods to best suit your values.

In summary, air-dried, freeze-dried and insect-based foods offer alternatives to the more traditional kibble and canned dog foods. They help to meet niches in the pet-food industry for pet-owners looking for practical alternatives to raw foods while still retaining the benefits of the raw ingredients, or for those searching for more sustainable, environmentally friendly options. Knowing which is the best food for your dog takes careful consideration of their age, breed, underlying conditions and the household in which they live, among other factors. You might just find that these specialised, natural foods for dogs are what you've been looking for all along.

Further Reading

Are Raw Bones Safe for Dogs to Chew?

Dog Behaviour Problems

What are the Best Dog Treats?

Which Dog Toy is Best?

Dental Care for Dogs

Shop All Dog Supplies Now


1Hemida M, et al. Identification of modifiable pre- and postnatal dietary and environmental exposures associated with owner-reported canine atopic dermatitis in Finland using a web-based questionnaire., accessed 8/5/23

2Anturaniemi J, Zaldívar-López S, Robin Moore R, et al. The effect of a raw vs. dry diet on serum biochemical, hematologic, blood iron, B12, and folate levels in Staffordshire bull terriers., accessed 8/5/23

3Statista,, accessed 9/5/23

Rishniw, M. Raw Food Diets. 2017. Veterinary Information Network,, accessed 8/5/23

Wynn, S. The Science and Safety of Raw Diets. 2022. Veterinary Information Network., accessed 8/5/23

Hiperbaric High Pressure Technologies. What is High Pressure Processing? 2023., accessed 8/5/23

Cuddon Freeze Dry. 2023., accessed 8/5/23