I Made the Switch to Dehydrated Raw Pet Food — Should You?Carleen Coulter
For some time, I wanted to switch from the commercial dry kibble I was feeding my dogs to something more nutritious and hopefully also easy for my Corgi, Eve, to tolerate. Eve has a sensitive gastrointestinal system and has undergone various tests for inflammatory bowel disease, which were inconclusive. She is on a strictly grain-free diet, and my previous veterinarian had her on a dry prescription diet. The prescription diet made things better, but did not cure the issue, and I was concerned that it lacked nutrition. After watching several videos from Dr. Karen Becker on healthy food choices for pets, including the use of a moist diet and a raw diet, I was intrigued.
What held me back was that I thought that feeding my dog a frozen or homemade raw diet would be expensive and inconvenient. I was also concerned about introducing truly raw food to Eve’s sensitive system. Then, I attended the BlogPaws conference and learned about dehydrated raw food at the conference show. I decided to give it a try, figuring that it might be a good middle ground. I talked to several companies while I was there, and each gave me some sample packets to try. The Honest Kitchen also sent me a 4-pound box of their food.
A quality dehydrated pet food will be made with natural, raw ingredients and will be nutritionally balanced to assure that your pet can eat the food exclusively without encountering nutritional deficiencies. The food is not technically “raw” in that it is dehydrated, but it really is minimally processed. Dehydrating removes the moisture from the food, but it tends to preserve all of the nutrients that would normally get cooked out of commercially processed food. To serve it, the food is reconstituted with warm water, which results in a moist healthy food. You can learn more in general about this in the video from Dr. Becker that is embedded at the end of this post. She talks about dehydrated food near the end of it. She also discusses the importance of moisture in dog food, which is part of why I wanted to get my dogs away from dry kibble.
It turned out that my dogs loved the dehydrated food. They seriously go nuts over it and stick around after eating, licking their bowls to be sure that they didn’t miss anything. I quickly found that dehydrated food is easy to store and quite convenient to use. But, there is a wait time of about 5 minutes when reconstituting it. During that time, my dogs go slightly insane wanting it. It didn’t matter which brand I gave them, they loved it all. Eve in particular has a hard time waiting for it!
When you mix up dehydrated food, it smells quite a bit like soup. It isn’t unpleasant, although it is kind of a strong smell. It definitely doesn’t look attractive, but then what dog food does? I do like that you can see the bits of real fruits, vegetables, and meat in it.
Below is a bowl of The Honest Kitchen Embark before adding water, which is a grain-free turkey formula. Here are the ingredients: Turkey, organic flaxseed, potatoes, celery, spinach, carrots, organic coconut, apples, organic kelp, eggs, bananas, cranberries, tricalcium phosphate, choline chloride, zinc amino acid chelate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, potassium iodide, potassium chloride, iron amino acid chelate, copper amino acid chelate. Not too shabby!
I gave my dogs samples of The Honest Kitchen, I and Love and You, and Only Natural Pet Easy Raw, and they loved all of them. Each brand sells their product in multiple sizes so I am not listing all the prices here, but on average the price on these tends to hover around $45 for 4 pounds of dehydrated food. That lasts about 3-4 weeks for one of my 25-30 pound corgis. So it isn’t cheap, but frozen raw costs even more. Most boutique pets stores will carry some dehydrated raw brands, and I recently saw that PetCo was selling I and Love and You, which may be more convenient for some. After exhausting the samples I was given, I chose to buy The Honest Kitchen from Amazon.com, simply because I then got free shipping with my Amazon Prime membership.
I was happy with each brand that I tried, but my ultimate choice was from The Honest Kitchen. I preferred them overall because they offered a fish-based formula, which I knew Eve could tolerate, and because they use human grade ingredients. They also are easy for me to order on Amazon. Furthermore, they have an additional product that they gave me a sample packet of called Perfect Form ($12.99). Perfect Form helps calm the GI track and keep things firm. I have since bought a turkey dog food formula from them to try. So far Eve has been great on it, with only one episode of slightly soft stool over 4 weeks of eating the food. That is impressive for her. I gave her the Perfect Form with that and things were quickly fine again. The other benefit I noted from the food was that, very quickly, while I was still testing multiple brands, I noticed that the dogs had more energy. I can only attribute it to the food since it coincided perfectly with it. So that sold me as well on use of dehydrated raw food in general. Honestly, I think any of the brands I tried, or any brand that uses natural ingredients and is certified to be a balanced diet would be fine.
To make the switch, I gave each dog half dehydrated and half kibble for several weeks and then tapered off the kibble amount. They are now on the dehydrated food full time and will remain on that. I don’t see myself going back to dry food.
To learn more about choosing food for your pets, watch this video from Dr. Becker. She also discusses dehydrated food in it.