5 Benefits of Air-Dried Dog Food
More and more pet parents are treating — and feeding — their dogs like family these days. In 2023, growing demands for natural, healthy, high-quality pet food made with human-grade ingredients shaped the industry.  However, for some pet parents, these diets may not be practical or sustainably to feed their pets daily. Fortunately, air-dried dog food is.
Many pet parents are embracing air-dried diets, such as Wisdom Air-Dried dog food from Earth Animal, which combines all the benefits of premium, protein-packed nutrition with the convenience of traditional kibble.
Here’s what pet parents need to know about air-dried dog food, including what’s behind its growing popularity and what benefits these diets bestow on our beloved, four-legged family members.
What is Air-Dried Dog Food?
Most pet parents are pretty familiar with traditional kibble. But air-dried diets are a whole new category of dog food that combines the benefits of raw nutrition in a simple scoop-and-serve dry dog food format.
Air-dried dog foods typically start with premium, minimally processed ingredients. For example, Wisdom Air-Dried dog food is made from sustainably sourced ingredients, including lean, nutrient-dense proteins, ancient grains, and fresh, wholesome fruits and vegetables.
In their raw format, these ingredients are chock full of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. However, they can also contain harmful bacteria.  So many experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider raw dog food diets dangerous to the health of both dogs and their humans. 
Cooking these ingredients at high temperatures effectively kills harmful bacteria. However, that process can also destroy critical nutrients, compromising the nutritional benefits of the raw ingredients.
Air-drying helps preserve the nutritional value and flavor of raw and fresh dog food ingredients, so pups get the benefits of raw without the risk.
How is Air-Dried Dog Food Made?
Instead of being cooked or baked at high temperatures like highly processed canned dog food or kibble, air-dried dog food is gently and slowly air-dried at lower temperatures which reduces water content through evaporation. This helps lock in the benefits of heat-sensitive nutrients while also killing dangerous pathogens.
According to veterinary surgeon Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS, “Air-dried food is a nice alternative to commercially prepared kibble as the way it is processed minimally damages the nutrients and the enzymes, making it a natural ‘whole foods’ choice. The dehydration process removes the germs from the raw food, preventing food poisoning.”
The result is a healthy, protein-rich, nutritious dog food that’s safer (and more convenient) than raw and cleaner than kibble because it’s not packed with fillers, additives, and preservatives.
Air-dried vs Freeze-dried Dog Food
You may be wondering if air-dried formulas are the same as freeze-dried dog food. While these two options do share quite a few similarities, there are also some key differences.
Both air-dried and freeze-dried dog food formulas were developed to offer pet parents a safe, convenient alternative to raw dog food diets. And, much like air-dried dog food, freeze-dried dog food also starts with high-quality animal proteins and healthy ingredients.
However, instead of using air to gently dry the ingredients, freeze-dried formulas use sub-zero temperatures to freeze the ingredients and a low-temperature dryer, known as a freeze dryer, to extract nearly all of the moisture as a vapor, leaving behind the nutrition and flavor of the original recipe.
Also, because the air-drying process retains more moisture, the texture of air-dried dog food tends to be softer and more pliable. Wisdom Air-Dried recipes boast “a jerky-like texture that dogs love.”
Freeze-dried dog food tends to be lightweight and often needs to be rehydrated with water before serving.
5 Benefits of Air-Dried Dog Food
“This method of food preservation offers several benefits for both dogs and their pet parents,” she says. “Benefits of air-dried dog food are primarily nutritional value, digestibility, and convenience.”
But what does that really mean for you and your pup? Let’s take a closer look at the biggest benefits air-dried dog food formulas can deliver, so you can make the best decision about what to feed your pet.
1. Greater Nutritional Value
“Air-dried dog food is known for its high nutritional value,” says Dr. Hsia. “Many air-dried dog foods are made with high-quality, natural ingredients.”
For example, Wisdom Air-Dried Chicken Recipe contains antibiotic-free chicken, wild-caught sardines, quinoa, flaxseed, carrots, pumpkin, cranberries, and apples. These natural ingredients provide necessary nutrients, such as proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, that contribute to your dog’s well-being.
And because the drying process used to produce air-dried diets helps retain the natural nutrients found in the ingredients, dogs get greater nutritional value from air-dried dog food. Most kibble is made by extruding ingredients and then baking them at temperatures around 320 to 250 degrees, which research has shown significantly reduces the nutritional value of the food. 
Because air-drying uses lower temperatures (generally 140 to 180 degrees), this helps minimize the loss of heat-sensitive nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin E, and the B-group vitamins, as well as antioxidants, omega fatty acids, and the amino acid lysine.
Dr. Sabrina Kong, DVM, dog trainer and veterinary consultant at WeLoveDoodles, weighs in on the benefits of using natural ingredients in dog food. “One of the significant benefits of air-dried food is that it preserves the natural flavors and nutrients of the ingredients without the need for artificial preservatives. This can be especially beneficial for dogs with specific allergies or sensitivities.”
2. Easier to Digest
Air-dried food for dogs is closer to the raw diet that your dog’s canine ancestors thrived upon. That means it’s often easier for dogs to digest compared to highly processed kibble, which reduces the risk of gastrointestinal upset.
“The air-drying process breaks down the proteins and carbohydrates in the ingredients, making them easier for dogs to digest,” says Dr. Hsia. “This can be particularly beneficial for dogs with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues.”
In addition, some formulas contain ingredients specially designed to promote digestive health, such as the organic sprouted flaxseeds in Wisdom Air-Dried dog food, which help maintain microbiome and gut health.
Air-dried dog food offers pet parents a convenient, shelf-stable, scoop-and-serve feeding option that’s healthy for dogs. Its soft and pliable texture also makes it easy to serve without the need for rehydration, saving time and effort.
“These diets have a long shelf life, making them a nice option for those who like to buy in bulk,” says Dr. Simon. “And they can be stored at room temperature. On top of this, air-dried dog food can be fed from the packet with no need to add water or warm it up.”
4. Made with Integrity and Transparency
Unlike some dog foods that use filler ingredients with little or no nutritional value to cut costs, manufacturers of air-dried dog foods typically prioritize transparency and high-quality ingredients to provide safe and wholesome formulas that pet parents can trust.
Dr. Simons adds, “A real benefit of feeding air-dried food is that the companies who manufacture these diets generally have the dog’s wellbeing at the forefront of their mind.”
Yes, they charge a premium and these diets are not cheap,” She adds. “However, this ensures high-quality, fresh, and protein-rich diets that support your dog’s optimal health.”
Many air-dried dog food brands offer clear and detailed information on ingredient sources, product quality, and manufacturing processes, giving pet owners greater confidence in their purchase decisions.
5. Highly Palatable
Finally, the gentle air-drying process helps preserve the natural flavors of the ingredients, which makes the food more appealing to dogs. And while that’s great news for your dog’s tastebuds, it can also benefit their overall health.
Appealing taste is especially helpful for picky eaters or dogs with reduced appetite due to illness, encouraging them to take in the critical calories, vitamins, minerals, and nurtrients they need to thrive.
Palatability can also make mealtime even more enjoyable for dogs, resulting in a positive feeding experience and a stronger bond between pet and parent.
Tips for Feeding Your Dog Air-Dried Dog Food
If you’ve decided to upgrade your dog’s diet to one of the many air-dried formulas on the market, Dr. Kong recommends, “Always check the ingredient list. Opt for products that list high-quality protein sources as the first ingredient. Avoid foods with fillers, artificial colors, or preservatives. Remember, the simpler the ingredient list, the better!”
Keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian for personalized feeding recommendations based on your dog’s health and specific needs.
When making the switch to air-dried dog food, there are some general guidelines that can help make it a smooth transition.
Introduce it Gradually
Dr. Hsia advises to transition gradually and follow feeding guidelines. She explains, “When introducing air-dried dog food into your dog’s diet, it is essential to transition gradually to avoid digestive upset. Start by mixing a small amount of the new food with their current food and gradually increase the proportion over a week or two until they are solely eating the air-dried food.”
She also points out that each brand of air-dried dog food will have specific feeding guidelines based on your dog’s weight, age, and activity level. Therefore, it’s important to follow the guidelines to ensure your dog receives the appropriate amount of nutrition.
Adjust Portion Size
According to Dr. Kong, it’s also important to ensure you’re feeding the right portion sizes.
“Since air-dried food is nutrient-dense, you might need to feed less than you would with traditional kibble,” she notes.
Depending on the formula’s makeup, smaller portions of air-dried dog food can provide the same or even more nutrients than larger portions of other types of dog food. Paying attention to portion sizes ensures that your dog receives the appropriate amount of nutrients without overeating and potentially gaining excess weight.
Provide Plenty of Water
When feeding your dog air-dried dog food, it is important to provide plenty of fresh water.
“Always ensure your dog has access to fresh water,” says Dr. Kong. “But this is especially true if you’re transitioning them to a diet lower in moisture.”
Air-dried dog food typically has a lower moisture content, compared to many other types of dog food. Dogs naturally tend to drink more water when consuming dehydrated dog foods to compensate for the lower moisture content in their diet.
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- Weir, Malcolm, and Robin Downing. “Dogs and Raw Food Diets: VCA Animal Hospital: VCA Animal Hospitals.” VCA Animal Hospitals, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/dogs-and-raw-food-diets
- “Drying Petfood at High Temperatures May Decrease Nutrients, Researchers Find.” Petfood Industry, 25 Mar. 2015, www.petfoodindustry.com/news-newsletters/pet-food-news/article/15455011/drying-petfood-at-high-temperatures-may-decrease-nutrients-researchers-find