Introduction to Raw Diets Part IV: Air Dried Raw

Air Dried Raw Diets

To recap this series on raw diets, in parts one and two we covered the most frequently asked questions and the basics needed to get started feeding raw diets.  In part 3 we showed the benefits and versatility of freeze dried raw diets. In this fourth blog we will discuss a relatively new form of raw diet that is available today; the air dried raw diet. Ziwi Peak and Isle of Dogs Nourish are leading the air dried, dehydrated, raw food market place. Air dried products are unique and as they become more widely available they will be another convenient tool for the raw feeder.

What is an air dried raw diet?

Air dried raw diets and freeze dried raw diets are very different in processing, texture, and the end result. Freeze drying results in products having a very dry, brittle texture that is best suited for crumbling or reconstituting with water. Air dried raw has a higher overall moisture content, and the end result is a flaky, semi moist product that is similar to a dry jerky. Air dried food does not need to be reconstituted and is best served as is. Air drying has long been used as a natural way to preserve food. In essence, you are simply dehydrating the product, lowering the moisture level to prevent spoiling. It is an easy in theory,  but to accomplish it while still retaining a raw, shelf stable end product is very difficult. Air drying is a gentle way to remove the water without heat. The process used by Ziwi Peak took three years to perfect.  Here is what takes place:

·      First, the raw product is cold formed into very thin sheets. Cold forming is a manufacturing process whereby the product is blended, and spread onto sheet trays without the use of heat to aid the process. This fail-safes that the product remains a raw product. This is done so that when they begin air drying the product, that the moisture is removed in an even manner. This ensures consistency so that parts of the product are not more susceptible to spoiling than other parts, which would ultimately ruin product when left in the bag.

Ziwi Peak's unique semi moist flakes.
·      Next, the product is moved into the drying chamber. The drying chamber is a room where large commercial fans gently circulate air over the product. This process takes upwards of 8 hours to achieve because no added heat is being used to speed the process.

·      Lastly, during the final minutes, the room temperature is raised slightly to a level that will kill any pathogens found within the food.

 What are the benefits of feeding air dried raw?

Your pet will experience benefits while on a raw diet. The benefits of feeding air dried raw are the same as if feeding any other form of raw diet. Some of the more common benefits to feeding raw diets include:

·      Better smelling breath
·      Glossy, healthy skin and coat
·      Consistent stool
·      Improved energy
·      Weight loss or weight gain

For more detailed information regarding the benefits of a raw diet, see the first blog in this series here:
Introduction to Raw Diets Part 1

Ziwi Peak sources 100% of their ingredients from New Zealand. Since New Zealand is an island, all ingredients are locally sourced and the freshest possible. Ziwi Peak contains 90% meat from lamb, venison, or venison and fish. All three of these formulas also contain green lipped mussels which is a natural source of glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega 3 fatty acids. The remaining 10% of the food is made up of vitamins, minerals, select carbohydrates, and kelp. The carbohydrate content in Ziwi Peak comes from green tripe, chicory, and parsley. Kelp is a known super food, and aids in stabilizing many functions within the body. For dog fanciers, kelp is  a natural product used to bring out the dog’s vibrant coat color and to increase pigmentation in the dog’s nose. As you can see, this air dried raw diet is packed with quality, nutrient dense ingredients.

Similarly to freeze drying, the air drying process leaves a shelf stable product. Ziwi Peak recommends using the food within eight weeks once opened. While this is the general recommendation as a maximum, the food is best when used within two-four weeks once opened. The reason behind this difference is that once the food is opened, it is exposed to oxygen and over time, this exposure will begin to degrade the food.

One advantage the unique air dried food has over freeze dried food is that you do not need to reconstitute the food; it can be served as is out of the bag. While at home, this may not sound like the biggest convenience, but for pet owners that hike or travel with their pets, or for pet owners that board their pets, it is certainly a welcomed bonus. Ziwi Peak is lightweight, easy to pack, and can be fed at a moments notice. It is also far less cumbersome than packing kibble.

How do I transition to air dried?

We recommend switching your pet to any new diet gradually, between three and seven days. Start by just using the new air dried raw as a topper over the current kibble or canned meal. Continue this for two days and watch for any transition issues that may arise. Catching a problem sooner will allow you to scale back the transition over a greater length of time without compounding the issue. If your pet is responding well to the new diet you can begin incorporating more of the air dried food. Most pets have no problems transitioning to air dried raw.

If problems do arise during the transition, there are certain steps you can take. We always recommend a good digestive supplement that will help boost the good bacteria in the gut. These supplements can be used daily (highly recommended) or as a spot treatment during times of stress or change. They will help settle the stomach, and eliminate loose stools. We covered two very good digestive supplements in our 2nd blog of this series which can be found here:Introduction to Raw Diets Part 2

How much do I feed?

The one caution we have with air dried foods (the same caution we have with all raw foods or premium kibble) is to watch overfeeding. Canine and feline obesity, diabetes, and other weight related diseases and conditions are more common today than in any time in the past. You have to be very diligent by starting with the manufacturers recommendations, and then adjusting if your pet is gaining weight (while not routine in any way, you should watch for weight loss as well) over time. The manufacturer recommendation is just a guideline, and every pet is different. This is especially important with raw diets, and even more so with air dried raw.

This air dried raw food is high in protein, fat, and overall calories. Because the food is packed with nutrients and is not inclusive of much water content, one serving of it is equivalent to three servings of fresh raw meat. It doesn’t take much air dried raw food to nourish your pet. Many pet owners will look at the serving size and think that it is not an adequate portion and will want to add more food. To help your pet adjust to the smaller portion size for air dried raw, you can add water to the bowl, enough to equal the volume lost from your previous diet. This is only a transitional change; you should back the amount of water you add each day until you are feeding just the air dried food.

Can I feed air dried raw food as my pet’s sole diet?

You can absolutely feed air dried raw as the main portion of food or the entire portion of  food for your pet. . The air dried raw by Ziwi Peak and Nourish is approved by the pet food regulatory body AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) as having met their nutrient profiles for a complete and balanced diet. There are some people who will not be able to feed just air dried raw food to their pet though. The food (like all raw foods) is more expensive than most kibble diets. For many pet parents that have numerous pets, or very large pets, feeding air dried raw is cost prohibitive as the dog’s sole diet. These people would be best feeding a combination of premium kibble or canned diets and the air dried raw food. People that feed raw frozen can also mix this with their current diet, or alternate between air dried raw and raw frozen. 

In our next blog, we are going to cover raw bones, and explain the two different types and how each can be used with your pet both as part of the diet, and as a treat.