Vital Essentials Dog Food (Freeze-Dried)


Rating: ★★★★★

Vital Essentials raw freeze dried dog food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.

The Vital Essentials product line includes four freeze dried raw dog foods.

However, since we’re unable to locate AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements for these dog foods on the product’s web page, it’s impossible for us to report specific life stage recommendations for these recipes.

The Vital Essentials raw freeze dried products are available in nibblets, mini nibs, and some formulas in pet patties and mini pet patties.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • Vital Essentials Beef Entree
  • Vital Essentials Duck Entree
  • Vital Essentials Turkey Entree
  • Vital Essentials Chicken Entree

Vital Essentials Chicken Entree was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Vital Essentials Chicken Entree

Freeze-Dried Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 48% | Fat = 29% | Carbs = 15%

Ingredients: Ground chicken with bone, chicken heart, chicken liver, herring oil, mixed tocopherols, d-alpha tocopherol

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 2.4%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis45%27%NA
Dry Matter Basis48%29%15%
Calorie Weighted Basis36%53%11%
Protein = 36% | Fat = 53% | Carbs = 11%

The first ingredient in this dog food is ground chicken and bone. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”.1

Chicken is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life. The ground bone is an excellent source of natural calcium.

The second ingredient is chicken heart. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing to us humans, heart tissue is pure muscle — all meat. It’s naturally rich in quality protein, minerals and complex B vitamins, too.

The third ingredient is chicken liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.

The fourth ingredient is herring oil. Herring oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.

Depending on its level of freshness and purity, herring oil should be considered a commendable addition.

From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.

But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.

With one notable exception

Except for vitamin E, we find no added vitamins or minerals on the ingredients list. We would assume these essential nutrients are provided by the food ingredients in the recipe.

Vital Essentials
Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Vital Essentials freeze dried dog food looks like an above-average raw product.

But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 48%, a fat level of 29% and estimated carbohydrates of about 15%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 52% and a mean fat level of 26%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 15% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 49%.

Above-average protein. Below-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical raw dog food.

Free of any plant-based protein boosters, this looks like the profile of a raw product containing an abundance of meat.

Bottom line?

Vital Essentials is a meat-based freeze-dried raw dog food using a generous amount of various species as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.

Enthusiastically recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

Vital Essentials Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.

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A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

We rely entirely on the integrity of the information provided by each company. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the specific data a company chooses to share.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

We rely on tips from readers. To report a product change or request an update of any review, please contact us using this form.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

However, we do receive a fee from for each purchase made as a direct result of a referral from our website. This fee is a fixed dollar amount and has nothing to do with the size of an order or the brand selected for purchase.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

01/25/2016 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • Jeanne Mason

    I use VE freeze dried. I break up the patties with my fingers and add a little warm water just to moisten it up. You don’t really have to wait for it to absorb the water, your dog will drink up the water like a soup. I’ve been feeding VE for over a year. 🙂

  • Pitlove

    You want to use the same caution for freeze dried raw as with normal frozen raw.

  • jolie

    Meant to post my question on this thread instead. Is freeze dried raw safer option? Does the HPP or drying out process kill/prevent bacteria?

  • The turkey has 41% protein which put it in a lower category, while the beef and chicken have 45%. This of course is just the minimum reported amount according to VE. They could all have more, since the food is just meat, bone, organ and oil. That’s one of the problems with dog food labels. The company only has to give the minimum amount of protein and fat.

  • Tracey Shaffer

    Question for Dr. Mike: the ratio of fat to meat for turkey is 76.3% and beef is 76.2%, so why is turkey 4 stars and beef 5 stars? Thank you!

  • It hardly absorbs water by the way. I just use it for treats or as a topper so I just use it dry.

  • Pattyvaughn

    You definitely don’t have to. Powdered dehydrated foods need water added because they are an aspiration hazard. Think inhaling as you are about to bite into a powder sugar donut. Otherwise, the reason to add water is to make it more species appropriate, but you don’t have to.

  • InkedMarie

    It says nothing on the bag. I’d assume if you had to (like THK) it would say. Ginger & Boone love it!

  • Pattyvaughn

    I use it as training treats so I don’t add water. If I was feeding it as a meal, I would, but then I always add water to dry food for meals

  • InkedMarie

    I have a stupid question. I got a bag of VE freeze dried turkey; are you supposed to add water? I didn’t think so but someone told me you had to. I can’t find anything on the bag either way

  • Pattyvaughn

    I recently bought some of the nibblets to replace the raw protion of my dogs diet while I’m on vacation and I started using some of it as training treats. I must say that from the moment I brought it in the house, my dogs will do anything I ask of them to get a piece. They absolutely LOVE it!! My cats are stealing it from the dogs too.

  • Lillyblairmiller

    I’ve had an odd relationship with this food – my picky eater liked it, then disliked it, and then LOVED it after I sold my remaining stash on EBay!
    initially it was a little tricky for her to eat, in both the mini party or large party size, even though I would break it up for her prior tofeeding. Oddly enough she seemed to like it more once it was a little stale. perhaps because it was softer to eat?

    Regardless, I do love adding this food to her diet. Like most raw patty foods it takes some guesswork to ensure you’re feeding the right amount. (for those who are used to feeding Kibble)

    It’s also worth noting that I noticed a significant decrease in the size ofher poop , even though I was previously feeding a GF high quality kibble. Makes me feel better knowing she’s absorbing more of the food I’m feeding her.

  • Sandy

    im feeding this product to my bulldog as she is allergic to kibble and some freeze dried. i started adding in stella and chewys to. i noticed she got constipated so i started adding in water to her canned food she gets and she was fine then. now with the stella n chewys i add water also and no more problems. it seems to be to much for her to feed exclusively but added with something else seems to be the ticket. she loves the hard kibble like bits as she was not thrilled eating her soft food. 

  • Gayle Hunter

    I use this product, dogs love it. I use the freeze dried as treats. If dogs are constipated, use 1 tsp of real pumpkin.
    I also use raw bistro made in mn.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Thanks, I haven’t heard of The Dogma.  I’ll check it out.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    I’ve never seen it in stores, I’ve just ordered the freeze dried online (but then again, that doesn’t mean much – I’m in nowheresville too lol). I know The Dogma ships their frozen though, their shipping is a little pricey for me as they’re in Georgia but being that you’re in Florida it might be pretty reasonabe for you if it’s something you wanted to try.

  • Pattyvaughn

    I wish I could:-(  FB gives my husband hives, so we all suffer.

  • Just saw it on Amazon for $28 (1 lb 5 oz bag freeze dried nibblets). Find me on facebook, sandy s brown.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Thanks, I went ahead and looked for it on Chewys.

  • sandy

    I think I’ve seen the frozen patties in a store near me (sort of, 27 miles out) but I order from a supplier in Texas.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Are you ordering it online or is it available near you?  I haven’t seen it anywhere yet, but I do live in nowheresville.

  • Jan_Mom2Cavs

    I just bought some, the chicken and the beef flavored.  The dogs had a some on top of their Merrick GF kibble last night with water added.  They loved it!  It might be causing a little constipation, though, so I’ll keep an eye out.  I rotate it with Primal and Stella & Chewy’s freeze dried.  Sometimes they just get the FD and sometimes it’s mixed with their Merrick.

  • sandy

    My pugs love this product.  I use it for treats mostly but also put some pieces of it in their meals.  It feels different than all the other freeze dried products I’ve used.  It feels like jerky.