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Dry or canned, most dog food is made to last…for a while, that is. Although many commercially-available dog foods have long shelf lives, they don’t stay fresh forever.
Does dog food go bad? In short, yes: without proper storage, dog food can spoil or go rancid. But don’t worry, there are lots of ways to ensure your dog’s food stays fresh for as long as possible.
Read on to learn how long dog food lasts, how to store it to last longer, and how to tell if dog food has gone bad.
Start with the expiration dates
Pet food manufacturers establish expiration or “best by” dates to ensure the safety of your dog. In general, unopened dry pet foods have a shelf life of 12-18 months, while unopened canned foods are good for two years from the date of manufacture. Look for the expiration date on the bottom of your dog’s food bag or cans, and plan to open and use the food before that date.
Keep in mind, the date stamped on the bag indicates how long the food will stay fresh before being opened. Once it’s opened, and air and moisture have a chance to get in, dog food can start to degrade. Some experts recommend using opened food within a couple of weeks. If you’re concerned about getting through an opened bag before it goes bad, consider buying dog food in smaller amounts. Better to safely use up a small bag than risk a large, opened bag of dog food spoiling before it’s emptied!
How to store dog food for maximum freshness
Dog food storage containers are handy for keeping food contained and out of the way. However, food poured out of its bag and into a bin can spoil faster as oils and fats settle into the walls and bottom of the bin. Experts recommend storing dog food in the bag it comes in. Dog food bags are designed to protect food from air and humidity, both of which can speed up the rate at which pet foods degrade (source).
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get one of those clever dog food bins. Just put the bag into the bin! Storing food in its original bag, in an airtight bin, can prevent the fats from oxidizing When the fats and oils of the kibble first hit the walls of your pet food containers, they begin to oxidize (especially in the plastic ones).
Canned dog food should be stored unopened in a cool, dry place. Once opened, canned dog food can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Be sure to tightly cover any unused canned food with plastic wrap or a reusable lid, such as one of these can covering lids.
And of course, if you use fresh or frozen dog food, store it in a cold fridge or freezer. Check manufacturer instructions for details.
Do dog treats go bad?
Just like dry or canned dog food, dog treats come with an expiration date. Shelf life depends on the ingredients and the types of preservatives included.
Homemade peanut butter dog biscuits will have a much shorter shelf life than a commercially processed treat. Soft, meaty treats may spoil sooner than a hard biscuit. And treats packed in airtight containers and stored properly will last longer than treats exposed to air and humidity.
So, yes, dog treats can go bad. But as long as they’re stored well and used before their best by date, they should be fine.
How to tell if dog food has gone bad
Dogs have incredible senses of smell, and will pick up odors we humans can’t find. If your pet sniffs the bowl and turns their head, or takes a few bites before walking away, there might be something wrong with their food.
On the other hand, some dogs will eat garbage. That’s why it’s important for you to know the signs of food that has “gone off.” You can tell your dog food is spoiled if:
- There is a noticeable sour or rancid odor
- You see signs of moisture, mold, or bugs
- The bag is past its expiration date
- The food has been exposed to heat or humidity
- Your dog refuses to eat, or shows signs of illness/discomfort after eating
If you’re at all concerned your dog’s food has spoiled, don’t risk it. Dispose of the food and replace it with a fresh bag.