A few weeks go, both of my dogs refused their morning meal. They’re not picky eaters—AT ALL—so I knew something strange was going on. On closer inspection, I realized their kibble smelled a little funky. The remains of a bag I had dumped into the food storage bin weeks before had gone rancid.
Worried about your dog’s food spoiling? Read on to learn what causes dog food to spoil, how to tell if your dog’s food has gone bad, and how to store dog food correctly to prevent spoilage.
What causes dog food to spoil
The most common causes of food spoilage are:
- Exposure to air, which feeds harmful bacteria
- Excess moisture in the environment, which causes to mold
- High temperatures, which lead to rancidity
In general, it’s best to store dog kibble in a cool, dry place. A climate-controlled environment is best, i.e. the kitchen pantry or a closet indoors. Keeping dog food away from temperature fluctuations and moisture will keep it fresh!
How to tell if your dog food is spoiled
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. Your dog’s nose knows!
Of course, some dogs will eat anything. 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
Now that you know how to identify spoiled food, read on to learn how to keep dog food fresh.
Keep it in the bag (or can)
Dog food bags are designed specifically to keep kibble fresh. While food storage containers are useful for disguising bags (and keeping them safe from clever scavenger dogs), they’re actually not the best option on their own.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t use a food storage bin! We love pet food storage solutions—click here for some suggestions. We just recommend storing the bag inside the bin. It can take some strategic bag-wrangling to get it to fit, but it will be worth it to keep your dog’s kibble safe.
If your dog eats canned food, store any leftovers in the original can with an air-tight lid. Canned food will stay good for 3-5 days when stored properly in the fridge.
If you do use a food storage bin, be sure to clean it regularly. Every time you finish a bag of dog food, wash the bin out, and let it dry completely before putting a new bag in.
Keep it sealed and cool
Exposure to air and humidity can speed up the rate at which dog foods degrade. As fats and proteins break down in air/moisture, they become rancid, and are at risk for bacterial contamination.
You can prevent spoilage by sealing the dog food bag up tight. Use a combination of a bag clip and air-tight storage bin.
In addition, kibble should be stored in a cool, dry environment. At high temperatures, the fat in food starts to oxidize, causing rancidity. Keep your dog’s food in a climate-controlled spot where the temperature is consistently under 100°F (38°C).
Pay attention to expiration dates
Manufacturers establish “best by” dates to ensure the safety of your dog. Look for the expiration date on the bottom of your dog’s food bag or cans, and plan to use up the food before that date.
In general, unopened dry pet foods have a shelf life of one year, while unopened canned foods are good for two years from the date of manufacture. Dry food, when stored properly, should last through the manufacturer’s indicated expiration date.