How Long Does Dog Food Last?
As a pet owner, you might be wondering, “How long would your pup’s food last?” Or you simply no longer want to throw any food that went bad for certain reasons.
First of all, the dog label comes with the best by date and expiration dates that will help you know when food is no longer good for your pup. However, it isn’t the only factor that you need to consider.
In this article, you’ll know what other factors cause dog food spoilage as well as some methods you can employ to address this problem.
- How Long Does Dog Food Last?
- Best By vs. Expiration Dates
- How Do Manufacturers Make Dog Food Last A Year?
- Can Dog Food Go Bad? What Causes Their Spoilage?
- Is Expired Dog Food Safe?
- How To Tell If Your Dog Food Has Gone Bad?
- What If My Dog Eats Contaminated or Expired Dog Food?
- Best Food Storage Practices
- How To Keep Your Dog Food Fresh?
- What To Look For When Buying Dog Food?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best By vs. Expiration Dates
“Best by” and “expiration dates” can be seen at the backs of any dog food product and sometimes, consumers interchangeably associate these two with the wrong meaning.
A “best by date” denotes the date on which a pet food may still be consumed but is not nutritionally complete as the label says. On the other hand, expiration dates imply that the food is no longer safe for consumption. Take note that “best by” and “expiration dates” refer to unopened dog food. Pet food brands list a “best by” date for the pet owners to confidently know that they are feeding their pets with safe and nutritious pet food.
A pet food manufacturer gauges the best by date based on the preservatives used in the foods. Additives can vary from natural to synthetic preservatives and contrary to the general idea that preservatives are not good in dog foods, it actually helps in prolonging the shelf life of pet foods, making them safe for consumption.
For your information, synthetic and natural preservatives do degrade at the same rate and it is important to note that once the best by date has passed, the preservatives, together with the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals begin their degradation process and without the preservatives, your dog’s food become more prone to spoilage and can no longer inhibit the growth of bacteria and molds. 
Generally, kibbles intact in a dog’s food bag would not go bad and would be expected to last for more than 12 months. Opened bag of dog food becomes spoiled faster than dog food that is properly sealed.
How Do Manufacturers Make Dog Food Last A Year?
Any food that needs to be stored on a shelf for a long period needs to have low moisture content, otherwise, it would become an ideal breeding ground for contaminants like fungi and bacteria. Hence, pet food companies address this problem by heating and thoroughly drying the kibble to remove moisture from the food. This method results to dry dog food kibble containing approximately 10% moisture content.
After pet food manufacturers had dried the dog food, it is packed carefully to ensure the stability of the dog food. The packaging container should ensure that the food is not exposed to air which can cause the food to be oxidized. Essentially, the oxidation process occurs when the chemicals that are present in the food come into contact with the oxygen. This lowers the nutritional value and can prompt mold and bacterial growth in dry dog food.
A pet food company addresses this problem by using modern-day packaging that is built with a grease barrier. Particularly, this contains synthetic antioxidants that prevent fat in dog foods from oxidizing and becoming rancid. With the right packaging, the manufacturers are now able to send out their products that can last years stored in shelves of stores and pet shops with “best by” dates to keep the pet owners aware and feel safe about the food they give to their pets.
Can Dog Food Go Bad? What Causes Their Spoilage?
Let’s find out whether these types of dog food can go bad, and if so, what could cause their spoilage?
Dry Dog Food
Dry foods can go bad if it goes beyond its date of expiry or it is exposed to contaminants. Although it contains preservatives, it may go bad because of rancid fats or air exposure that causes oxidation.
Wet canned dog food definitely goes bad if it goes beyond its expiration date. Unopened cans can last up to years but opened cans can go bad in a matter of hours due to contamination. Usually, heat, moisture, and air exposure are the major causes for the food to go rancid.
Treats can also go bad like dry and wet food as they come with an expiration date. Its shelf life depends on the ingredients and preservatives used. Relatively, homemade dog biscuits have shorter shelf life compared to commercially produced ones.
Other Factors That Causes Their Spoilage
Dog foods generally contain fats that are present in raw meat like saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and PUFAs. These fats can go rancid because of the oxidation caused by exposure to air. Rancid fat can destroy vitamins which cause a nutritional deficiency in dogs. Additionally, it is linked to issues like malnutrition, diarrhea, kidney disease, and the like.
Is Expired Dog Food Safe?
A short and simple answer to the question, “Is expired food safe for consumption? ” is no, it is not safe to feed your dog with food that is passed its expiration date. Expired pet foods can be unappetizing and can also be a cause of certain health issues. Usually, when the dog food expires, it may smell bad, and if accidentally ingested, it can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. So, the next time you feed your hungry hound, make sure to check the smell as well as the texture of the dog food.
How To Tell If Your Dog Food Has Gone Bad?
Take note of these important steps to identify whether the dog food has gone bad. In paying attention to the following indicators, you will be able to prevent any further problems that expired pet food can bring to your pup.
- Look at the kibble directly and pay attention to whether it contains any molds, bugs, or moisture condensation that has formed inside your dog’s food bag.
- Pay attention to the scent of the food and identify any noticeable sour or rancid odor and if there is, chances are your dog’s food is already spoiled.
- Let your dog inspect the kibble for themselves. Your dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 stronger than yours and can identify whether the food is no longer fresh and can go bad any day soon.
- Have a feel of the dog food and check for greasy or moist texture.
- Check the bag and its expiration date.
- Write on the container the date when the dog food was opened. It may help you know whether the food is exposed for too long.
What If My Dog Eats Contaminated or Expired Dog Food?
When your dog eats food that is way beyond the expiration date, you may notice early signs of gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and vomiting. Other effects vary with the contaminants present in the dog food. Bacterial contamination can lead to death if left untreated. Mold contamination can make dry or wet dog food filled with mycotoxin and aflatoxin which can be very harmful to your dog’s health. Hence, it is important that you look for these early signs and immediately ask for veterinary help whenever you are certain that the signs shown by your dog are caused by bad food.
Best Food Storage Practices
Exposure to air is the most important thing that you need to prevent from happening with your dog food. Hence, it is considered a best practice if you store your food in airtight containers to prevent additional moisture in your pup’s food. It is also best that you do not leave the food in an open area that is accessible to insects, rodents, and other animals. Unfinished canned wet food should always be stored inside the fridge to extend its shelf life longer. Essentially, everything that is done to make sure that the dog’s food is safe from all the things that can make it go bad can be considered as the best storage practice for dog food.
How To Keep Your Dog Food Fresh?
The following methods are various ways to keep your dog’s dry food and wet food fresh and keep its nutrients intact.
- Buy food that can only last for a few weeks so you do not have to worry about any expiring food.
- Keep the dry pet food in the original bag and squeeze out the air and properly seal the tip with clips or bands to keep it fresh and have a longer shelf life.
- Store the bag of dog food inside an airtight container (plastic, steel, or glass containers). Although food inside the container won’t stay fresh forever, it will relatively prolong its shelf life as it prevents the exposure of the kibble to air.
- Never mix the new food with the old food. Let your dog eat the old food first before opening a new bag of kibble.
- Rancid oils can make new foods spoil faster, so it is important that you clean the containers between one food bag to another.
- Make sure that you completely dry the containers after cleaning. It is important that it is free from oils and moisture to prevent contamination risk.
- Keep the bag of kibble stored properly in a cool, dry place to reduce the risk of contamination.
- Freeze a portion of wet or canned dog food whenever you have excess.
By diligently following these rules and using your common sense, you will be successful in extending your dog’s food longer and safer.
What To Look For When Buying Dog Food?
When buying your pup’s food, it is important that you look at the expirations dates of the product. Make sure that the dates aren’t close to when you expect your dog to finish it. As much as possible, choose a food that does not contain synthetic preservatives if you expect your dog to finish the food in less than 3 weeks. Lower quality kibble manufacturers will use BHA or BHT, and ethoxyquin, as a preservative although both BHA and BHT were discovered to be carcinogenic chemicals. If you wish your pup’s food to have a longer shelf life, you may try switching to wet food that has a relatively longer life than one bag of dry kibble. Always make sure that you can follow the storing instructions of the product or else you’ll end up disposing of the food that had gone bad.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does dry dog food last after opening?
A dry dog food lasts around a few weeks after opening. Regardless of the expiration date, the food will start degrading, the moment it comes into contact with the air. It is important that you employ methods to keep the dog food fresh for longer periods and relatively safe to eat.
How often should you buy dog food?
You should buy dog food every few weeks. This is to ensure that your dog eats a healthy kibble, free from contaminants that may accumulate if you buy more than what your dog can consume in a matter of weeks.
Should I leave food out for my dog all day?
No, you should not leave food out for your dog all day. This may attract rodents, insects, and other animals which may consume all the food that is intended for your dog. Additionally, leaving food out all day is not ideal for dogs with diabetes.
Food is highly important for the proper growth of your pup and giving them bad food can have a significant effect on their health. To prevent your dog from eating food that has gone bad, it is important that you pay much attention to the food that you are giving. Being sensitive to strong indicators of spoiled food will go a long way and prevent further veterinary expenses.