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Does dog food expire? How to keep your furkid’s food fresh

Does dog food expire?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’ve been pondering the question ‘does dog food expire?’ then we’re happy to report that you’ve come to the right place! Whether it’s dry kibble or canned food, even the best dog food can expire and go bad after being opened. 

Since dogs need a nutritious diet each day, spoiled dog food will deprive your pooch of the essential vitamins and minerals required to stay healthy and happy. What’s more, bad food can lead to gastrointestinal or other bacterial issues that will affect your pup’s overall well-being.

While it may not always be obvious when dog food has gone off, it is important to always check the expiration dates and labels when purchasing. This will give you a clear indication of how long your food can be kept for and ways in which you can store it safely.  

Typically, unopened wet dog food tends to stay fresher for longer periods, compared to unopened dry dog food. Kibble has a shelf life of about 12-18 months, while the canned variety can last for up to two years from the date of purchase. This is because the canning process itself acts as a preservative and ensures food doesn’t spoil quickly. However, once it’s gone beyond its expiry date, it will start to degrade.  

So how do you know when dog food is safe to eat? And how do you prevent it from going bad quickly? Read our helpful guide on everything you need to know about keeping your dog food fresh and delicious for your pup to enjoy.

What’s the difference between best by and expiration dates?

Just like all perishables, there are stark differences between the best by and expiration dates. Expiration dates are given by the manufacturer to tell you when the food is likely to decay and considered unsafe to eat. In this case, you would have to discard once this date has passed. On the other hand, a best by date means the food can be consumed, however, it will lose all of its quality, freshness and nutritional value. 

How do you know when your dog food is bad?

While it’s often hard to tell when dog food is unsafe to eat, there are certain things to look out for. Always inspect the bag and food for any mold or tiny bugs on it. Also, check for moisture condensation or whether it has an incredibly greasy texture.  This could also indicate bad food. Next up, how does it smell? If it has a noticeable bad or acidic smell, it could be rancid. What’s more, if your pooch has an aversion to the smell or taste, this could be a sure sign that it’s off. 

What are the best ways to store dry dog food?

Does dog food expire?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Even the best dry dog food will spoil quickly when exposed to air, moisture or extreme heat conditions. So you would need to ensure opened bags are sealed securely with a clip in their original packaging and placed in an airtight container. 

Try to avoid pouring kibble directly into a plastic container as you can’t limit the amount of air inside that food will get exposed to. Plus it’s always good to hold on to the labels for expiry dates or the product number.

Kibble can also be stored in the freezer to keep fresh, but ideally should be used within a month of opening it. Once opened though, it’s advisable to consume kibble within two weeks, before air and moisture gets into the bag.

How do I keep wet dog food fresh?

Opened cans of the best wet dog food can be stored in the fridge for up to three days, providing it’s tightly closed. This is because the nutrients will start to decay quickly once opened, since there are less preservatives than dry food. If it’s left out at room temperature, exposed to air or moisture, it can quickly degrade. So it’s recommended to dispose of it after two hours to avoid bacteria growth. What’s more, if you’re concerned about food wastage, it’s always best to buy smaller bags or portions of dog food.

How does expired food affect your dog?

Dogs experience pretty much the same gastrointestinal symptoms humans do after eating bad food. The most common are vomiting, diarrhoea and passing wind. Worse cases include intestinal problems, haemorrhagic enteritis and even paralysis. These are mainly caused by bacteria such as e. coli and botulism which can be life threatening if left untreated. In any case, you should always visit your vet if your pooch has any symptoms from eating expired food. 

What to do with expired dog food?

Just like with all foods, expired dog food needs to be thrown out immediately. There are some local waste disposal facilities that use compost for expired pet food, so you can find out more information.  

Cynthia Lawrence

Cynthia Lawrence is freelance lifestyle journalist. Starting off her career in national magazines, she moved to digital and e-commerce publications. When she's not reviewing exciting products, she is obsessed with home interiors and her neighbour's cat!