If stored properly, bags of unopened dried dog food will generally last up to 18 months after manufacture. Once dried dog food has been opened, you should generally aim to use it within 6 weeks. Storing your dog food properly will help to preserve its freshness for as long as possible. Here is a quick guide to what you need to know.
Does dog food go bad?
All food goes bad eventually. Wet dog food can last up to two years unopened but goes off very quickly when opened. Even if you can put it in a fridge, you generally need to use it within a day or two. Dried dog food actually has a shorter shelf-life when unopened “just” 18 months (approximately). It can, however, last much longer when opened (approximately 6 weeks).
How to tell if dog food has gone bad?
The signs that dog food has gone bad are much the same as the signs that human food has gone bad. It will often develop a bad smell and you may see signs of mould and/or insects. Wet dog food will lose its moisture but dry dog food will become moist and crumbly. Your dog will probably be reluctant to eat it, even if they usually eat anything.
In addition to actively “going bad”, dog food, like all food, will lose its nutritional value over time. You may not see any outward sign of this and your dog may still eat it quite happily. They may seem perfectly well at the time. If, however, they regularly eat food with no nutritional content, their health will eventually suffer.
To keep your dog safe from this issue, always respect the manufacturer’s guidance. Furthermore, remember that the manufacturer’s guidance is based on the assumption that you are storing the food properly. If you’re not, it will have a shorter shelf-life.
How to store dog food to keep it fresh?
Before you start thinking about how to keep your dog food fresh, think about what dog food you buy and how you buy it. Be very careful about buying dog food from open bins e.g. at bulk stores or markets.
If you’re buying dried dog food in bulk but have a small dog, think about buying multiple small bags. These may look more expensive but they’re actually likely to work out more economical. This is because it’s more likely that your dog will have time to eat them while the food is still fresh.
Store your dog food in a cool, dark, dry place
Over time, heat, light and moisture will lower the nutritional content of your dog’s food. Warm, moist conditions will also often attract mould and insects.
Store your dog food in its original packaging
There are two good reasons for storing your dog food in its original packaging. Firstly, it will have been made from food-grade material. Ordinary plastics can actually cause food to spoil. Even if they are airtight, they may draw out oils from the dog food. Over time, this will lead to it becoming rancid.
Secondly, the original packaging will have all the key information about the dog food. You never know when you might need to refer to this. For example, if the brand has a product recall, you will need to check the original packaging to see if you need to return the food.
Put the original container into an airtight container
If you’re buying small bags of dog food and using them up quickly, you may get away with just rolling up the top and clipping it closed. Even with small bags of dog food, however, it’s still better to put them in an airtight container. With larger bags, it’s highly recommended. Ideally, you’ll still clip the bag closed, just to be doubly sure it’s airtight.
Keeping your dog food in its original packaging will ensure that the inevitable crumbs stay in the bag and don’t get into the container. This helps to minimize the attraction to pests.