The quality of your dog's diet is a hugely important factor in their health. However all food has a shelf-life, so just how long can you keep food before throwing it out?
Dog food is also not cheap stuff, especially for the better quality ones, so how should you store it to preserve its nutritional qualities and maximise its shelf life?
The different types of dog food
At a basic level, dog foods fall into two categories, wet and dry.
Wet dog food is food in cans or pouches, while dry dog food is biscuits or kibbles.
These can further be divided into complete and complementary foods.
Complete foods contain all the nutrients your dog needs every day (yep – all 37 of them!) while complementary foods contain only part of what your dog needs in their diet. This is designed for dogs that need additional nutrition in some area of their diet for example puppies or older dogs.
Find out all you need to know (and probably some things you didn't!) about food preservation below...
The preservation of dry dog foods
Dry dog food has a relatively long shelf life but it needs to be stored in a cool and dry place. Once the packet is opened, you should keep it in a tightly closed storage container as moisture, air and light tend to rapidly oxidize food. To minimize these effects, kibbles contain preservatives, which mean that the bag can potentially be stored for several months. Foods that contain natural preservatives can be healthier but have a shorter shelf life and should be eaten within one month of opening.
The preservation of wet dog foods
Canned dog food should also be stored in a cool, dry place. Once the can is opened, it must be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 2 days. Again, you should transfer the contents of the can into a hermetically sealable container. In addition, wet food should not remain in the open air if your pet does not immediately eat it. It will dry up, become less appetizing and oxidize.
The usefulness of airtight containers
As we have said, dry food must be kept in an airtight container after opening the package. Once the package is opened, you can either pour it directly into the bowl or place the bag in its original packaging. It is important that these containers are airtight; contact modifies the quality of the food. In addition, if the tray is not properly closed, it can be an ideal target for insects that can nest there and lay their eggs.
Fats in food react to changes in temperature, exposure to air and light, leading to the oxidation of essential fatty acids and vitamins. The food then becomes rancid. Ingestion of oxidized fats increases the risk of developing cancers and diabetes.
The ambient humidity, on the other hand, is absorbed by the food and causes the growth of mold. If you see mold in your pet's food, or it has been exposed to moisture, throw it out. Some mushrooms can be toxic to them.
How does dry dog food degrade?
All foods naturally deteriorate over time; they may deteriorate with contact to air. Oxygen degrades fats and vitamins. This alteration is more considerable in the presence of moisture and when it is hot. Pastes and kibbles can also serve as food for insects, bacteria or molds. Manufacturers must make sure that they are safe from the outset. After purchase, it is your responsibility to keep them away from these contaminations.
What are the risks to animals?
In addition to the risks of food poisoning, more limited to a dog than in a cat, this results in a change in the composition, a decrease in the overall vitamins and nutrients. The food becomes rancid, and therefore, your dog will refuse to eat the food. The smell of rancid food is an immediate consequence of fat oxidation. Given their sensory capacities, dogs and cats perceive any minimal modification of the fats.
How to store wet foods
Wet foods are sterilized and packaged in hermetically sealed packages. Before opening, the boxes and pockets are stored in a dry cupboard. Given the nature of the product, it is imperative to keep the box or pouch in the refrigerator after opening. Use them within two-days maximum.
How to store dry food like kibbles
Most dry foods are packaged in opaque, waterproof bags and often under controlled atmosphere (nitrogen). The presence of nitrogen prevents oxidation and allows for good preservation before opening. But once the bag is opened, oxygen enters the bag. The closed bag of kibbles can then be placed in a large sealed container, protected from light and moisture. The bags should be kept at a constant temperature (not outdoors or in the garage). Changes in temperature cause condensation, a source of mold.
How long can kibbles be kept?
When the packaging is closed, the expiry date must be considered. When the bag is opened, it should be kept no longer than one month. On average, it is therefore recommended to buy bags of kibbles that will last you for no more than one month. The size of the bag depends on the size of your pet. The greater the number of rations, the longer the bag will last. For boxes, it is better to buy packs for a meal or for a day.
Why should food be stored in its original packaging?
Food must be stored in its original packaging, even if it is transferred to an airtight container. This makes it possible to find the lot numbers and the references in case of dispute, or problems with the food. This also limits contaminants and ensures better preservation.
Do foods contain preservatives?
Manufacturers can use antioxidants. These are molecules that have the particularity of "trapping" oxygen and therefore limit the oxidation of fats and other sensitive components. They can also use preservatives of molecules that have make water unavailable to mold. But the use of these additives is regulated. Anything not explicitly authorized is prohibited and maximum permitted rates exist for some of these additives.
What conditions best preserve food?
Initially, the food must be healthy and the packaging uncontaminated. To do so, it must follow health and safety regulations in force. The packaging must be airtight to keep insects, air, and light out. The water content must be limited. The food can be stored under a controlled atmosphere of nitrogen. The food must finally be stored dry and protected from heat.
In general, dry food can be stored, unopened, for several months. However once opened you should make sure you store them in an airtight box, in a cool, dry place to maximise their life. The exact amount of time you can store opened dry dog-food depends on the type, the ingredients, and the preservatives it contains. The labels on the packaging will give you a good guide, but as a general rule if they look and smell OK, then they probably are.
Canned food can also be stored for months, but once opened, the food should be refrigerated and consumed within 3 days as these will attract flies and bacteria far more readily than dry food. They are also far more likely to give your dog stomach issues, so be far more cautious with this than you would be with dry food.
- 1 The different types of dog food
- 2 The preservation of dry dog foods
- 3 The preservation of wet dog foods
- 4 The usefulness of airtight containers
- 5 Useful information
- 6 How does dry dog food degrade?
- 7 What are the risks to animals?
- 8 How to store wet foods
- 9 How to store dry food like kibbles
- 10 How long can kibbles be kept?
- 11 Why should food be stored in its original packaging?
- 12 Do foods contain preservatives?
- 13 What conditions best preserve food?
- 14 Conclusion