Can Dry Dog Food Go Bad?
Despite being designed to be stored for long periods, dry dog food can go bad and reach a point where it is either no longer palatable or, in some cases, no longer safe for consumption.
While other forms of dog food, such as open canned dog food, will very obviously go bad very quickly, it can be difficult to tell when a bag of dry dog food is no longer safe to eat.
This trait is compounded by the fact that dog owners aren’t the ones eating the food and so can’t “tell” that it is no longer appetizing like they could with their own food.
Despite this, there are several steps dog owners can take to minimize the risk of feeding their dog food that has gone bad and ensure they remain healthy and safe.
How Long Does Dry Dog Food Typically Last?
The shelf life of dog food varies significantly depending on the brand of dog food, but generally, most dry dog food will last in excess of one year if unopened.
We’d recommend checking the best by or best before date on your dog food bag; this will give a general indication of how long before the food goes stale.
In contrast, the expiration date is the other extreme, and while it’s not guaranteed, food past its expiration date may not be safe to eat.
If you can’t find the best before or expiration date of your dog food, you may need to look carefully on the side or bottom of the bag, as it is often difficult to see.
The below handy diagram from Hill’s Science Diet gives an indication about where this labeling may be.
However, several external factors can also influence how long a dry dog food will last, including where and how the dry food is stored.
We will touch on these in more detail later, but for now, you should understand that factors like temperature, moisture, location, and container type can all influence how long a dry dog food lasts.
Signs That Dog Food Has Gone Bad
There are several signs that dry dog food may have gone bad and some of these are more obvious than others.
First of all, if you spot any form of mold or insects present within the dog food bag, this is an immediate sign that the food is no longer safe for consumption.
You may also notice moisture within the bag which is a bad sign. The presence of moisture will vastly increase the chance for mold and other harmful microorganisms to grow on the food.
Another factor to consider is the smell of the dog food. If the food has a bad smell, such as a rancid smell, it very well could be bad.
You may also want to take advantage of your dog’s nose as it is far stronger than yours. If your dog reacts negatively after smelling the food, it is an excellent sign that it may no longer be safe to eat.
A final trait that could be a telling sign that the food has gone bad is whether it has an unusual or abnormal texture and feel.
It could be greasy, moist, or brittle, but if you regularly touch your dog’s food and it feels different, it may be wise to air on the side of caution.
Dog Symptoms That Dog Food Has Gone Bad
There are many symptoms that a dog may experience after eating food that has gone bad, but thankfully most of these symptoms are very obvious and hard to miss.
Vomiting and Diarrhea are the two most common symptoms and are likely to occur soon after eating or within the following 24 hours.
However, for some dogs, vomiting, and Diarrhea may occur somewhat regularly regardless of their food which can sometimes allow for these symptoms to slip through the cracks.
There are other digestive-related symptoms that some dogs can experience from stale or bad food, including flatulence and discomfort.
In extreme cases, where the food is contaminated with bacteria or mold, the symptoms can be more severe. This could include paralysis, hemorrhagic enteritis, and other severe digestive system illnesses.
If your dog experiences any of these symptoms, it’s critical to consult with a professional vet immediately. Based on this consultation, take their advice in relation to diet and food and whether you should dispose of your dogs current food or switch to an alternative.
Tips To Avoid Dry Dog Food Going Bad
The first and most effective tip to avoiding dry dog food going bad is to avoid purchasing too much dog food at once.
If you have a small breed dog, purchasing a large 25lb bag of dry dog food is unnecessary, and while it may seem cost-effective, it’s much more likely to lead to wastage.
As you spend more time with your dog, you will quickly learn how much food they eat on a daily basis, and you should aim to have no more than 3 months supply within a single bag.
Its generally recommended to keep dry dog food in the bag it was sold in rather than transferring it to a new container.
While this may seem counterintuitive, many of these containers are not air-tight and also increase the risk of exposing the food to contaminants.
If you do want to use a container, it can actually be advantageous if you keep the food within the bag and then place this bag within the container.
Many dog owners forget to fully clean their dog food containers between refills which can increase the risk exponentially without them realizing.
Another important factor when it comes to lengthening the life of dry dog food is ensuring it is exposed to a minimal amount of air.
If constantly reexposed to a fresh supply of air, the food is likely to go stale, or its texture may change, making it less palatable.
Some dog food brands, such as The Honest Kitchen, have aimed to combat this by selling their food in resealable bags, which is a positive enhancement.
However, you should also aim to push as much air out of the bag before you re-seal it to minimize how much the food can go stale.
Another important tip is to avoid mixing different bags or batches of dog food in the same bag or container. Ensure that each individual bag is fully consumed before opening or starting the next one.
This tip ensures that no cross-contamination occurs and that the next bag of food that is lined up is as fresh as it can be when it is opened.
The last tip that we have regarding the storage of dry dog food is that you should always ensure that dog food is kept in a dry and cool location, away from any sources of heat or moisture.
Many dog owners ignore this guidance and store their food close to radiators or in storage rooms where there is above-average humidity.