Everyone knows how important choosing a good quality dog food is for their pup’s health. Pet owners often research quality, nutritional value and palatability before choosing their pup’s diet. But did you know that how you prepare and store wet dog food is just as important? So…how long can you safely leave wet dog food out and it still be OK for your pup to eat? Here’s our top tips on safely preparing and storing canned dog food.

What’s the best way to store wet dog food?


If stored correctly, an unopened can should last until the expiration, or ‘best by’, date. It’s a good idea to check the cans for signs of damage before buying; since damage to the can may affect the quality of the food.

Before opening, canned dog food needs to be stored in a cool, dry place. You shouldn’t store cans of dog food under the sink, since they may get wet; or above the stove, since they will be exposed to high temperatures.

Kitchen cupboards or pantries are ideal, since the environment is better regulated than in, for example, a garage. They are also safer from rodents here. You’d be surprised what a rodent can gnaw through when they know there is food waiting!

Discard the dog food can if any one of the following conditions are met:

  • The can is damaged or badly dented
  • The can is bulging
  • The can is leaking
  • The contents give off a foul odor
  • Contents spray out on opening
  • The can is past its ‘best before’ date

Should you notice any of the above, do not offer any of the contents to your pet and contact the manufacturer.

How long can you leave wet dog food out for?


If your dog doesn’t devour their food straight away, you’re probably wondering how long the uneaten wet food can sit out. Canned dog food is high in moisture, has a decent fat content and usually contains meat. These factors make it susceptible to spoiling quickly at room temperature.

In human food health and safety, there is much talk of the ‘danger zone’. The danger zone is between 41°F (8°C) and 145°F (63°C). This is the range of temperatures at which bacteria will multiply fastest on food. Note that room temperature is in the danger zone!

You have to be careful how long you leave wet dog food out. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise that human pre-prepared food should be discarded after 2 hours at room temperature, due to the potential for bacterial contamination after this time. It seems sensible to treat your pooch’s food as you would a human companion’s.

If your pup doesn’t eat all their food at once, it’s ok to leave it down for a bit so that they can go back to it. However, after 2 hours you should discard any remaining food and wash out the bowl, ready for their next meal. It’s a good idea to only offer the amount that you feel your pup will eat, to avoid wastage.

Wet food that has been offered to your pet is not suitable for refrigerating. Your pet will have licked at the food and it may have been out of the can for a short while; both of which can introduce bacteria already.

Advice for storing wet dog food in the fridge


If you offer part of a can of wet dog food to your pup, then the safest way to store the rest for later is in the fridge. What’s the safest way to store wet dog food in the fridge? Here are our top tips!

  • Custom made plastic ‘can covers’ are available to purchase online or at pet stores, to replace the lids on canned food. However, this is not advised in human food storage. Once a can is opened and the contents exposed to the air, the tin from the can could transfer to the contents more quickly.
    This means it’s not a good idea to use this method unless the can will be in the fridge for a very short time.
  • The safest way to store wet dog food in the fridge is to transfer the contents into a sealed plastic or ceramic container. These protect against moisture loss; exposure to the air; as well as contamination from strong odors. Do this as quickly as possible after opening the can.
  • In the fridge, wet dog food will last 48 hours, unless the label states otherwise. After this time the food should be discarded.
  • If the wet food has any signs of spoilage, then you should discard it and open a fresh can. Signs include a bad odor, air bubbles or a change in color.
  • Most dogs prefer their food at room temperature or warmed. So rather than serving straight from the fridge, you could always heat their food a little. Of course always check the temperature before offering it to your pet, so as to avoid burns.

Advice for freezing wet dog food


You may want to store wet dog food for a little longer than is possible in the fridge, or you may want to prepare a tasty frozen treat for your pup on a hot day! Wet dog food can be frozen, if done correctly.

Always freeze wet dog food as soon as possible after opening the can. Bacteria can multiply at room temperature. Although freezing will stop bacterial growth, it won’t kill most types of bacteria already present.

It’s a good idea to freeze wet dog food in portions appropriate for your dog, in freezer-safe sealable containers. You can also freeze portions in silicone ice cube trays (since, unlike plastic ones, they can expand) to make a tasty treat in summer. If you aren’t planning to serve the food frozen, then always defrost the wet food in the fridge overnight.

Wet dog food will remain safe frozen at 0°F (-18°C) for a long time. However, the quality of the food will decrease with time. Freezing can decrease the moisture content, alter the texture and degrade the flavor of wet dog food. Importantly, according to the FDA, freezing food does not reduce its nutrients.


Wet, or canned, dog food is a popular choice with both pet parents and their pets. However, many pet parents are unaware of safe storage methods. Unsafe preparation and storage of wet dog food can be harmful to your pet’s health. Treat their food as you would your own and follow the simple tips outlined above. If you have any suspicions that your dog’s food has gone bad, trust your gut and don’t risk it!

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