Most pet parents put a lot of thought into which food they should offer their canine friends; wet or dry, commercial or home-made, cooked or raw. However, fewer pet parents realize that how you store the food is just as important. Poor storage can cause pet food to turn rancid, alter its flavor and even lose nutritional value.
Here’s our top tips on how to store dry dog food long term.
How Long Does Dry Dog Food Last?
To start with, always check the expiration date on the bag before you buy! All dry pet food will have a ‘best by’ or ‘use by’ date on the bag. Try to choose the bag with the longest expiration date; that way you are buying the freshest. The use-by dates are usually months to years from production.
Always check for signs of damage, since dry dog food will degrade faster if the bag is damaged. A damaged bag can allow air, light, moisture and even pests to contaminate the kibble.
If stored in the right conditions, unopened dry dog food will last until the ‘best before’ date. Once opened, it is advisable to use the food within 4-6 weeks; and always before the expiration date. After this time, you should dispose of any food that is left. It’s a good idea to work out how much your pet will eat in 4 weeks and buy an appropriately sized bag, to avoid wastage.
What is the best way to store dry dog food?
Storing unopened dry dog food
One of the biggest mistakes many pet parents make is to bulk buy and store dog kibble in the garage. Garages are uncontrolled environments and therefore aren’t suitable for storage of foodstuffs. Important environmental factors to consider when storing dry dog food include:
Temperature: Extremes of temperature can decrease the nutritional value of the food. Temperatures over 100oF (38oC) can encourage rancidity (oxidation of fats), bacterial growth and alter the flavor.
One survey of pet owners found that room temperature was often overlooked during storage. Almost a quarter of the kibble feeders in the survey reported that their pet’s kibble may be exposed to high temperatures. So, remember, it is important to store your pet’s dry food in a cool place, at a steady temperature.
Sunlight: Sunlight will increase the temperature of the kibble, speed up degradation and encourage bacterial growth. Always store dry dog food out of direct sunlight.
Moisture: Bacteria love warm, moist environments! Moisture also encourages mold growth. If your dog’s bag of kibble gets wet, it’s safest to throw it out. It’s unlikely that you will be able to dry the kibble fast enough to stop potentially harmful mold and bacteria from growing.
Always store dry dog food in a dry environment, away from potential sources of moisture.
Pests: The obvious one here is rats and mice! Storing dog kibble in garages and other outbuildings often attracts pests, so it’s better stored in the house. Off the ground is best, as rodents can also be drawn inside the house.
Remember to store your bag of kibble out of reach of your pup too, since dogs can be prone to gorging themselves!
Storing opened dry dog food
How you store your dog’s dry food once you open the bag is important for maintaining flavor and nutritional quality. It will also affect how long the bag lasts once open. You will want to follow all the instructions for the unopened food, plus a few more. Here are our top tips for storing dog kibble:
- Once opened, it is best to store the kibble in its original packaging. Good quality dog kibble comes in packaging designed to maintain nutritional quality as long as possible. Keeping the packaging also means you have access to important information such as batch number and ‘use by’ date. You may need to refer to this, for example in the case of a product recall.
- It is important to keep the kibble in an air-tight container. Exposure to air will cause the kibble to degrade faster and encourages growth of bacteria and mold.
- Air also allows the kibble to be contaminated with house dust mites and storage mites. These can both be triggers for dogs with allergies. One study showed that storage in sealable plastic containers largely prevented contamination (for 3 months).
- Good quality dry dog food often comes in re-sealable packaging. Another option is to close the packaging tightly and place the original package in an air-tight container.
- Don’t mix food bags! Do not be tempted to tip the end of one bag of kibble into a new bag to save on storage space! The old food could potentially contaminate the new food.
- It is not a good idea to store dry dog food in the freezer, since this can cause moisture loss, change the nutritional value and encourage mold growth during thawing.
- Do not use dry dog food past its expiration date, it’s not worth the risk!
Following these simple tips will help protect your pet from illnesses resulting from spoiled food.
Can Dry Dog Food Go Bad?
Yes it can! So, how can you tell if dry dog food is spoiled?
- Your pet suddenly turns their nose up at it, but is hungry and otherwise well
- The food smells bad
- There may be visible mold
- The bag is past its expiration date
- The kibble is damp
- The kibble has changed color
- There is damage to the packaging.
If you notice any of these, or have any concerns, it is best to err on the side of caution. It’s a good idea to throw the food away and start fresh.
Dry dog food, or kibble, can be a convenient, nutritionally complete food for your pup. Correct storage before and after opening the packet is often overlooked, but is crucial. Proper storage maintains nutritional value, keeps your pup safe and retains the great taste.