Does Dog Food Expire?

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Does dog food expire

Dog food is such a blessing for us fur parents. It’s easily accessible, very convenient to use, and our dogs seem to never tire of it. It’s so hassle-free that you might forget to ask — does dog food expire?

Below, we answer this question (for both wet & dry dog food), and we explain how to tell if your dog food is expired, what to do if your dog accidentally eats expired dog food, and how to properly store dog food.

Does dog food expire?

The short answer: yes, dog food expires.

For the long answer, we explain briefly how dog food is produced, how & why dog food expires, and what information to look out for on the bag of dog food.

How dog food is made

Dry dog food is manufactured by mixing ingredients into a dough, heating it up until it’s dried, and then breaking up that cooked dough into individual pellets. Preservatives are mixed in along the way to prolong its shelf life.

While “preservatives” sounds scary to many fur parents, it’s an essential component in the production of dog food. It’s what keeps dry dog food safe while it sits in our cupboards for weeks & weeks. Over time, these preservatives will lose their potency and start degrading; this is what determines the expiration date of food products.

The process is a bit different for wet or canned dog food, which is preserved not by synthetic preservatives but by the actual canning process. Canning is an effective way of keeping food safe & fresh for a prolonged period.

Best before date vs expiration date

Here we explain some of the terms food manufacturers use. There are a bunch of these terms & dates printed on food products, and it can get confusing sometimes. These are the two terms you should look out for & here’s what they mean:

Best before date

Best Before date. The food product loses some of its quality, taste or freshness after the listed Best Before date. It’s still safe to eat, and you can continue feeding it to your dog. This is term is used interchangeably with Use By date or Shelf Life.

Expiration date. The food product is no longer safe to consume after the listed expiration date. The ingredients have started to spoil, and it’s time to toss the food product out.

Both these dates will be printed on the bag or can of dog food, usually next to the nutrition information or on the bottom of the can.

How long before dog food expires?

Unopened, dry dog food lasts about 12-18 months from the date it was manufactured. Canned dog food lasts about 2 years from date of manufacture.

Once opened, dry dog food must be stored properly, and consumed within 4-6 weeks. Wet dog food expires more quickly once opened; it should be refrigerated after opening, and consumed within 5-7 days.

These above figures are merely a rough guide. The date of expiration printed on the dog food packaging is always the more precise guide.

How to tell if dog food is expired

Sometimes dog food will expire before the date of expiration printed on the packaging. If the food is not stored properly — exposed to heat or moisture, for example — it can spoil sooner than expected. Here we list some of the signs of spoilage to look out for, and further below we share how to properly store dog food.

Sour or rancid smell. Just like with human food, the smell of dog food is your biggest clue that it’s gone bad. A sour or rancid smell is what you’re looking out for. Give the food a little whiff every time you open the container; you’ll quickly learn the smell of fresh dog food, and will be able to tell when something is off.

Dog food with mold

Visible mold or growth. The other major sign to look out for is any mold or other growth. Green, web-like mold or wetness are clear signs that it’s time to toss the food out.

If your dog has started turning his nose up at his food, you’d best have a look (and smell) for signs of spoilage.

What to do if your dog eats expired food

If your dog accidentally eats expired food a few times, chances are nothing will happen. You might not even realize it until you happen to see the expiration date on the bag. Stop giving him the expired food and observe for 24-48 hours for any symptoms.

If your dog starts exhibiting any of the below symptoms, it’s time to go see your vet.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (wet, voluminous or frequent stools)
  • Unusual-smelling or more frequent farts

The above gastrointestinal symptoms are by far the most common symptoms a dog will exhibit if he’s having a reaction to expired or contaminated food. Advanced (and much less common) symptoms may include: reduced appetite, lethargy or tremors.

How to properly store dog food

Proper storage is essential to keep your dog’s food fresh and healthy. Any exposure to heat, air, moisture or light makes dog food spoil more quickly. This study points out that while most fur parents have good food storage practices, temperature is an often overlooked aspect in storage.

We advise keeping dry dog food in the bag it came in, and placing that entire bag in an airtight container. Store the airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark spot in your house. The FDA recommends no higher than 80° F (26.6° C).

Wet dog food should be tightly covered and stored in the refrigerator, at no higher than 40° F (4.4° C).

Great! Now that you know more about dog food expiry and storage, why not check out some of our other food guides below?

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