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Does Canned Dog Food Need to Be Refrigerated? Vet Approved FAQ

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

jack russell looking for food in the fridge

Does Canned Dog Food Need to Be Refrigerated? Vet Approved FAQ


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Sometimes, our dog doesn’t eat all their food, or we forget to put it away after we open the can. We’ve also seen great deals we can’t pass up and purchase in bulk.

How do you store both closed and opened cans of dog food, and when do you need to throw them away? Here, we answer those questions and more, so you know exactly what you need to do to keep your dog happy and fed and to waste less food.

divider-dog paw

Do You Need to Refrigerate Canned Dog Food?

After opening canned dog food, you need to keep it in the fridge.

However, for unopened cans, there’s no reason to put them in the fridge. The manufacturer completely seals the dog food cans, which keeps harmful bacteria out of the food.

This makes canned dog food easy to store safely, but you still need to have some sort of temperature control. Ideally, you want to store the food in a place that stays between 50 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You should never freeze canned dog food.

Open canned pet food
Image Credit: Sergiy Palamarchuk, Shutterstock

How Long Can You Leave Out Opened Canned Dog Food at Room Temperature?

Maybe your pup didn’t want to finish all their food at their last mealtime, or perhaps you forgot to put the leftover food away after you fed your pet. Either way, at what point do you need to throw it away?

The simple answer to this question is after 4 hours, but keep in mind that certain conditions can accelerate this time frame. If the pet food is outside on a hot day, then you might want to scrap the food after just 1 or 2 hours because of the possibility of faster bacterial growth.

How Long Can You Store Canned Dog Food After Opening It?

If you leave out an opened can of dog food after opening it, you need to throw it away after 4 hours. However, if you properly store the canned dog food in the fridge after opening it, it can last much longer.

To properly store the opened food, put a plastic or silicone pet food cover on the unused portion of the can and refrigerate it. This piece creates a seal to help keep bacteria and other moisture from finding their way into the can.

If you store the opened wet food with the proper lid inside the fridge, it should last between 5 and 7 days. However, it is best to consume it within the first 3 days.

shih tzu dog getting wet food from owner at kitchen
Image Credit: chaoss, Shutterstock

When Does Canned Dog Food Expire?

While some canned human foods can seem like they can last forever as long as you don’t open them, that’s not the case with canned dog food. An unopened can of dog food will typically last about 2 years after the manufacturer produced it.

The good news is that finding the exact date that the canned dog food expires is extremely easy. Simply look at the can of food for a date. That’s when the dog food expires. Don’t feed your dog the food if it’s after that date, as it can get your dog sick.

Is Canned Food Better for Dogs?

While some people like to argue that canned food is better for dogs, the truth is that as long as you go with a high-quality brand, both canned and dry dog food can meet all their nutritional needs. Some dogs will respond better to wet food than dry food, though.

Unless your dog has a specific dietary restriction, there’s no reason that they can’t have either wet or dry dog food. Go with whatever food your pet does best with and what you can afford.

  • Determine proper dog food portions and ideal daily intake with our helpful calorie calculator here.


Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to properly store wet dog food and how long it can last, you shouldn’t have to throw away any canned food any time soon.

Compared to other pet foods, it’s easy to store, and you don’t have to do anything special until after you open it up! Just remember to refrigerate unused or uneaten portions so you can reuse them later.

Featured Image Credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock

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