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How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out Until It Goes Bad? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

Border collie holding food bowl

How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out Until It Goes Bad? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ


Dr. Maja Platisa Photo


Dr. Maja Platisa

DVM MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

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All pet food can only sit out for a limited amount of time before it starts to spoil. The time frame will vary depending on the type of food, as well as the ambient conditions. All dog food can sit out for a while before it goes bad, but there are some guidelines that you should follow to make sure that your pup stays healthy. In general, it is safe to leave wet dog food in a bowl for up to 2 hours, but it depends on several factors.

You should avoid feeding your dog wet food that has been sitting out exposed to the air for longer than the recommended time, and if the food ever smells bad, changes color, or seems off in any way, then it should not be served to your pup.

divider-pawWhat Is Wet Dog Food?

Wet dog food is a canned or pouched food that contains more moisture than dry kibble. It is marketed as a complete and balanced diet for dogs, as it includes both protein and carbohydrates, along with fat and added vitamins and minerals. Wet dog food is also a good source of water, which is important for keeping dogs hydrated. Wet dog food is often made with meat as the main ingredient and can also include other ingredients such as grains, fruits, and vegetables. Wet dog food is a good source of vitamins and other nutrients that are essential for dogs.

wet and dry dog food
Image By: Sharaf Maksumov, Shutterstock

Can I Leave Wet Dog Food Out Overnight?

Generally speaking, wet dog food should never be left out overnight, as it can spoil and cause digestive issues in dogs. The high moisture content of wet dog food can create an environment hospitable to bacteria growth, leading to the food becoming rancid and potentially dangerous to consume, and it may attract insects and other vermin.

Wet vs. Dry

The two types of commercial dog food are wet and dry. Wet dog food has a high moisture content. This type of food is often given to puppies, sick or older dogs that may have trouble chewing dry food or need extra hydration, or very picky dogs in order to provide more flavor. Dry dog food is also made up of protein and carbohydrates and has a low moisture content. This type of food is often given to adult dogs.

Wet food is made up of mostly meat, organs, and other animal byproducts that have been ground down and processed. Dry food has similar nutrients that are dried and formed in the shape of various kibble, with up to 10% moisture. Some people believe that wet food is better for dogs because it contains more moisture and is closer to a dog’s natural diet. Others believe that dry food is better because it is less messy and can help keep a dog’s teeth clean.

The truth is that both types of food should contain all that your pooch needs if they have been formulated responsibly and in accordance with AAFCO recommendations, and each on its own is a complete and balanced source of all the nutrients your pooch needs.

Speak to your vet before deciding which food to give your dog, as there are pros and cons of each food preparation, depending on their age, stage of growth and development, medical history, and any accompanying illness.

wet and dry food
Image By: Yuriy Golub, Shutterstock

Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out Like Kibble?

Wet dog food should be treated very differently from dry kibble. The primary difference between the two is that dry kibble can be left out most of the day without any problem, while wet dog food cannot. When it comes to sitting out, wet and dry dog food are totally different.

Generally, it is safe to leave wet dog food in a bowl for up to 2 hours and dry dog food out for up to 8 hours. If the weather is hot and humid, then wet food should be stored after as little as 1 hour, as bacterial numbers can double quickly under the right temperature and humidity conditions and cause the food to quickly become spoiled.

How Long Can Wet Dog Food Stay in the Fridge?

The shelf life of wet food can vary depending on the type of food, packaging, and storage conditions. Generally, wet food can last in the fridge for up to 5 days, depending on a particular food manufacturer’s recommendations. If the food is in a sealed container with a lid, it will last longer and produce less odor than if it is left open in the original packaging, as it can still get contaminated with the bacteria, mold, and dust from the fridge environment. It can contaminate your food as well and cause it to become moldy. It is important to keep the food at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacteria growth.

Russian Spaniel in front of the fridge
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Why Does Wet Dog Food Spoil Faster Than Dry?

Wet dog food spoils faster than dry dog food because it has a much higher moisture content. The high moisture content means that there is more opportunity for bacteria, mold, or mildew to grow, which can cause spoilage and thus potential illness in dogs. Dry dog food, on the other hand, has a lower moisture content and is thus less likely to spoil.

Additionally, some wet dog food is higher in fat and protein, which can also lead to spoilage. Still, keep in mind that bacteria, viruses, house dust mites, and bugs are everywhere, being transmitted by the inside and outside air circulation, and they can also contaminate the dry food that is sitting in your dog’s bowl. Therefore, it may be better to store it if your pooch has left any. Bowls should be cleaned at least once daily.

What Should I Do With Uneaten Wet Dog Food?

The general consensus is that if wet dog food has been left out for more than 2 to 4 hours, it is best to discard it. The food is very likely contaminated with bacteria, which can cause illnesses in pets. If the food is not contaminated, it may still spoil and become dangerous for your dog to eat. And initially, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

young man taking out garbage in black plastic bag
Image Credit: Alina Kruk, Shutterstock

How Can I Keep Wet Dog Food Fresh and Safe for Longer?

There are a few things that you can do to help keep wet dog food fresh for as long as possible. First, make sure that you store the food in an airtight container in the fridge. Buy smaller cans so they do not sit open for days. The right size of can ideally be consumed by your pooch in a matter of 1 to 3 days. Additionally, be sure to wash your hands and your pet’s bowl thoroughly after feeding to avoid contamination.

Some people choose to freeze the food in individual portions so that they can defrost only as much as their dog will eat at one time. Bear in mind that freezing will alter the consistency, texture, and taste of the food. It tends to make food sloppier, and many food manufacturers recommend against doing this.

The can should be covered with a plastic pet food lid if you want to keep it airtight. The contents of the can could also be placed in a plastic container with an airtight lid. Last but not least, you can store the can in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator. Zip-lock bags aren’t the best odor and oxygen barriers, so plastic containers or lids are preferred.

Canned Dog Food Storage

Providing the cans are still sealed, it is quite easy for you to store them in a dark, dry place below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too high or the room is too humid and ventilation is poor, such as in some cupboards or storage closets, the contents can begin to turn rancid. Alternatively, if you keep them stored at a temperature that is too low, the food could freeze and this will change the taste and texture of the food.

close up of person's hands opening a can of wet pet food
Image Credit: Konstantin Shadrin, Shutterstock

How Long Can Dry Dog Food Sit Out?

There is no definitive answer to how long dry dog food can sit out as it depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of food, the ambient humidity and temperature, and how much air the food is exposed to. If the food is exposed to high temperatures or humidity, it will spoil more quickly.

Dry dog food can sit out for up to 8 hours before it may become unsafe to eat. The food may become contaminated with air pollutants, such as bacteria, spores, viruses, dust, pollen, or others, or may become moldy, which can cause gastrointestinal problems in dogs.

It is important to keep dry food in an airtight container so that it does not absorb moisture from the environment, which can also make it unsafe to eat. If you have added moisture to the kibble itself, then you must treat it like wet dog food and throw it in the trash after 2 hours.


In conclusion, wet dog food can sit out for up to 2 hours before it may go bad, or no longer than 1 hour in warm and humid weather. If you have any leftovers, put them in the fridge as soon as possible. Wet dog food can last up to 5 days in a fridge. If your dog is not going to eat the food within a 2-hour timeframe, it is best to refrigerate or simply discard it. Serving your best friend only fresh, safe food will help keep them healthy and happy. Thanks for reading!

Featured Image Credit: Emolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

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