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How Long Will Dog Food Last? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Kathryn Copeland

Last Updated on June 6, 2024 by Dogster Team

woman feeding dog with dry food

How Long Will Dog Food Last? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ


Dr. Tabitha Henson  Photo


Dr. Tabitha Henson

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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This is an important question, particularly if you have multiple dogs or a giant breed or buy in bulk. Of course, how you answer this question also depends on the kind of food that you purchase. First, look at the labels, as there should be a “best before” or “best by” date.

As a rule, opened dry food should be used up within 6 weeks, and unopened bags have a shelf life of about 12 to 18 months. Canned food can be stored for years under the right conditions, but an opened can should be stored in the refrigerator for no longer than 1 week.

Read on to learn more, as we also go over the best ways to store dog food and how to know when it’s time to throw it out.

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Start With the Expiration Date

When you’re shopping for dog food, other than ensuring that you’re picking up the right kind of food for your pup, you should check the expiration date before purchasing. The dates are typically found on the bottom of the bags or cans, so look for a date within the time frame that you plan to use it for your dog.

Bear in mind that the date is meant for the shelf life of unopened cans and bags. The moment that you crack them open, the food will start to degrade due to air and moisture leaking in.

Also, check the packaging. If you’re buying in a store, make sure the bags are sealed, and there are no tears. Cans shouldn’t be dented or bulging. This is obviously more complicated if you do your shopping online.

At home, when you open the food, if it smells off and/or your dog doesn’t want to eat it, remove it immediately and return it. Most stores will give you an exchange or money back.

As a reminder, since dog food will expire quickly once you’ve opened it, you might want to consider switching to smaller bags or cans if you know that you won’t get through it in time. It’s all well and good to save money, but you don’t want to feed your dog rancid food either.

woman buying dog food
Image by: Caftor, Shutterstock

How You Can Tell If Dog Food Has Gone Rancid

It should be quite obvious. Dry dog food becomes crumbly and moist, and canned food starts to dry out.

Other signs that the food is bad are:

  • It smells rancid and sour or there’s a plastic, chemical smell.
  • The can or bag is past its expiration date.
  • There are mold and bugs.
  • It’s been sitting in the heat and/or humidity.

If your dog normally scarfs down their food but suddenly rejects it, it might be because the food has gone bad (though you should also make sure their loss of appetite isn’t a health issue, particularly if there are other unusual signs as well).

If you notice anything wrong with the food, dispose of it. It’s time to open a new bag or can.

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The Best Ways to Store Kibble

It’s vital that you don’t keep dog food beyond the expiration date, even if it hasn’t been opened. Over time, the food will start to lose its nutritional value. Without the appropriate amount of nutrients in their diet, dogs could develop health issues.

Ensuring that the food is stored correctly, opened or not, can help prolong its shelf life.

Exposing dog food to air, light, heat, and humidity ultimately speeds up the degradation of the food. Kibble needs to be kept in its original packaging, as it has been specifically designed to keep out the elements (just make sure there aren’t any gaps or tears). Once you’ve opened the bag, keep the top rolled tight and clip it shut or reseal it.

Consider placing the food bag into an airtight bin, so it gets the best of both worlds: protection while still in the packaging. The container should also help protect against pests and the elements. The container should be kept off the floor in a cool, dark, and dry location.

female hand scooping up a portion of dog food kibble
Image by: Omi Works, Shutterstock

The Best Ways to Store Canned Food

Like kibble, unopened canned dog food should be stored in a dark, cool, dry place. While unopened canned food can be stored in these conditions for months, it still needs to be used before its expiration date.

Once opened, it can be stored in the fridge for no more than 7 days, and you’ll need to seal it. Consider using reusable lids, as they can help keep the food from drying out, or just use plastic wrap to tightly seal it.

If you’ve opened canned food but forgot to put it in the fridge, it should be thrown out if it’s been sitting at room temperature for more than 4 hours.

If your dog can’t eat the entire can within 7 days, you can freeze it in single portions and thaw individual portions out before dinner time.

A Few More Tips

If you purchase fresh dog food, follow the company’s instructions on how to properly store the food. You usually need to store it in the fridge or freezer.

Additionally, if you have a small amount of dog food in a bag, don’t mix it with a newly opened bag. While this would save room, you’re potentially mixing perfectly good kibble with food that is going bad, which can contaminate the entire bag.

Don’t forget that you might need to pay the extra money and simply buy small bags. It will cost you more in the long run if you purchase a large bag of food and end up throwing most of it away because your dog couldn’t finish it before the expiration date.



To sum everything up, honor the expiration date. Unopened kibble can only be stored for up to 18 months. Kibble must be kept in its original bag. It’s best if you place the bag in an airtight container. Keep kibble either opened or unopened in a cool, dark, and dry place, tightly sealed. Keep unopened canned foods in the same environment, and opened canned food can be refrigerated for up to 7 days. Finally, freeze small portions if your pup can’t eat the food fast enough.

Now you know the best ways to look after your dog’s food. You don’t want to spend all that money on high-quality dog food only to not store it properly. Your dog’s health is the most critical part in all of this!

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Featured Image Credit: RossHelen, Shutterstock

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