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How to Tell If Dry Dog Food Has Gone Bad? Signs & 9 Tips to Keep It Fresh

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

A small dog refuses to eat dog food

How to Tell If Dry Dog Food Has Gone Bad? Signs & 9 Tips to Keep It Fresh


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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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Something you may not think about that often is the expiration date of your dry dog food. And some pet owners may even think that dry dog food stays fresh for way longer than it actually does.

Unlike wet dog food, dry dog food is usually made with preservatives and other additives and then freeze-dried to extend its freshness date. But what is the date? And how do you tell if your dry dog food is bad? We’ve done some digging on this subject matter. So, let’s talk about it.

divider-dog paw

Ways to Tell If Dry Dog Food Is Bad

There are a few different ways that you can tell if your dry dog food has gone bad. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • The expiration date on the bag has passed
  • There is a rancid or unusual odor coming from the bag
  • Your dog refuses to eat the food or show signs of discomfort or sickness after consumption
  • The dog food has been exposed to excessive heat or temperatures
  • There are signs of deterioration such as mold, moisture, or pest infestation

It’s important to take the expiration date on all wet and dry dog food seriously. The date is usually printed next to the barcode on the front or back of the packaging. This is the date that the food manufacturer recommends discarding the dog food product, which means that the food won’t have a guarantee to be fresh if not consumed by that date.

Most dry kibble food will have a shelf life of 2 years, as is the case with most wet dog foods. You can expect frozen dog meals to have a shorter expiration date which can be anywhere from 6 to 8 months. If you feed your dog fresh, unprocessed foods, these will usually expire quickly and in a matter of weeks.


How to Keep Your Dog Food Fresh

There are steps that you can take to preserve the quality and extend the shelf-life of your dog food. But one of the best things that you can do if you find that your food seems to expire soon, is to simply stop buying so much at once.

It’s not uncommon for dog owners (especially new owners) to go out and buy several months’ supply of dog food just to avoid having to stock up every week. But this can be disadvantageous if you find yourself tossing out bags of dog food every few months.

dry pet food in a metal bowl
Image By: Rutina, Shutterstock

1. Use the Freezer

Some dry dog food products can be stored in the freezer, and this is usually the case for fresh products as well. But be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendation first before just tossing it in the freezer as it may ruin the product.

2. Use Metal and Glass Containers

Glass and metal containers are usually better for storing food (and even human food) than plastics. This is due to the fact that plastics can begin to give off undesirable flavors and smells, which can affect the taste of the dog food.

Plastics can also be ruined easily by dents, scratches, and punctures. Ultimately, this may cause the dog food to become contaminated and harbor harmful bacteria. So, if possible, go for metal or glass containers, as they work better with keeping air and moisture out of the dog food. This will help extend the life of food and prevent it from harboring a bad taste.

3. Don’t Use After 6 Weeks of Opening

Once you open your dog food, the expiration date is no longer valid, and the typical shelf life will be about 5 or 6 weeks thereafter. After 6 weeks, the dog food’s nutritional value will be significantly lower than when it was first opened. You can also track the expiration date by marking the date that you opened the bag and writing at the top of the opening.

4. Clean Your Containers

It’s easy to forget to clean out your dog food containers when you’re changing out the old products for new ones. But remember, that the remnants of the old food can remain in the container, contaminating the new fresh food.

So, whether you have a glass, metal, or plastic container, be sure to wash it out with warm soapy water (white vinegar also helps to get rid of odors) before filling it up with a new dry product. Also, be sure to rinse it well and remove any excess moisture with a cloth or towel.

The last thing you need is for mildew and mold to grow in the container with the food. And if you have BPA-based plastic containers, be sure not to scratch up the surface too much. Doing so can remove the lining. As a result, the lining may get into the dog food, which can be harmful for them to ingest.

washing dog food bowl
Image Credit: MargaPl, Shutterstock

5. Only Use Airtight Containers

Always store your dog’s food and airtight containers that can block out the light. This helps to prevent the food from oxidizing, which can cause it to go rancid faster–even sooner than the listed expiration date. It’ll also prevent the container from becoming infested with pests who love to nibble on dog food that’s easily accessible.

6. Always Inspect Dry Food Before Buying

It’s important to always do a once-over of the dog food before actually purchasing it. Most dog food bags are shipped in large boxes and then removed once they reach their final destination.

During this process, they can be moved around stores several times and may obtain puncture wounds and dents from handling. There may also be cases where the bags have been opened by curious pet owners who want to actually see the product beforehand.

dog food in plastic container
Image By: APN Photography, Shutterstock

7. Always Store Food in Dry Cool Places

You should have a set location for storing your dog food. If you store your food outdoors because there’s no room indoors, be sure to bring it in when temperatures rise over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot temperature storage can cause your food to become rancid sooner than it normally would.

Also, make sure that the area isn’t prone to high levels of humidity. Consistently high levels of humidity can easily cause the dog food to develop moisture and mold issues come up which will lead to food degradation.

So, if you plan to store your food in the basement, and there is more, be sure to install a good dehumidifier or take other steps to ensure that it stays dry.

8. Don’t Mix Different Dry Foods

Unless they have the same expiration date, it’s generally not a good idea to mix different dry foods. This is because some food will expire before others, which can cause you to accidentally serve up meals that aren’t necessarily safe for your dog to eat. The food can easily become riddled with bacteria and germs that can make dogs sick.

9. Don’t Get Dry Food From Open Bins

It’s common for pet food stores to have dry kibble stored in bins around the store. You simply scoop up the food and toss it in the bag.

This is very tempting because the kibble is usually priced very low compared to its bagged counterparts. However, buying “bin kibble” is generally not recommended because you can’t guarantee the expiration date and that the food was handled with care or effective quality control.


Summing Things Up

Dry dog food does expire, and it can be harmful if your dog consumes it. So, to be on the safe side, ensure that you check out the expiration dates of any dog food before purchasing it. Also, take a look at the bag to ensure that it is completely filled and free of any punctures or deep scratches.

And if you notice anything abnormal with the food such as rancid smells, discoloration, or that your dog seems unwell after consuming it, it’s best to just throw it out as it might be contaminated or simply expired.

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Featured Image Credit: Tikhonova Yana, Shutterstock

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