Dogster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Tell If Wet Dog Food Has Gone Bad? 7 Vet Approved Signs & FAQ

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on April 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

shih tzu dog getting wet food from owner at kitchen

How to Tell If Wet Dog Food Has Gone Bad? 7 Vet Approved Signs & FAQ


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

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

Learn more »

Commercial dog food comes in many forms, including wet food. The phrase “wet food” refers to food that is usually in one of two forms: canned or fresh. They often have real pieces of meat in them and a strong fragrance that is enticing to your dog. In addition, they are quite high in moisture, making them a good choice for dogs that require extra hydration. Unfortunately, wet food often spoils much faster than dry food. If you have had a can or bag of wet dog food for a while and aren’t sure if it’s still good, keep reading as we list several ways that you can tell if it’s gone bad, so you can keep your dog happy and healthy.

The 7 Ways To Tell If Wet Dog Food Has Gone Bad

1. Check the Sell-by Date

The easiest way to tell if a container of wet dog food is still good is to check the sell-by date. Most brands stamp the date onto the top or bottom of the can, where it’s easy to see. If it’s past the date on the can, the food is likely no longer good. However, the manufacturer determines these dates based on ideal conditions, and in some cases, the food goes bad before it reaches the date on the can.

What Can I Do About It?

The best way to avoid having dog food that’s past its expiration date is to regularly rotate your stock so you always use the oldest cans first. It can also be helpful to look at the cans when you purchase them to ensure that you’re getting ones with expiration dates well into the future.

man checking dog food label
Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock

2. Look for Damage to the Packaging

Manufacturers design dog food cans to keep the food fresh for the longest possible time. However, the can and inside liner can break down, especially if it’s handled roughly or sits on the shelf too long. Once the packaging starts to degrade, the food inside can spoil quickly.

What Can I Do About It?

The best way to avoid feeding your pet food from a damaged can is to look it over carefully before opening it. Check the can for dents, scrapes, and signs of rust that could point to improper storage, and avoid any cans that show signs of wear.

3. Look for Signs of Swelling

If bacteria start to grow in the wet food, it can cause the packaging to swell up and take on a bloated appearance, even in a metal can. Food with bacteria growing inside can cause gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting, so you should never feed it to your pet.

What Can I Do About It?

Look over the can or bag for signs that it is starting to expand, and discard it if you see any.

Swollen can
Image Credit: Koiee, Shutterstock

4. Look for Signs of Discoloration

If you see signs of discoloration or mold on the pet food, there is a good chance that it is spoiled. Mold can occur when there’s too much humidity in the air or inside the package and usually appears as white or grey dust or has a fluffy growth.

What Can I Do About It?

The best thing to do is to carefully look over the food at feeding time, and discard it if you see signs of mold growth. If you notice mold in a product within a clear bag or container, do not open the packaging as you may release the fungal spores into the air when you do so.

5. Smell It

Another good way to tell if dog food is still fresh is to smell it. While we typically don’t like the smell of our pet’s food, we can usually tell if it doesn’t smell right. Food with a bad odor is likely spoiled, so you shouldn’t give it to your pet.

What Can I Do About It?

Smell the food to see if it has a rancid scent. Spoiled dog food can also take on a chemical or paint smell. If either odor is present, discard the food and open another can.

Image Credit: Flickr

6. Check the Texture

When you open the can, you can check the texture with a knife or fork. If it appears slimy or sticky, there’s a good chance that the food is spoiled. The off texture is a sign of bacteria growth, and it can appear before the food gets a bad smell.

What Can I Do About It?

If you open a can of dog food and notice that it’s more slimy or stickier than usual, toss it out and open a new one.

7. Look for Bugs

Small bugs in dog food are more common in dry food than wet food, but they can also pop up there, especially when the wet food comes in plastic packaging. Poor storage practices can enable the bugs to enter the packaging, where they can begin to multiply.

What Can I Do About It?

If you find small bugs in the dog food, you must discard it immediately. Avoid purchasing packages of dog food that appear dusty or mishandled.

dogster paw divider

How to Store Wet Dog Food

  • Keep your wet dog food in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and heat.
  • Store it off the ground so the cans are less likely to rust.
  • Once you open it, transfer it to a pouch or airtight container, and store it in the fridge.
Canned pet food in a orange plastic bowl
Image Credit: Sharaf Maksumov, Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does Wet Dog Food Last Once You Open It?

Dog food can last up to 3 days after being opened if you store it in the fridge. If it is sitting out on the floor, you should pick it up and discard it after about 4 hours.

Can You Freeze Wet Dog Food?

Yes. You can transfer the dog food to a pouch or container and freeze it for up to 6 months to help keep it fresh longer.

Can I Mix Wet and Dry Dog Food?

Yes. Many people like to mix wet and dry dog food to make the dry food easier to chew. Remember to monitor your dog’s weight and adjust the food portions accordingly.

dogster paw divider

Final Thoughts

Your wet dog food is bad if it has a rancid odor, slimy or sticky texture, or signs of mold. In some cases, bugs can get into the food, and you must discard it. Check the packaging for dents and other problems before you purchase it, and always store the food in a cool, dry place off the ground. Use it before its expiration date, and transfer unused portions into a container that you can store in the fridge to keep it fresh for up to 3 days.

Featured Image Credit: chaoss, Shutterstock

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Dogster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.