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Does Dog Food Expire?

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Tim Rhodes

When you think of dog food, you probably think it lasts on and on since you don’t have to cook it, well, that’s the question we hope to answer with this article, does dog food expire?

Unlike human food, dog food doesn’t come in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and flavors, but there are quite a few to pick from, for example, dry foods, canned, semi-moist, home-cooked, and raw foods.

Most pet owners would prefer kibbles for their dogs because they’re economical, last for longer days, and do not require refrigeration after every use.

Some prefer canned dog foods for their protein levels, even though they may be expensive, however, irrespective of the choice you make for your dog, the big question remains, does dog food expire?

Dog food has an expiration date and would vary by brand ingredients, even if it were a kibble or packed in cans, and because you purchase huge dog food packets with long expiration dates, you naturally assume, that everything is okay with your furry friend.

It’s important to note that, when we expose food to either water, air, or tremendous heat levels, we create high chances for detrimental organisms, which might not only lead to malnutrition but it can also make your dog fall sick, much like with human food.

Table of Contents

Does Dog Food Expire?

In this article, we highlight some key features of whether dog foods expire, and we’ll also try answering the questions; what causes food to spoil, how do you know your dog’s food has expired, what are the health risks to your dog, and how do you prevent your puppy’s food from spoiling? 

What You Should Know About Best By & Expiration Dates 

How often have you purchased an item, and never taken your time to go through the “best by”, or expiration date?

Understanding the differences that exist, between a “best by” or “best before” date, and the expiration date is vital if, you have to deal with your pet’s nutrition.

More often, we confuse the two terminologies, and some take them to mean the same thing.

While an expiration date would imply when the food item in question, is no longer ideal for your dog’s consumption, a best by date, on the contrary, would suggest that your pet’s food no longer has all the optimal nutrient capacity, though still consumable.

With “best by” dates, you can still bear the confidence of feeding nourishing, and safe food to your pets.

Regarding the various preservatives used in the food, a pet company can estimate how long food can last, with the best by date label.

Compared to the kibbles, I know canned dog food stays for longer periods, when they remain sealed, though there are many natural and synthetic preservatives we could use today in dog foods.

Many pet food companies rely on this knowledge, to help determine how long their food is ideal for consumption, since, not all preservatives will have identical depletion rates.

It’s however important to note, that once we arrive at the best date, degeneration of the preservatives will automatically begin, and will be counterproductive in keeping out dangerous bacteria, from your dog’s food.

After the best by date, you should worry about micronutrients, for example, minerals and vitamins, that will lessen with time, making the entire package lose all its intended nutritional value.

What Causes Dog Food to Expire?

Food spoilage occurs when we give little attention to storage conditions, and we can associate these to the following factors:

  • Too much exposure to moisture content, leads to the development of mold
  • Higher temperatures than normal, leading to rancidity
  • Exposing your dog food to air, and thus making the food susceptible to detrimental bacteria

So, what are the ideal storage conditions for your dog food?

If you ask me, I would say you go for cool, dry places when storing dog foods.

These climates controlled settings help prevent temperature variations, thus keeping your dog’s food renewed.

How Can You Tell, That Your Dog’s Food Has Expired?

For a fact, we have to admit that dogs possess amazing senses of smell, to detect scents we humans can’t locate.

If your dog refuses to eat their morning meals, smells the food bowl and turns their head to the other direction, or perhaps takes small amounts then walks away, then you should sense something amiss with the food.

Even though some dogs will eat everything and anything they come across, it’s imperative you understand the features of expired food, that’s not fit for your dog’s consumption.

Always look out for the following:

  • Before you serve him food, try to find any signs of molds, moisture, or bugs
  • Any of these is a clear indication of improper exposure of the food to toxic bacteria, making it expire or spoil with time
  • You can also check the packaging, to determine the expiration of your dog’s food

As long as you keep the cans secure, the canned dog food can take up to four years, from the time of manufacture.

Dry kibble, on the other hand, prides for many months after opening.

Even though both their shelf lives can go past the date of expiry, I would advise that you serve the food before the actual expiry date, to get all the intended nutritional value.

As a pet owner, you could also reach out to the manufacturer, to note when they actually made the dog food, and you can always find support numbers, printed on the packages of these dog foods.

Make it a habit to go for dog foods that are at most six months old, to give your dog ideal nutrient levels, on canned or dry foods.

Alternatively, you could smell the food, and this shouldn’t be a problem in determining the state of food, especially with wet food.

For dry dog food, the scent may be synonymous with paints or chemicals, which isn’t welcoming in most cases.

Be mindful of your dog’s reaction to the food you offer; his excellent sense of taste, and smell, might perceive rot before you can.

What Happens To Food Past Its Expiration Date?

Dog food goes through several channels from manufacturing, and as the years progress, it may get worse with every stage.

You stand a risk of infection with these tremendous changes, and might adversely affect your dog’s overall energy levels and health.

So what happens to the food once it’s past its shelf life?

After the expiration of every dog food, various essential components of the dog food diminish, and it will no longer serve its intended purpose as required; which is wholesome nutrition.

Depletion of Nutritional Value

Irrespective of the formula that manufacturers use in developing these dog foods, their nutritional values will start deteriorating once they pass their shelf life.

Its nutrient composition (e.g vitamins) weakens, and the food will no longer be beneficial to the dog.

Did you know that the nutritional value of your dog’s food, starts diminishing immediately after leaving the factory?

This happens especially for foods with natural preservatives, and even though the food may still possess some nutritional benefit, it will be substandard when they manufacture it, thus posing health risks.

In most cases, pet owners settle on foods, in relation to the overall value of nutrition, because their dog’s growth depends largely on them.

So, if your dog feeds on expired food, you’re robbing your pet of all the indispensable nutrients they require, for flourishing.

However much consideration you put to the quantity intake by your dog, it’s just not ideal, because you may have to dig deep into your pockets, to supplement the feeds.

Spoiled Fat

We consider fat to be essential in any dog food, and after surpassing the ‘sell-by’ date, it turns sour.

Their presence in the recipe helps supplement the energy, and flavor of the dog food, making it enriching.

When you notice a strong awful smell from the food, then it’s an indication that fat has turned sour.

Unlike humans, dogs may gobble up this food despite the smell, but will only be the starting point for more digestion complications.

It’s solely your responsibility as a dog owner, to be on the lookout for rancid food present in the dog food, and take action straight away before further problems.

Insect Infestation & Moisture Problems

This isn’t a problem as most pet owners would claim, especially when you use bagged foods.

Regrettably, it is! Have you ever thought, that the elegant kibble bags may have some tiny openings?

Now you know, within the kibble bags, there are minute holes, which permit the passage of air and moisture, into the bag, and eventually, your furry friend’s food sucks up this moisture, to become susceptible to pests.

Insects may find their way into the bag and eat up the food, thus leading to an unpleasant outcome.

If consumed by your dog, then it might lead to the development of various complications.

However, for foods stored in aluminum cans, you need not worry about them.

Mold Growth

Regardless of the type of preservatives used by manufacturers in keeping your dog food fresh, it’s notable, that the quality of the food starts diminishing, once it’s past its shelf life.

The preservatives no longer serve their intended purpose, once the food expires.

In addition, it’s at this stage when mold and bacteria start taking shape, in your puppy’s food.

You’ll only make it worse when you keep the food in hot and moist settings, as earlier discussed on what causes dog food to spoil.

Mold is not only damaging to your dog’s health, but it’s also injurious to human beings when released into the atmosphere, in any setting.

Expired Food Is a Health Risk to Your Dog

The impression is still dreadful to most dog owners when they realize, that expired dog food is a health risk to their dogs.

Of course, they are, whether meant for consumption by man or dogs, when we give little attention to the manufacturing and storage of food, then it poses health risks.

It’s however fascinating, to see people who doubt the food they offer their dogs, as a cause of their inactivity.

This happens, especially when you’ve been giving the same food and proportions to your dog, for many years.

It’s essential for you the dog owner to understand, that a poor management routine of your dog’s food is detrimental to his health, just like accidents during manufacturing stages.

Your dog should be secure if, you notice the impending dangers of expired dog food, and take full responsibility in preventing them before they get out of hand.

Ultimately, there are several health risks that could arise, as a result of expired food, including both major and minor complications, so, let’s have a look at some of these.

Development of Digestion complications

Manufacturing accidents can and do occur, and the use of fouled ingredients within the food, for example, rancid fats, spoiled proteins, and/or moldy grains, are key sources of digestion problems.

Therefore, your dog is at risk of facing complications, including indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting, just to mention but a few.

If these symptoms persist for several days, it’s necessary you stop feeding him the food, and ask for help from your veterinarian immediately.

Your dog is likely to suffer from malnutrition

We mentioned earlier, that the nutritional value of your dog food starts depreciating, immediately after leaving the factory.

Therefore, the idea that the food has expired should worry you, because the food is likely to depreciate and lose its nutritional value.

Your dog starts to exhibit signs like weight loss, and reduced energy levels, which ultimately leads to malnutrition.

It might not get any better when it affects both organs, and bone tissues.

Development of Foodborne Diseases

Foods past their shelf life are likely to be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, thus may lead to severe food-borne complications, for example, Salmonella, E. coli, Botulism, just to mention but a few.

When your dog gobbles up such foods, then the bacteria within the food extends through his bloodstream, creating more complications.

It’s important to be on the watch, on the nature of food you offer to your dog because, food-borne diseases if not treated in time, can cause lifelong changes, or complications, and even death.

How to Keep Your Dog’s Food Fresh

We’ve already seen, that food spoilage is because of either production accidents by the manufacturers, or handling and storage problems by individual pet owners.

Acknowledging that complications may arise in handling such foods, and taking the necessary steps to curb them from meting out damage to your dog, is essential.

Look for Fresh Products

Let’s take a step back.

When purchasing all dog foods, make it a habit of picking those foods with “best by” or “best before” dates, that can last for at least a year.

Some companies will always print these dates somewhere on the bag or can.

You should keep in mind, however, that the dates might not be as accurate as they make us believe.

 Your dog’s food doesn’t expire immediately after it surpasses the “best by” date, but it acts as a guideline, to keep your head up of any occurrences coming your way.

In case the packaging is faulty, then the food may go rancid, much sooner than expected.

If you value your dog’s well being, then never go for foods close to the “best by”, or “best before” dates.

Invest in the Best Dog Food Storage Practices

Improper storage of your puppy’s food in the house may lead to detrimental consequences, for stains and spoilage, regardless of whether you buy products before their “best by” or “best before” dates.

Excessive heat, exposure to air, and humidity speed up the rates, at which dog foods diminish (refer to the section above).

Sections of the house, with excess water content, forms a breeding ground for mold while temperature fluctuations, where you store the dog food, can make it turn sour.

It’s important to scrutinize every package before buying, to find out that the bags are in excellent shape, and that the cans have no leakages.

If you get home and the food doesn’t smell or look right, then it probably isn’t.

In addition, if your friend seems reluctant to eat from it, halt feeding on the package, to prevent health risks.

Storing Dry Dog Food

The duration your dog’s food takes to remain fresh and perfect, with all its nutritional value, largely depends on how you handle and store the food, after every purchase.

To reduce effects that might arise due to storage, it’s ideal to store dry dog food in its initial packaging.

These packages are clean and airtight, to exclude elements like moisture, excess heat, air, and keep out insects/rodents.

Be cautious while opening the packages, so you can close back the bags after every use.

Some pet owners would prefer transferring the food into another container, which is a good idea, though, if you go for it, ensure you purchase a superb storage container.

Purchase FDA-approved food-grade plastics, because any other alternative, might suck up all the nutrient content from the food.

To limit acceleration in oxidation levels, you need to understand how to manage your food storage at home, not on the floor, definitely.

Ideally, you should store your dog food in a cool and dry place, that won’t subject the food to severely high temperatures and moisture.

Make it a habit to choose precise bag sizes, and try to clear up the food within a few weeks after opening it, to avoid detrimental health problems.

Prior to serving your dog with fresh food, make sure you wash out your dog’s bowl with hot soapy water and leave it to dry completely.

Storing Canned Dog Food

A cool and dry space is the perfect starting point, to deal with canned dog food.

This is because the ideal environmental conditions keep the food fresh, and fit for consumption, for several years, especially if they remain sealed.

However, it’s necessary that you only purchase what you can use, prior to their “best by” or “best before” dates.

It’s sometimes a challenge, feeding the whole content of the can to your dog, in one serving. 

If this happens, make sure to keep the can in the refrigerator, though, ensure this does not exceed a one-week duration.

Thoroughly clean the bowl before adding fresh food, and dispose of canned food, after three to four hours of exposure to room temperature, in case you had opened it earlier.

Final Thoughts

Does dog food expire? Absolutely yes, so, when going for dog foods from the stores, it’s important to always be on the lookout for the sell-by date, that most manufacturing companies will always display on either side of the bag.

Expect longer expiration periods, for dog foods that have artificial preservatives, because these make them less vulnerable to fast degradation.

Canned dog foods are wet and are more susceptible to quick breakdown, or expiry, as opposed to the kibbles/dry foods, because of their unique flavor.

You should give much attention to your dog’s food, just as you would take care of your own food, to make sure you take excellent care of your pet’s overall well-being.

Leaving your furry friend’s food in wet, moist areas, or places exposed to too much air, renders the food susceptible to detrimental bacteria, thus fastening the expiration time.

You should consider where you keep your dog’s food, and always be in the habit, of checking the “best by” date, before you buy your pet’s food.

We hope you found this article educative and can apply these tips, to ensure the wellbeing of your pet.

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