It is easy to disregard the importance of your dog’s food. It may not look like the food we eat, but it is susceptible to the same elements. Just like human food, dog food breaks down over time and can have it’s taste, texture, and color changed when exposed to air, moisture, and extreme temperatures. To prevent your dog’s food from going bad and causing health issues, it is important to know the proper ways to store dog food long term.
How do you store dog food long term? Keep it in its original packaging, place it in an airtight container, and keep that container in a cool, dry place. If the food is going to be open longer than a month, freeze it to maintain freshness for up to six months. If you use wet food, pay attention to expiration dates, keep the cans in a cool place, and don’t use dented cans. When you open it, use a can cap and store it in the fridge for up to five days.
Keep reading for complete tips to truly keep your dog’s food as fresh as possible for as long as possible.
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People make the most mistakes with their storage of dry food. There seems to be a feeling that it doesn’t go bad or is impervious to the elements because of its composition, but nothing could be further from the truth. Dry dog food will go rancid over time or when exposed to certain conditions. Here are some tips on how to store dry dog food for long periods of time…
Just like human food, dog food has an expiration date on it. When buying the food, check the expiration date. If you need the food to last long term, get the bag with the date that is furthest away. That will be the food that will be the freshest when opened. Remember: once you open the bag, the date is meaningless.
Air and moisture will start to break down dry food in a process called oxidation. An airtight container will help reduce the effect air has on the food helping it to last longer before it goes rancid. It will also keep insects and pests away. When looking for a container keep these things in mind…
- Get The Right Size: Airtight containers come in different shapes and sizes. Make sure you are getting the right one for you and your dog’s needs. You want the container to be big enough to fit the bag of food that you are buying.
- Avoid Plastic: You also want to stay away from plastic if possible. Plastics can leave undesirable smells and flavors on your dog’s food. They also nick or scratch easily which can hold bacteria that will contaminate the food. Try to get a glass container with a rubber gasket to keep moisture and air out of the food.
- Don’t Get An Automatic Feeder: Although these seem very convenient to both you and your dog, they let in air and moisture that will hasten the spoiling of the food. If you want to use an automatic feeder, you should still have an airtight container and only put a day or so of food in the feeder. You should also make sure to keep the dispenser as clean as possible because unwanted bacteria may be hanging out there.
It is also important to keep the container clean and not just dump the next bag of food right in. Cleaning the container after finishing each bag will help prevent oils from hanging out, becoming rancid, and ruining the new food. To clean your container…
- Make a mixture of warm soapy water and white vinegar.
- Wash the container with the mixture and a sponge or cloth
- Allow the container to dry completely before refilling. Excess moisture can cause mold and mildew growth in your food.
It is possible to make your own container if you can’t or don’t want to spring for a store bought one. They usually will not be as effective as the airtight models that you can buy in stores, but something is better than nothing. Here are some ideas on how to make your own dog food container…
- Juice Bottles: Hold on to the cap and make sure to clean thoroughly, but old juice bottles make excellent dog food containers. Just make sure that the spout is big enough for you to pour out big enough portions.
- Colored Storage Totes: Although the plastic is not as tough or airtight as plastic containers made specifically for dog food, in a pinch these will work fine. The color will keep out light that will damage the food. One benefit is with bigger totes you can fit multiple bags inside.
- Baby Diaper Pail: These containers were made to keep smells inside, smells much more noxious than your dog’s food. If you want to contain the aroma of your dog’s food, these pails would be excellent choices.
- Cat Litter Boxes: If you have an extra litter box or two laying around, they are good storage places for bags of dog food. Just make sure that you have scrubbed it clean and if you still have a cat, that it is clear to your cat that this is storage, not a restroom.
- Old Hard Sided Suitcases: You can repurpose old suitcases as dog food storage. They will keep the bags of food out of the light and dry. They also work great at keeping your furry friends away. Unused footlockers can be used in the same manner.
Most dog owners will pour their food into the airtight container and throw the bag away. If you are storing dog food long term, though, the bag may come in handy. It has important information like the UPC code, lot number, and expiration dates. This info can help you keep the food fresh and it might help if you have a problem with the food or there is a food recall.
Pouring the dry food from the bag into your container is not good practice for storing dog food long term. There are a number of issues this may cause…
- If you use a plastic container, there might be chemicals in the plastic that may seep into the food.
- There is also a higher chance of developing storage mites or mold that could cause food poisoning in dogs.
- Residual oils and fats from the food could settle on the sides and bottom of the container. They could then go rancid and mix with your next bag of food, making your dog sick.
The best thing to do is, after you open the bag, put the remaining food, bag and all, into the container. The manufacturer puts the food in bags that are specially designed to keep out oxygen and moisture. Use that to your benefit. Once the bag is opened, roll the sides back up, fasten it with clips, and place the bag in your airtight container. There are specially made clips like these or this stylish one but don’t worry if you don’t want to buy special clips, I use binder clips. The manufacturer puts the food in a bag that keeps out oxygen and moisture. Use that to your benefit.
Where you keep your dog food may be key to your long term storage. It is important to keep the food in an area where you can control the temperature. Do not keep the food outside where temperatures can fluctuate rapidly and the food will be more susceptible to animals and insects.
Instead, keep the food inside in a cool dry place. You want to avoid moisture and high temperatures which will both increase the breakdown of the food’s nutrients. You should also make sure to keep it in a place where your dog will not be able to sneak a quick snack, nor will insects and pests be able to get at it. For these reasons, it is best to keep it up off the floor.
If you are coming up on the six-week limit, all is not lost. It is possible to freeze-dry dog food. It is said that dog food will keep its flavor for up to six months in the freezer if you double wrap it in freezer bags.
Be careful though, dog food kept in the freezer will add moisture to the food. If at all possible, use vacuum sealers to keep that moisture out. For this reason, it is also suggested that you put the food in portion-sized bags, so you just take out a small amount each day instead of having to thaw half a bag of food.
When you are ready to take food out of the freezer, you should thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. It will be good in the fridge for four days.
Here are some other quick tips to help you store your dog food as long as possible…
- Clove Oil: If you are having ant issues even with an airtight container, try putting some clove oil around the container. It tends to keep ants and other insects away. Although clove oil is not poisonous to dogs, the flavor may cause dogs to not want to eat their food, so just put it on the outside of the container and not in the food itself.
- Don’t Buy Food From Open Bins: Some bulk food stores have cheaper food out in open bins. There are too many possible contaminants out there for this to be a good idea. Also, because the food is exposed to open air, it’s shelf life has already been reduced and you have no way of knowing how long it’s been out.
- Avoid Artificial Preservatives: They may make dry food last longer, but that benefit doesn’t outweigh the risk to your dog. Many of the artificial preservatives used have been linked to cancer in dogs. Try to find natural preservatives like vitamin C or vitamin E.
If you feed your dog wet food, the ways to store it change slightly. Although individual cans can be kept longer than most bags of dry food, once opened, wet food will not last as long as opened dry food. Here are some tips for storing wet food long term…
- Cool, Dry, Place: Just like dry food, it is important to keep your canned wet food in a cool dry place. Giving your cans their own shelf in the pantry or basement will help keep them as long as possible.
- Rotate Cans: The key to storing canned wet food is paying close attention to expiration dates. When you store the cans, if possible, store them with the expiration visible so you know which can you should open first. The best practice is to develop a rotation of cans where you store them so you always know which can is the oldest and the one you should be using first.
- No Dents: Just like with human food, a dent in a can is a compromise in the structure of the can. Such a compromise can allow bacteria to get in and lead to things like botulism. Do not buy or use cans that have dents in them. If you drop a can, causing a dent, move that can to the front of your rotation.
- Use The Fridge: If you open a can but your dog is not going to eat the whole portion, you can keep the open can in the fridge for up to seven days. You should put a can cap on the can or cover with plastic wrap to keep out any contaminants.
- Don’t Leave Food Out: Do not leave wet food out for longer than four hours. If your dog isn’t eating the portion you are leaving out, dish out less, and put the rest in the fridge. You should throw out any food that stays out longer than four hours and make sure to wash your dog’s dish thoroughly after every meal.
In recent years it has become popular to put dogs on a raw food diet. The raw food is kept frozen to hold in the nutrients the diet is looking to supply. How long you can store frozen raw food depends on the meat that you are storing.
According to the FDA, ground beef can be kept for three to four months, steak six to twelve months, pork chops four to six months, pieces of poultry nine months, and a whole bird one year.
Remember, if you are buying frozen raw food at the store, it needs to remain frozen until you are ready to serve since it cannot be refrozen. If you know that you are not going straight home from the store or you live a good distance from the store you purchase your dog food at, make sure to bring a cooler and ice packs with you so you can keep the food frozen until you get it in your freezer.
If you are trying to store dog food long term, it is important to know when the food has gone bad and it is time to get rid of it. There is a fine line between making the food last as long as possible and reaching the point of rancid or moldy food. Here are some ways to tell that it is time to throw the food out
- Expiration Date: All dog food bags have an expiration date on them. Even though some food can last longer than those dates, it’s a good idea to get rid of dog food when that day has passed.
- Mold: If you see any signs of mold growth either in the food or on your container, you need to throw the food out. Mold can be very toxic to dogs
- Bugs: You may start to notice weevils, meal moths, or numerous other bugs that enjoy grains and meats. Get rid of the food immediately and inspect the areas around your container to make sure the bugs are not elsewhere. Although many of the bugs that end up in dog food are not harmful when ingested, not getting rid of them immediately can lead to an infestation of all the food in your house, not just dog food.
- Smell: If the dog food begins to smell like paint or chemicals, it has gone rancid and needs to be thrown out.
- Your Dog Won’t Eat: Although there are many possible causes for loss of appetite in dogs, if your dog starts to refuse their food or eat smaller portions, there is a good chance that the food is starting to go bad.
If you’re storing food for your family, then you should be storing food for your dogs as well.
It’s easy to store dog food for long periods if you just follow these simple tips and keep the food containers clean.