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 change its taste, texture, and color when exposed to air, moisture, and extreme temperatures. Knowing the proper ways to store dog food long-term is important to prevent your dog’s food from going bad and causing health issues.
Please keep it in its original packaging, place it in an airtight container, and keep it in a cool, dry place. If the food will 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 cool, 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 keep your dog’s food as fresh as possible for as long as possible.
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 become rancid over time or when exposed to certain conditions. Here are some tips on how to store dry dog food for long periods…
Check Expiration Dates
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.
Put Food In Airtight Containers
Air and moisture will start to break down dry food in 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. Ensure you get the right one for your and your dog’s needs. You want the container to be big enough to fit the bag of food you buy.
- 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 you and your dog, they let in air and moisture that hasten food spoiling. 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. It would be best to keep the dispenser as clean as possible because unwanted bacteria may hang out there.
It is also essential 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.
Make Your Own Container
It is possible to make your 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 you can buy in stores, but something is better than nothing. Here are some ideas on how to make your dog food container…
- Juice Bottles: Hold on to the cap and clean thoroughly, but old juice bottles make excellent dog food containers. Make sure the spout is big enough 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, these will work fine in a pinch. 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, smell much more noxious than your dog’s food. These pails will be excellent choices if you want to contain the aroma of your dog’s food.
- Cat Litter Boxes: If you have an extra litter box or two lying around, they are good storage places for bags of dog food. Just make sure you have scrubbed it clean, and if you still have a cat, 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.
Save The Bag
Most dog owners will pour their food into the airtight container and throw the bag away. If you are storing dog food long-term, the bag may come in handy. It has important information like the UPC, 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 several 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 food bag, making your dog sick.
After you open the bag, the best thing to do is to put the remaining food, bag, and all, into the container. The manufacturer puts the food in specially designed bags 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 it 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. Keeping the food in an area where you can control the temperature is essential. Do not keep the food outside where temperatures can fluctuate rapidly; 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 ensure 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.
Freezing Dog Food
If you are coming up on the six-week limit, all is not lost. It is possible to freeze-dry dog food. 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 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 take out a small amount each day instead of having to thaw half a bag of food.
When 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 have any issues 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 not to want to eat their food, so just put it on the outside container and not in the food itself.
- Don’t Buy Food From Open Bins: Some bulk food stores have cheaper food 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, its 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, keeping your canned wet food in a cool, dry place is essential. Giving your cans their 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 keep 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 botulism. Please 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. It would be best to put a can cap on the can or cover it with plastic wrap to prevent any contaminants.
- Don’t Leave Food Out: Do not leave wet food out for four hours. If your dog isn’t eating the portion you are leaving, dish out less, and put the rest in the fridge. You should throw out any food that lasts longer than four hours and wash your dog’s dish thoroughly after every meal.
In recent years, putting dogs on a raw diet has become popular. The raw food is frozen to hold in the nutrients the diet wants to supply. How long you store frozen raw food depends on the meat you store.
According to the FDA, ground beef can be kept for three to four months, steak for six to twelve months, pork chops for four to six months, pieces of poultry for nine months, and a whole bird for 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, 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.
How Do You Know Your Dog Food Has Gone Bad?
If you are trying to store dog food long term, it is essential 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 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 ensure the bugs are not elsewhere. Although many of the bugs 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.
It’s important to properly store your dog’s food to ensure its freshness and prevent any health issues. This can be achieved by keeping the food in its original packaging, storing it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, and freezing it if it will be open for longer than a month. For wet food, pay attention to expiration dates, keep the cans cool, 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. It is also important to check expiration dates on dry food and avoid storing it in plastic containers or automatic feeders. Cleaning the container regularly and keeping it dry can also help prevent spoilage. Following these tips can help ensure that your dog’s food stays fresh and healthy.