Husky staring at their dry food.

How Long Does Dry Dog Food Last? Fact Checked By Our Vet

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 18th January 2024

Kibble is probably the most convenient type of dog food. It’s super easy to handle and lasts for ages. Or does it, really? With large bags of dry dog food often being the more budget friendly option, it’s easy to end up with unfinished bags of kibble lying around for months on end.

Is that food still safe for your dog to eat?

Today, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the shelf life of dry dog food.


The Shelf Life of Dry Dog Food

One of the biggest advantages of dry dog food is the long shelf life. Typically, kibble will last between 12 and 18 months, according to the expiration dates on the packaging.

Related: The Best Dog Food.

If left unopened and stored in a cool dry place, it’s safe to say that dry dog food will stay fresh at least until the “best by” date printed on the packaging. The “cool dry place” part is important, because it’s not just a figure of speech. If exposed to too much heat, the fats in dog food can go rancid.

In any case, always check the recommendations on the packaging. The shelf life of specific dog food formulas can depend on many factors. For example, kibble without artificial preservatives might have a shorter shelf life, as does products with a lot of fish oil.

Related: How To Choose The Right Dog Food?
Related: How Is Australia’s Dog Food Industry Regulated?
Related: What is AAFCO? The Association of American Feed Control Officials.
Related: What Is the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA)?
Related: AAFCO vs PFIAA: Dog Food Standards Comparison Australia.

Related: Understanding Guaranteed Analysis Levels in Dog Food.
Related: Real Meat vs Meat Meal.


How Long Does Dry Dog Food Last Once Opened?

Checking the “best before” date is easy, but how long does dog food really stay fresh for? Now that’s a tricky question.

Related: The Best Dry Dog Food.

Once opened, the shelf life of dry dog food can vary depending on several factors. If you look online, you’ll find lots of recommendations saying dry dog food is safe for anywhere from two to eight weeks after opening. Some manufacturers say their kibble is safe until the best-by date “if stored properly”, others say it should ideally be used within five to six weeks.

So which one is it? It’s hard to say, but here is one vet’s reasonable recommendation:

“How long your pet food stays fresh after you open it depends on many factors, including how you store it. To keep it as fresh and nutritious as possible, once you open a new bag of pet food, I recommend using it within 2-3 months” - Dr Lisa M. Freeman, Petfoodology (1)

Either way, it’s difficult to give an exact “expiration date” to open dog food. There are simply too many factors to consider, including the ingredients in the food, the storage conditions, heat and humidity levels and so on.

In the end, it’s best to use common sense. Make sure to store dog food properly (tips below) and check regularly for signs of spoilage.


How to Tell if Dog Food Has Gone Bad

It’s not always possible to tell if your dog’s food has gone bad. After all, you can’t really do the taste test! Here are some signs to watch out for if your dog food bag has been lying around a tad too long:

  • Unpleasant odour: Fresh dog food should have a mild, slightly meaty smell. If you notice a rancid or foul odour, it may indicate spoilage. Trust your sense of smell and avoid feeding your dog food with an unusual or unpleasant smell.
  • Mould or pests: Inspect the food for any signs of mould growth or the presence of insects or pests. Mouldy or contaminated food should never be given to your dog, as it can lead to digestive issues or illness.
  • Changes in appearance: Examine the dog food for any noticeable changes in colour, texture, or consistency. If the kibble appears discoloured, clumpy, or has an oily sheen, it may be an indication of spoilage.
  • Expiration date: Always check the expiration date on the packaging. If the dog food has passed its expiration date, it's best to discard it, even if there are no visible signs of spoilage.
  • Pay attention to your dog: Many dogs will recognise that their food has gone off. If your dog is suddenly reluctant to eat, take the hint and investigate.

Will my dog get sick from eating expired food?

If you suspect that your dog food has gone bad based on any of the above signs, it's important to err on the side of caution and not feed it to your dog. Feeding spoiled food can lead to digestive upset, food poisoning, or other health issues.


Tips for Storing Dog Food

To help extend the shelf life of your dog food and ensure its freshness, consider the following tips:

  • Buy appropriate quantities: Purchase dog food in quantities that align with your dog's consumption rate. Buying excessive amounts can lead to longer storage times and increased risk of spoilage, even though it’s often cheaper.
  • Store in a cool, dry place: Store the dog food in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight. High temperatures and humidity can accelerate the degradation of the food, reducing its shelf life. Avoid storing it near heat sources or in areas prone to moisture.
  • Use airtight containers. A nice airtight container can be much nicer to handle than a giant dog food bag, although most manufacturers do recommend keeping the food in the original bag (2).
  • Don't mix old and new batches: Avoid combining leftover food from an old bag with a new bag. This can introduce older, potentially expired food into the fresh batch, compromising its quality.

By following these tips, you can help maximise the shelf life of your dog food, maintain its nutritional integrity, and ensure your furry friend receives the best possible nutrition.

Related: The Best Dog Food Storage Containers.

Remember, if you have any specific instructions or recommendations provided by the dog food manufacturer, always follow those guidelines for optimal storage and usage.


Final Thoughts

Dry dog food does indeed last quite a while if stored properly, but it’s important to keep track of things. Always check the manufacturer's guidelines or instructions on the bag for specific recommendations regarding the shelf life of their product once opened.

Remember that exposure to air, light, and moisture can accelerate the degradation of the food, affecting both its nutritional value and taste. When in doubt, it's better to err on the side of caution and use the food within a reasonable timeframe to ensure your dog receives the best quality nutrition.

References

  1. Freeman, L. M. October 26, 2020. “The Scoop on Storing Pet Food”. Petfoodology. Retrieved June 26, 2023. https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2020/10/the-scoop-on-storing-pet-food/
  2. Coates, J. April 06, 2012. “How to Keep Your Dog’s Food Fresh”. PetMD. Retrieved June 26, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/blogs/nutritionnuggets/jcoates/2012/apr/how_to_keep_dog_food_fresh-13975

Vedrana Nikolic


Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}