How Long Does Dry Dog Food Last? +Tips for Food Storage

by Stuart | Last Updated:   January 2, 2020
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For dog lovers out there, taking the best care of their best friend is a high priority for them. I would purchase premium dog food for my Kenzie, at a high rate of $50 for a 20lb, which is only the middle ground for premium dog food. 

Here in Canada Kenzie and I would often go for extended trips in the great wilderness and are sometimes gone for a week or more. This sort of travelling often made me wonder if her dog food would spoil by the time we came home.

How long does dry dog food last? Most manufacturers of dog food claim that dry dog food, if in an un-opened bag, has an average shelf life of a year. However, due to the effects of oxidization, opened dog food will only last for about two weeks.

All food is subject to spoilage over time, with the possible exception of sugar (In case you aren’t aware, twinkies can outlast people!) Your doggie’s food is no exception, and while most people wouldn’t think about dog food being stale, mostly because they never actually test it themselves, it can indeed expire.

What Makes Dry Dog Food Last Longer

Like with most foods consumed by humans, dog food also is sensitive to changes in light, temperature moisture, and humidity.

A bag of dry dog food has an impressive shelf life of 12-18 months, depending on the manufacturer. 

If the bag is compromised in some way, say it was torn a little getting it out of the cart and into the car, then the exposure to new air will likely start the decomposition process right away.

Humidity is an enemy of all foods. Sugar has the ability to be kept on the shelf indefinitely unless it gets wet. Once sugar is wet, it can develop mould, which most people will not feel comfortable eating (and should not eat!). The same goes for dog food.

Because of its processing, dry dog food has an abundance of nutrients in it that are often already broken down to a point to make nutrient absorption easy. 

Mould and bacteria that are airborne can easily take advantage of this and begin to make a home in open dog food. This can cause dog food to go rancid rather quickly after the bag has been open.

If you happen to detect any of the following then you should immediately dispose of your dog’s food:

  • Odd odours from your dog’s food bowl or bag of dog food.
  • Mould Growth will appear as fluffy discoloration on the bits of food.
  • Bugs that have made home or happen to be buzzing around your dog’s food.

Excuse me hooman, it smells like there’s a problem here.

The Enemy of Dry Dog Food: Oxidization

Oxygen is a highly reactive element. It is so reactive that it will bond with anything capable of reacting with it. This is part of the reason why O2 is found in abundance in nature.

Oxygen just has to bond with something, even if it is itself.

The same goes for oxygen’s chemical effect with foods. 

If you have ever handled dog food, and I’m sure that if you are reading this then you know what I mean, you have probably noticed a slightly greasy texture, and it may have even left your hands feeling a little oily. This is because dry dog food contains oil.

Dry dog food contains oils that are essential to maintain your dog’s health. Oil helps with protecting your dog’s skin, helps prevent flaky dandruff, and helps with deterring parasites. The oil in your dog’s food aids in digestion, weight loss, energy, and gives their coat a healthy sheen (of course, some oils are better than others).

This oil is sensitive to the oxygen that is readily available in the air. As said before, oxygen is already looking to interact with other chemicals.

When a bag of dry dog food is opened, it is now exposed to the air, and oxidization occurs.

This can lead to the oil becoming rancid, giving fouls odours, and can lead to nutrient deficiencies in your dog.

This is because when a dog eats food that has rancid oils, their bodies now must use their own nutrient stores in order to neutralize these damaged fats. Over time this will lead to nutrient deficiencies since the nutrient’s stores aren’t being replaced by new nutrients but instead used when your dog eats rancid food.

The Truth About Storing Dry Dog Food In Plastic

One tactic that many people try in order to keep their pet’s dry food fresh is to store it in plastic containers. While at first it may seem to work and you may have tried this, but have you ever noticed that when the bin is empty that the walls of the container are also covered in an oily sheen?

This oil is that is left behind when the food is gone oxidizes every time that the container is opened, and fresh air is allowed to rush in. Over time, this oil will become rancid and possibly become infected.

Not a problem! Just wash it and dry it out each time it is empty, right?

Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than this.

Most plastics that are used in the manufacturing of pet food containers are porous, meaning that they have microscopic holes all throughout them. The oils from the dry dog food can saturate the wall of a food container. 

If that oil is rancid and becomes infected with mold or bacteria then it is practically impossible to remove. The oil will therefore transfer its rancidity to the oils of new fresh food as it becomes available when you pour in a new bag.

What’s even worse is that people get these containers because they are believed to be airtight.

Unfortunately, due to the porousness of the plastic, the containers are made from, it’s never completely airtight.

While airflow is very limited in the plastic, over time the air will reach the oils trapped in the plastic and turn them rancid.

How To Keep Dry Dog Food Fresh

An opened bag of dog food can stay fresh for about two weeks. 

Given that many people with a single dog opt to purchase large 20lb bags of dry dog food at a time, it is starting to seem that it may be relatively unfeasible to expect the whole bag to stay fresh before it is emptied.

Unless, of course, you have a Great Dane or a Mastiff.

So, with all this in mind, the best practices for keeping fresh dry dog food available for your doggie is to:

  • Purchase dry dog food in quantities that you can expect will be consumed in two weeks.
  • Be sure to keep the food in its original bag, as transferring the dry food can increase the rate of oxidization.
  • Keep the original bag of dry food in an airtight container. While this will not halt oxidization, it keeps the rate of oxygen in the air available to react with the oil down to a minimum.
  • Keep the container in an area of the home that is generally at room temperature. Temperature can have a dramatic effect on the speed and rate of chemical reactions.

If you follow these recommendations, you’ll be able to keep your dog food as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Not only will this help your doggie stay healthy, but it’ll also help keep some extra money in your bank account.

That’s a win win in my books.

Continue Reading:

  1. Best Dog Food for English Bulldogs With Skin Allergies
  2. Best Foods for Wheaten Terriers with Allergies
  3. Best Food for Rough Collies With Sensitivities
  4. Wet Dog Food vs Dry, Which One is Better?
  5. What to Mix With Dry Dog Food?