Dogs are not known for their discerning palettes. I mean, your dog probably thinks a month-old chicken drumstick on the sidewalk is a perfectly acceptable snack. That is why they depend on you to provide fresh, balanced meals each day to keep them healthy.
While you may have nutritious for your pup, you still should learn how to store it properly so it can maintain its nutritional value. Not only is properly stored dog food better for your pup, but improperly stored dog food may degrade and turn rancid rapidly, which can make your dog sick.
We consulted veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson, associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, Virginia, and host of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on Washington DC’s News Channel 8 to find out how to keep your dog’s food fresh for as long as possible.
Dry Dog Food Storage
Kibble is easy to store and feed, but like all types of pet food, it is perishable.
Bags of dry dog food are imprinted with a “best by” date to let you know how long you can keep it. However, many dog owners do not realize that this date becomes inaccurate once the bag is opened. As a rule of thumb, Dr. Nelson recommends that pet parents use the dog food only one month after opening if it has been properly stored.
Once you open a bag of dog food, its freshness is exposed to the elements. The three factors that affect the nutritional value and quality of a dog food once it has been opened are air, moisture and high temperatures. To help combat these forces, here are some tips for dry dog food storage.
Seal Your Bag
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and dog food companies recommend that you seal your dog food, because it minimizes its exposure to air, which can contaminate your dog food with bacteria.
To seal your dog food bag, you can roll down the sides and use a bag clip, like this cute bone-shaped dog clip by ORE Pet, to close up the bag. For extra protection, Dr. Nelson recommends airtight containers.
Airtight Dog Food Storage Containers
“Dry dog food is extruded, and then sprayed with oils that start to break down and go rancid once the food is exposed to air,” Dr. Nelson says. “So, kibble needs to be kept in an airtight container.”
When it comes to the type of dog food containers you should use, Dr. Nelson says “Plastic or stainless steel containers are fine for storing kibble as long as they are airtight.”
I prefer stainless steel because it is easier to clean and lasts longer.”
One stainless steel dog food container option is the Harry Barker Classic Dog Food Storage Canister. It features an airtight food-seal vacuum locking lid designed to ensure freshness and is made of steel for easy cleaning.
Best to Keep it in the Original Packaging
Dr. Nelson says you should store the whole bag of dog food inside of the airtight dog food storage containers. That way, the bag can provide an added barrier that helps seal in fats and oils to prevent them from becoming rancid later.
Keeping dog food in the original bag will also ensure that pet parents have access to the UPC code, lot number, “best by” date and brand and manufacturer information in case of a problem, like a defect or recall, according to the FDA. When you file a complaint about your dog’s food, all of this information likely will be required.
Keeping Your Dog Food Container Clean
Many dog owners simply top off the dog food storage container with a new bag of dog food as it starts to run low, but Dr. Nelson says this is a bad idea.
“You wouldn’t store leftover pasta in a plastic container and then reuse it to take your salad to work without washing it,” says Dr. Nelson. “Always wash out the container between refills. The oils from the kibble tend to make the container greasy, and you can then end up having rancid oil from the old bag contaminating the fresh food.”
Dr. Nelson recommends thoroughly washing stainless steel or plastic dog food storage containers with hot, soapy water or white vinegar. Then, rinse and dry completely before refilling. Excess moisture can cause mold and mildew to grow on the food.
A Cool, Dry Place is Ideal
In order to maintain the nutritional quality and shelf life of dry dog food, it is important that you store the food and its container in a cool, dry place.
Moisture can lead to mold, which can make your pet sick. High temperatures can also speed up the degradation process and cause the nutrients within the food to breakdown. You will want to avoid storing your dry dog food in places where temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, like a garage or shed.
Make sure the chosen location of your dry dog food storage is secure and can’t be accessed by your dog to prevent him from sneaking a snack on the down low.
Wet Dog Food Storage
Canned dog food can last months, even years, if it is not opened. Discard cans that have a deep dent, air bubbles or swelling; all of which are signs that the can’s seal has been compromised and bacteria is growing inside.
Once opened, you have 24 hours to store the food if your dog does not finish it in one meal.
Seal and Refrigerate to Preserve Freshness
“Unfinished canned food should be stored in a refrigerator for three to five days,” Dr. Nelson says. “You can use a can cover to keep the food fresh. Be sure to squeeze out any air, and take a good look at it before feeding. If it’s watery, or has changed in smell or texture, just throw it out.”
For fresh or frozen foods, Dr. Nelson recommends storing them according to package directions.
“Once opened, we like to wrap the open end of the tube in foil, held in place with a rubber band,” she says. “That can last up to a week in the fridge.”
Tips for Freezing Dog Food
When you have more food than your pet can eat before it goes bad, you can always utilize your freezer. Kibble can be frozen to help keep it from going bad. You can also transfer leftover canned food into a freezer-safe baggie or container before freezing.
Frozen food is best thawed in the refrigerator and served within six to nine months, though it can last even longer.
Make Sure You are Buying the Right Amount of Food
Dr. Nelson advises pet owners to visit their veterinarian to find out how much food their pet really needs to eat.
“With 59 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs being overweight in the United States, we’re noticing that pet owners do not actually know how much to feed their pets,” says Dr. Nelson. “You can’t always go by the chart on the bag, as your pet may need more or less food depending on their body condition, age and activity level. It’s so important to know how much food they really need. Then, buy bags of food that they can actually eat in three to four weeks, or portion and freeze if you prefer to buy in bulk.”
Lindsay Pevny is on a mission to gather science-based information on pet care, training and products, and to use her writing to help other dog parents make informed decisions for their four-legged family members. As a pet copywriter, she works with passionate pet business owners to spread the word about their innovative pet products and services. Get to know her doggy muses, Matilda and Cow, on her personal blog, Little Dog Tips.
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