(Photo: Holistic Select.)
Much of what we know about human nutrition can also be applied to our pets, and the same goes for shelf life of their food.
Many perishable products like milk, canned veggies, and leftovers remain safe for human consumption 5-10 days after being opened or cooked (which is why we smell our milk before taking a big swig). But, what about pet food?
Depending on size and breed, not all dogs or cats can eat an entire can of food in one meal, or even one day. If that’s the case, simply seal with a can lid and store in the refrigerator.
An opened can that is sealed with a lid and stored in the fridge will be good for three to seven days.
Forgot to put the can in the fridge after opening? Toss it if it’s been longer than four hours–this is enough time for harmful bacteria to sprout and spread, making the food unsafe to eat.
Properly storing raw food is critical, as seen here in our detailed discussion on raw food safety. Because this type of food is raw, the rules on storage and freshness are much stricter:
- Keep raw pet food frozen until the day before it is to be eaten.
- Throw away any food that is past the expiration dated printed on the package, or before then if you’re unsure.
- Pet didn’t eat his raw breakfast? Don’t leave it sitting out until dinner. Either put it back in the refrigerator, or toss if it has been sitting out for more than three hours.
Consult the company website or the back of the bag with any questions, as each raw pet food maker provides tips on thawing, feeding and storage.
Once a bag of kibble is opened and the food is exposed to oxygen, the oxidation process begins. According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, oxidation is the chemical reaction that occurs when fats and oils in pet food are exposed to oxygen, eventually causing rot.
How long is a bag of kibble good, anyways? Quality kibble free of harsh preservatives stays at peak freshness for approximately 14 days before starting to slowly lose some of its nutritional punch.
Note that this does not mean food goes rancid in two weeks but simply that it starts to lose its fresh factor, and a finicky Fido may be less interested.
Think of human vitamins as an example. Taking them past the expiration date won’t necessarily make you sick, it will simply reduce the potency and therefore the benefits. The same theory applies for pet food that in the stage between ideal freshness and rancidity.
While purchasing a bag a food every two weeks isn’t practical for everyone, especially those with smaller breeds, we recommend you use up your kibble supply within four weeks of opening.
So, how can you ensure your furry friend is reaping all the benefits their high-quality pet food can offer? Alexa Travis, dog lover and Assistant Manager at Tomlinson’s Airport, spells out five things you can do to keep your pet’s food at peak freshness:
5 Tips to Maximize Freshness
1. Keep food out of extreme heat, as this speeds up the aging process. While the garage may be an out-of-the-way spot to keep those larger bags, the heat of a Texas summer isn’t good for it.
2. That being said, storing in extreme cold isn’t ideal, either. Refrigerating is a good option to elongate freshness, but avoid freezing: once it starts to thaw, the bag will sweat. If any of that moisture finds its way into the bag it can cause mold.
3. If you feed kibble, pour your pet’s food into a sealable storage container. Since exposure to oxygen and other elements is what causes food to spoil, an airtight container is much more beneficial than rolling up the existing bag.
4. Clean the storage container out after finishing each bag of food. This will prevent rancid fats and oils from building up on the container’s walls and spoiling the new food.
5. If that sounds like too much of a hassle, line the storage container with a trash bag to be disposed of after each use, or leave the food in the original bag and put it all in a sealable container.
When in doubt, trust your instincts as a pet parent. If Fido’s food has a funky odor, looks discolored or is buggy, it’s time to throw it out.
How do you keep your pet’s food fresh? We’d love to hear creative ideas from our fellow animal lovers! Sound off in the comments below, or over on our Facebook page!