Dog food can definitely go bad if left in a hot garage for an extended period of time. The heat and humidity of a garage can lead to the growth of mold, bacteria, and oxidation that will cause the food to spoil. Dry dog food is relatively shelf stable but can still be impacted by temperature extremes. Canned wet food will spoil much quicker. In general, an unopened bag of dry food can last 6-12 months in a garage while canned food may only last a couple of months. But extreme heat and humidity will accelerate spoilage. Monitor your dog food closely for signs of spoilage like color changes, texture changes, and unpleasant odors.
How Temperature Impacts Dog Food
Temperature plays a critical role in how long dog food will stay fresh and safe to feed. Most dog foods are formulated to have a shelf life of 6-18 months when stored properly. This is based on being kept at moderate room temperatures, around 70°F. Temperatures above 90°F, as are often seen in garages in warm weather, will cause the food to spoil much faster.
Heat accelerates the chemical reactions and microbial growth that cause food to go bad. It leads to the oxidation of fats that make the food taste rancid. It also enables mold and bacteria to thrive. These organisms produce waste products that give spoiled food an unpleasant smell. High heat dries out food and changes its texture as well.
While dry dog food is quite shelf stable, the high heat of a garage can still impact its freshness and safety over time. And canned wet foods have much less preservative and are far more vulnerable to heat exposure.
Effect of Heat on Dry Dog Food
Dry dog kibble is made to be fairly resistant to spoilage. Its low moisture content and preservatives help it avoid mold growth and other deterioration. However, long-term exposure to hot garage temperatures can still cause it to go bad.
Though the food may look and smell normal, the fats in the kibble can become oxidized from the heat. This causes them to taste rancid, which dogs will avoid. Mold growth and insect infestations are also concerns in hot, humid garages.
While an unopened bag may last 6-12 months in the pantry, it would likely start to spoil well before that in the heat. Opened bags have even less shelf life, just 4-6 weeks in the heat. Checking for color changes, smell, and caking/clumping can help identify spoiled kibble.
Effect of Heat on Canned/Wet Dog Food
Wet and canned dog foods have high moisture content and less preservatives. This makes them far more vulnerable to spoilage when stored in a hot garage. They are formulated to last around 1-2 years in the pantry, but high heat shortens that substantially.
The microbes that cause food spoilage thrive in the dampness of canned food. Just a day or two in a hot garage can enable significant bacteria and mold growth. The food will take on a curdled, slimy texture when this happens. Rancid odors and bloating cans are other signs of spoilage.
Any cans that show damage, swelling, or dents should be discarded. And even unopened cans that have been subjected to heat should not be stored for long once opened. The food should be consumed within a couple days.
Ideal Storage Temperatures
To maximize the shelf life of dog food, the ideal storage temperature is between 50-70°F. This is cool enough to slow chemical reactions and microbial growth. Air conditioning regulates home temperatures to these comfortable ranges. But garages and sheds soar above 90°F in hot climates.
Some tips to keep dog food fresher in the heat include:
- Store in the pantry or a cupboard instead of the garage.
- Keep food in the air conditioning as much as possible.
- Place in rubber containers or wrap in plastic to protect from pests.
- Freeze wet food for longer storage life.
- Buy smaller bags if the food won’t be used quickly.
Keeping supplies in the house will prevent temperature extremes from shortening shelf life. But when keeping food in the garage can’t be avoided, inspect frequently for any signs of spoilage.
Dry Dog Food Storage Tips
For dry food stored in the garage, follow these tips to maximize freshness:
- Store in airtight plastic or metal containers to prevent pests.
- Keep containers off concrete floors, which absorb moisture.
- Place containers in the coolest, least humid part of the garage.
- Transfer to indoor storage as soon as possible.
- Inspect food for caking, discoloration, or rancid odors.
- Place fabric softener sheets in containers to repel insects.
- Avoid storage above 85°F or food may spoil within weeks.
With proper storage methods, an unopened bag can potentially last for months. But opened foods have a shorter life of just a month or two. So try to limit the time any opened kibble is kept in the heat.
Canned/Wet Food Storage Tips
For canned or pouched wet foods, the storage guidelines include:
- Sort cans by expiration date and use oldest first.
- Never use any bulging, dented, or leaking cans.
- Keep cans and pouches in the fridge if possible.
- Wipe off any condensation after removing chilled cans.
- Use opened cans within 2 days.
- Discard any spoiled-smelling food immediately.
- Freeze extras to prolong shelf life.
Due to its high moisture content, canned food is far more perishable. Try to limit storage to less than 2 months, checking frequently for swelling or odors. Refrigeration and freezing will help extend its shelf life somewhat. But avoid any exposed to extreme garage heat.
Signs of Spoiled Dog Food
To determine if dog food left in the garage has spoiled, look for the following warning signs:
- Color changes – grey, brown
- Greasy coating or caked bits
- Stale, bland smell
- Rancid, bitter odor
- Presence of mold
- Visible insect infestation
Dry food is hardy but will eventually show deterioration from heat exposure. Any odd textures, colors, or smells mean it should be discarded.
- Swollen, leaking, or rusted cans
- Slimy, curdled texture
- Sour, fermented smell
- Mold presence
- Foamy or fuzzy appearance
Canned food provides ideal conditions for microbial growth as it ages. Never consume any canned food that shows swelling or contamination. Off odors also signal it’s unsafe for eating.
Any food that shows signs of spoilage should be immediately discarded. Feeding spoiled food puts dogs at risk of food poisoning or other gastrointestinal issues. It’s better to be safe than sorry if there is any doubt about the safety of stored food.
How Long Does Dog Food Last in a Hot Garage?
Given temperature extremes, dog food stored in a garage will spoil much faster than in the pantry. Here are some general timelines for garage storage:
Unopened Dry Dog Food
- Lasts 2-3 months in temperatures above 85°F
- Lasts 5-6 months if average temps are 80-85°F
- May last up to 12 months if garage stays below 80°F
Heat and humidity rapidly degrade the fats and vitamins in dry kibble. Storage over 85°F severely shortens shelf life while cooler garages allow longer storage.
Opened Dry Dog Food
- Lasts just 2-4 weeks above 85°F
- Lasts up to 6 weeks if average temps are 80-85°F
- May last 2-3 months if garage stays below 80°F
Once the bag is opened, the food is exposed to more air and moisture. This reduces its shelf life significantly compared to unopened bags.
Unopened Wet Dog Food
- Lasts less than 1 month above 85°F
- May last 1-2 months if kept below 80°F
Even unopened, canned food is vulnerable in the heat and humidity. Storage over 85°F accelerates spoilage while cooler temperatures extend shelf life slightly.
Opened Wet Dog Food
- Lasts less than 3-5 days above 85°F
- Lasts up to 7 days if kept refrigerated
Once opened, cans and pouches of wet food will spoil within days without refrigeration. Never keep opened cans for more than a week, even in the fridge.
These timelines illustrate how heat rapidly accelerates food spoilage. The cooler the storage conditions, the longer dog food will stay fresh. But no type of dog food will stay good indefinitely in a hot garage environment. Monitoring closely and following safe storage guidelines is important.
Dog food can go bad surprisingly quickly when stored in garages or sheds, especially during hot summer months. The heat enables the growth of mold, bacteria, and other contaminants while the food oxidizes and becomes rancid. Dry kibble has more longevity but can still spoil after a couple months. Canned wet foods are highly perishable and will spoil within weeks or even days.
To maximize shelf life, the ideal storage temperature is below 80°F to prevent microbial overgrowth and oxidation. Any food kept in hot garages should be monitored closely and discarded at the first signs of spoilage. Safe handling and limiting garage storage time will help prevent feeding a spoiled diet that could cause gastrointestinal issues in pets. Be vigilant and consider ways to better regulate temperature for food storage. With proper precautions, dogs can continue enjoying fresh and nutritious meals even when the garage is the only storage option.