How do I know if my dogs kibble has gone bad?

Quick Tips

Here are some quick tips for determining if your dog’s kibble has spoiled:

  • Check the expiration or best by date on the bag – if it has passed, the kibble is likely bad
  • Inspect the kibble – signs of spoilage include mold, clumping, an unpleasant smell, and discoloration
  • Feed a small amount to your dog – if they refuse to eat it or get sick, it has likely gone bad
  • Be extra vigilant once kibble is opened – it will spoil faster than unopened
  • When in doubt, throw it out to be safe

Identifying Spoiled Kibble

Dry kibble can last for months if stored properly in an airtight container. However, there are several signs that indicate it has spoiled and become unsafe to feed your dog:

  • Expired – Check the expiration or “best by” date on the kibble bag. Once this date has passed, the kibble’s quality and safety decline.
  • Mold – Examine the kibble pieces closely. Mold will look fuzzy and discolored. Toss the entire bag if you spot any mold.
  • Odor – Kibble that has gone rancid will have an unpleasant, bitter smell instead of its usual aroma.
  • Clumping – Stale kibble pieces will start to stick together and clump up. They may also become hard or crunchy.
  • Discoloration – The kibble may change from its natural color to a yellow, brown, or gray tint as it spoils.
  • Bugs – Spoiled kibble may get infested with tiny bugs. Look closely for small moving specks.

How to Store Kibble Properly

To help your dog’s kibble stay fresh for as long as possible:

  • Store in an airtight container – this prevents moisture and pests from getting in.
  • Keep container in a cool, dry place – avoid temperature extremes and humidity.
  • Wipe interior of container clean before refilling.
  • Fill container only with amount needed for 1-2 weeks – don’t decant whole bag.
  • Reseal bag by rolling top and clipping after each use.
  • Once opened, use kibble within 2-6 weeks – write date opened on bag.
  • Refrigerate opened kibble for maximum freshness.

With proper storage, unopened kibble can last for 9-12 months past its expiration date before going rancid. But once exposed to air, its shelf life decreases significantly.

What to Do with Spoiled Kibble

If you determine your dog’s kibble has spoiled, do not feed it to them or any other pets. Here’s how to properly dispose of it:

  • Place the kibble pieces in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Check with your local waste management about any composting options.
  • Throw away in your regular curbside trash pickup.
  • Dispose of the kibble bag in your recycling bin if possible.
  • Wash the storage container thoroughly before refilling with fresh kibble.
  • Clean food bowls that came in contact with spoiled kibble.

Never attempt to mask the spoilage by adding mix-ins or gravy. This will not make the rancid kibble safe for your dog to eat. When in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe and throw it out.

How to Tell if Dry Kibble is Safe to Feed

Here are some quick checks to determine if your dog’s kibble is still fresh and safe to feed:

Check Fresh Kibble Spoiled Kibble
Expiration date In date Expired
Appearance Original color, no mold Discolored, moldy
Texture Crunchy, separate pieces Stale, clumped, mushy
Smell Meaty, nutty aroma Unpleasant bitter odor
Taste test Crunchy and tasty Rancid, bitter flavor
Pet’s appetite Eats readily Refuses, gets sick

Trust your senses – look, smell, feel, and even taste the kibble if you’re uncertain. And monitor your dog when feeding kibble from a newly opened bag to confirm it agrees with them.

Why Kibble Goes Bad

There are a few reasons why dry dog kibble can spoil:

  • Moisture – Once exposed to humidity or liquids, kibble loses its crunchy texture.
  • Oxygen – When the bag is opened, airflow causes the oils in kibble to oxidize and become rancid.
  • Bacteria – Foodborne pathogens can grow in the kibble, causing mold, slime, or a foul smell.
  • Pests – Bugs like moths, weevils, and roaches can infiltrate and contaminate the kibble.
  • Heat – High temperatures accelerate the spoilage process.

Dry kibble has a longer shelf life than canned dog food because its low moisture content is less prone to spoilage. But no pet food lasts forever.

Health Risks of Spoiled Kibble

Eating rancid kibble puts your dog at risk for several health issues:

  • Digestive upset – Stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea.
  • Dehydration – From fluid loss due to vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Loss of appetite – Refusal to eat any food after bad kibble.
  • Malnutrition – Unable to absorb nutrients from spoiled kibble.
  • Illness – Salmonella, E. coli, and mold toxicity.

Signs your dog may have become sick from spoiled kibble include lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea (especially bloody), and loss of appetite. Seek veterinary care immediately if these symptoms develop after feeding from a compromised kibble bag.

Preventing Kibble Spoilage

You can help prevent your dog’s kibble from prematurely spoiling by:

  • Checking expiration dates at time of purchase.
  • Storing unopened bags in a cool, dry place.
  • Opening only amount needed for 2 weeks at a time.
  • Using an airtight container after opening.
  • Measuring servings into a bowl instead of letting your dog eat directly from bag.
  • Resealing partially used bags tightly after each use.
  • Refrigerating opened bags if not using an airtight container.
  • Planning kibble purchase quantity to use within 2-3 months.

Rotate kibble inventory using a first-in-first-out system. Feed oldest bags first before opening newer ones. Monitor inventory and avoid purchasing more than realistically can be used before spoilage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does dry dog food last after opening?

In an airtight container, dry kibble will stay fresh for 4-6 weeks after opening. Refrigeration can extend this to 6-8 weeks. Without proper storage, opened kibble lasts just 2-3 weeks before spoiling.

Can expired dog food make a dog sick?

Yes, feeding expired kibble or canned food can make dogs very sick. Foodborne bacteria like salmonella and mold thrive in spoiled pet food.

Can dogs tell if food is bad?

Dogs have a very sensitive sense of smell and taste. They can usually detect rancid notes in spoiled kibble and will reject eating it. However, hunger may drive a dog to eat bad kibble.

What nutrients break down as dog food spoils?

Vitamins A, D, E, K, B1 and C are most prone to breakdown as dog food goes rancid. Proteins and good fats are also damaged and become harder to digest.

Is it OK to feed expired dog food if I warm it up?

No, heating or cooking does not make spoiled kibble safe for dogs to eat. The harmful bacteria and toxins remain even after warming.


Checking for signs of spoilage like mold, an unpleasant smell, or bugs can help determine if your dog’s kibble has gone bad. Dispose of rancid kibble properly and never try to mask or revive it. With careful storage and monitoring of expiration dates, you can maintain the safety and nutritional value of your dog’s dry food.

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