How long can dry dog food be stored?

Quick Answers

Dry dog food can typically be stored unopened for 6-12 months past the expiration date. Once opened, dry dog food can last 4-6 weeks if stored properly in an airtight container. The exact shelf life depends on the ingredient quality, storage conditions, and best by date.

How Long Does Dry Dog Food Last Unopened?

Unopened bags of dry dog food have a shelf life of 6-12 months past the expiration date printed on the packaging. This shelf life estimate is based on dry kibble containing 10% or less moisture.

Higher moisture contents, such as found in soft-coated kibbles or freeze-dried dog food, have a shorter unopened shelf life of just 2-3 months past the expiration date.

For optimal freshness and nutritional value, unopened bags of dry dog food are best used within 6 months of the production date for kibble containing less than 10% moisture.

Factors Affecting Shelf Life of Unopened Dry Dog Food

Several factors affect how long unopened dry dog food lasts:

  • Ingredient quality – Low quality ingredients shorten shelf life
  • Preservatives – Antioxidants help prolong shelf life
  • Packaging – Well-sealed bags prevent oxygen exposure
  • Storage conditions – Cool, dry storage extends shelf life

High quality dog foods made with fresh ingredients and minimal preservatives typically have shorter unopened shelf lives around 6 months.

Budget dog foods containing many by-products and artificial preservatives can last up to 12 months unopened. Storage conditions play a big role too.

How to Tell if Unopened Dry Dog Food is Bad

Signs that unopened dry dog food has spoiled and should be discarded include:

  • Expired best by date
  • Bag is torn or has holes
  • Discoloration or gray appearance
  • Mold visible on kibble
  • Rancid smell when bag is opened

Always inspect dry dog food bags for signs of damage or expiration before feeding. Do not feed expired or damaged kibble to your dog.

How Long Does Opened Dry Dog Food Last?

Once opened, the shelf life of dry dog food decreases significantly compared to unopened bags. This is because exposure to oxygen and moisture degrades the fats and proteins.

Most opened bags of dry dog food expire after 4-6 weeks if stored properly in an airtight container. Discard any uneaten portion after this time.

For optimal freshness and nutritional value, use up opened bags within 4 weeks of first opening.

Factors Affecting Opened Dry Dog Food Shelf Life

How long opened dry dog food lasts depends on these key factors:

  • Storage container – Airtight containers prevent oxygen exposure
  • Location – Cupboard or pantry extends life vs countertop
  • Environment – Cool and dry conditions prolong shelf life
  • Moisture content – Soft-coated kibble expires faster than hard kibble

The more exposure to air, light, heat, and moisture, the quicker dry dog food deteriorates. Use an airtight container in a cool, dry pantry to optimize shelf life once opened.

How to Tell if Opened Dry Dog Food is Bad

Look for these signs that opened dry dog food has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • More than 4 weeks after opening
  • Expiration date has passed
  • Grayish tinge to kibble
  • Stale, bland smell
  • Soft, pliable texture
  • Visible mold

Do not feed expired, smelly, or moldy dry dog food to your pet. When in doubt, throw it out.

Storing Dry Dog Food Properly

To maximize the shelf life of dry dog food once opened or unopened, follow these storage tips:

  • Store in a dry pantry or cupboard away from sunlight, moisture, and heat
  • Use an airtight plastic, metal, or glass container with a tight fitting lid
  • Wipe off any condensation or moisture inside container
  • Place container off the floor on a shelf or stand
  • Wash food bowl used to serve kibble after each meal
  • Close bag tightly using rubber band or clip after scooping out desired amount

Proper storage locks out light, air, and moisture to extend the shelf life. An airtight food storage container will keep dry dog food fresher for longer after opening.

Always use oldest dry dog food first and check expiration dates regularly to ensure freshness. Discard any bags or containers past expiration.

Does Freezing Extend the Shelf Life?

Freezing unopened or opened bags of dry dog food can help prolong the shelf life by a few months. To freeze dry dog food:

  • Place unopened bag in airtight freezer bag or sealed container
  • Exclude as much air as possible
  • Freeze for up to 2-3 months
  • Thaw completely before use
  • Use thawed kibble within 2-4 weeks

Freezing stops the natural staling process. Thawing and refreezing will shorten the shelf life.

Most high quality dry dog foods today already have a long 12 month shelf life when unopened, so freezing may not be needed. Check the best by date first.

How To Read Expiration Dates on Dry Dog Food

Dry dog food bags have two main dates to look for:

  • Best by date – Up to 12 month shelf life unopened, 4-6 weeks opened
  • Manufactured or production date – Up to 6 months after production for best quality

The best by date indicates when unopened dry dog food expires and loses nutritional value and flavor. This is typically 6-12 months after the production date.

Once opened, the best by date shortens to just 4-6 weeks after opening.

For the freshest dry dog food, look at the manufactured or production date on the bag. Ideally use unopened kibble within 6 months of this date, or 4 weeks of opening.

Check both dates regularly and discard expired dry dog food. Do not take expiration dates lightly – rancid kibble can make your dog very sick.

The Shelf Life of Some Common Dry Dog Food Brands

Here are the typical shelf lives of some popular dry dog food brands:

Purina Dog Food

  • Unopened: 6-12 months past best by date
  • Opened: 4-6 weeks in airtight container

Blue Buffalo Dog Food

  • Unopened: 6-12 months past best by date
  • Opened: 4-6 weeks in airtight container

Taste of the Wild Dog Food

  • Unopened: 9-12 months past best by date
  • Opened: 4-6 weeks in airtight container

Wellness Dog Food

  • Unopened: 6-9 months past best by date
  • Opened: 4-6 weeks in airtight container

Iams Dog Food

  • Unopened: 9-12 months past best by date
  • Opened: 4-6 weeks in airtight container

Pedigree Dog Food

  • Unopened: 12 months past best by date
  • Opened: 4-6 weeks in airtight container

Check each brand’s recommended best by date and storage guidelines. Once opened, store all dry dog food in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to extend shelf life.

How Long Does Wet Dog Food Last Once Opened?

Unlike dry dog food, wet dog food has a very short shelf life once opened. Wet or canned dog food only lasts for 3-5 days in the refrigerator after opening.

Discard any uneaten wet food after this time. Only portion out the amount needed at each meal.

An opened can or pouch of wet dog food has greater exposure to air, light, and bacteria. Bacteria can quickly multiply on opened wet pet food and spoil it.

For maximum freshness and food safety, use up opened cans of wet dog food within 3 days. Discard any leftovers exceeding 5 days after opening.

Can Expired Dry Dog Food Make a Dog Sick?

Yes, feeding expired dry dog food or kibble beyond its shelf life risks making your dog sick. Consuming rancid fats and bacteria can cause:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Inappetence
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration

Ingredients in dry dog food, like fats and oils, can oxidize and spoil over time. Spoiled fats and proteins are difficult for dogs to digest and can irritate the gastrointestinal tract or even cause pancreatitis.

Moldy dry dog food may contain mycotoxins that are toxic to dogs. Signs of mycotoxin poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and liver damage.

Prevent foodborne illness in dogs by discarding expired, spoiled, or moldy dry dog food promptly. Do not take a chance with your dog’s health.

Can Stale Dry Dog Food Make a Dog Sick?

Stale dry dog food may not directly make your dog sick. But a bland taste, degraded nutrients, and reduced appeal can cause:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Poor skin and coat
  • Lackluster energy

While not immediately dangerous, feeding a stale “leftover” diet over time can negatively impact your dog’s health and quality of life.

Always feed freshly opened bags and discard any kibble past its prime to provide optimal nutrition. Rotate stock regularly to ensure freshness.

If your dog refuses to eat or loses interest in a stale food, consider transitioning to a new formula or brand your dog enjoys. A diet with poor palatability makes it hard to feed your dog properly.

How Should Dry Dog Food Be Stored When Traveling?

When traveling or on holiday with your dog, take these precautions to store dry dog food:

  • Pack only amount needed for the trip
  • Use an airtight plastic, metal, or glass container
  • Exclude excess air from containers before sealing
  • Store in coolest place possible away from heat sources
  • Avoid leaving kibble in hot vehicles
  • For extended trips, consider freeze-dried or canned food

Dry kibble has a tendency to become stale, break down, and degrade faster when traveling. Limiting oxygen exposure helps optimize freshness.

If camping or staying where storage is difficult, bring canned or pouched dog food instead of kibble. Discard any opened leftover canned food not eaten within 5 days.

When traveling in hot climates or during summer, do not leave dry dog food locked in vehicles, trailers, or caravans for extended periods. Excessive heat speeds up spoilage.


With proper storage methods, dry dog food can safely be stored for 6-12 months unopened, or 4-6 weeks once opened. For maximum freshness, use unopened bags within 6 months and opened kibble within 4 weeks.

Discard moldy, expired, or spoiled dry food immediately. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to optimize shelf life. Avoid waste by purchasing food as needed and rotating stock.

If you notice signs of staleness or spoilage in your dog’s kibble, transition to a new bag or brand. Feeding rancid dog food risks gastrointestinal illness or toxicity. By monitoring expiration dates and proper storage, you can safely feed and enjoy quality dry dog food for months. Just remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

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