How long will wet dog food last?

Wet or canned dog food can be a convenient way to feed your dog, but you may wonder how long it will stay fresh once opened. Here’s what you need to know about how long wet dog food lasts once opened, how to store it properly, and signs that your dog’s wet food has spoiled.

How long does opened wet dog food last in the fridge?

Once you open a can or pouch of wet dog food, it should be refrigerated and then used within 5-7 days. The exact shelf life depends on the specific ingredients, but most opened canned wet foods and foil pouches will stay fresh for 5-7 days when properly stored in the refrigerator.

Factors impacting shelf life

There are a few factors that can impact how long wet dog food will stay fresh after opening:

  • Ingredients – Foods with more natural preservatives tend to have shorter shelf lives. Wet foods with more synthetic preservatives may last 7-10 days.
  • Package date – Food that is already nearing its “best by” date when you open it will have a shorter refrigerated shelf life.
  • Storage conditions – Proper refrigeration is key. Food left out at room temperature will spoil faster.
  • Exposure to air – Repeated opening of the container exposes the food to more air, shortening how long it will last.

How to properly store opened wet dog food

To get the most shelf life out of your opened wet dog food, follow these storage guidelines:

  • Refrigerate unused portion immediately after opening. Do not leave wet food sitting out.
  • Place opened can or pouch in an airtight container or zip-top bag. This prevents air exposure.
  • Press out excess air before sealing to remove oxygen.
  • Store in the back of the fridge, not the door. The coldest section will preserve freshness best.
  • Use oldest food first and check “best by” dates. Don’t let food expire before using.
  • Never freeze wet dog food after opening. Freezing and thawing will affect texture.

How to tell if opened wet dog food is bad

Here are signs that your opened wet dog food has spoiled and should be thrown out:

  • Mold – Discard food at first signs of mold. Mold spores spread rapidly.
  • Sliminess – Increased mucus-like texture indicates spoilage.
  • Unpleasant smell – Rancid or sour odor is a red flag.
  • Change in color – Gradual unnatural darkening over time signals spoilage.
  • Expired date – Do not feed wet food past the “best by” date printed on the can or pouch.

When in doubt, remember the old adage “If it smells bad, don’t feed it!” Trust your sense of smell over dates.

Does refrigeration extend wet dog food shelf life?

Yes, proper refrigeration can extend the shelf life of opened wet dog food significantly. Here is a table comparing shelf life with and without refrigeration:

Storage Method Shelf Life
Room temperature 2 hours
Refrigerated (40°F or below) 5-7 days

As you can see, cold refrigerator temperatures dramatically slow down bacteria growth and enzymatic breakdown of ingredients. Keeping opened wet food chilled preserves freshness and prevents spoilage.

Does freezing extend the shelf life of wet dog food?

Freezing unused wet dog food is not recommended for extending its shelf life. Here are some downsides to freezing previously opened wet dog food:

  • Can lead to texture changes – Freezing and thawing makes food mushier.
  • Affects flavor – Can make food taste rancid or bitter.
  • Promotes separation – Ingredients can separate or water can leach out.
  • Causes freezer burn – Oxygen contact creates dried out patches.

For best quality, refrigerate leftover wet dog food in an airtight container and use within 5-7 days. Discard any uneaten portion after that time.

Does canned dog food expire?

Yes, canned wet dog food does have an expiration date and “best by” date printed on the can or pouch. Dry kibble also expires eventually. Here are some general guidelines for wet dog food expiration:

  • Unopened cans – 2-5 years from production date.
  • Pouches – 18-24 months unopened.
  • After opening – 5-7 days in fridge.

The exact shelf life depends on ingredients and storage conditions. But generally speaking, unopened canned dog food has a shelf life of at least 2 years from the date of manufacture.

How to read expiration dates

Check your dog food cans and pouches for one of these commonly used expiration date labels:

  • “Best by” date – Recommended for best flavor/nutrition.
  • “Sell by” date – For retailers to know when to pull from shelves.
  • “Use by” date – Last date recommended for use.
  • Production/lot codes – Used to track when product was made.

For optimal freshness and nutritional value, use wet foods by the “best by” or “use by” dates on the packaging.

Does expiration date mean dog food is unsafe?

An expired date does not necessarily mean the dog food is unsafe to eat, but it does indicate diminished quality. Here is what you can expect if you feed expired wet dog food:

  • Reduced nutrition – Vitamins and antioxidants degrade over time.
  • Off flavors – Fatty acids and proteins break down causing rancidity.
  • Upset stomach – Outdated foods can cause vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Mold risk – Geriatric foods may grow mold after expiration date.

Ideally, you should discard and replace any wet food that is past the expiration date for optimal nutrition. But if food was properly stored, slight expiration should not pose any serious risks.

How long does wet dog food last after opening?

The shelf life of opened wet dog food depends on proper refrigeration and exposure to air. Here are general guidelines for shelf life after opening:

  • Can – 5-7 days
  • Pouch – 3-5 days
  • Homemade/fresh – 2-3 days

Depending on the ingredients, opened wet food lasts around 5-7 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Homemade and ultra-fresh foods have a shorter shelf life of just 2-3 days.

Maximizing shelf life after opening

To maximize the shelf life of your opened wet dog food, be sure to:

  • Refrigerate unused portion immediately.
  • Seal tightly in an airtight storage container.
  • Minimize air exposure and cross-contamination.
  • Use oldest portions first.

Proper refrigeration and sealing in an airtight container are keys to making opened wet foods last 5-7 days.

How long does wet dog food last in a dog bowl?

Once wet dog food is poured into your dog’s bowl, it should be consumed within 30-60 minutes. Do not leave wet food sitting out in your dog’s dish for longer than 1 hour before discarding.

Here are approximate time limits for wet dog food left in dog bowls:

  • In refrigerator: 8 hours
  • Countertop: 2 hours
  • Outdoor temperature: 1 hour
  • Dog bowl: 30-60 minutes

Bacteria thrives on moist foods left at room temperature. For safety, discard any wet food not eaten within an hour after serving.

How long after opening is canned dog food good for?

The shelf life for opened canned dog food stored in the refrigerator is 5-7 days. Canned wet foods will stay fresh for 5-7 days after opening if refrigerated and stored properly in an airtight container.

Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life after opening canned dog food:

  • Refrigerate unused portion immediately after opening.
  • Seal the remainder tightly in a clean airtight container.
  • Press out any air bubbles before sealing to remove oxygen.
  • Store canned food towards the back of the fridge, not in the door.
  • Use opened food within 5-7 days and discard any older portions.

Following these guidelines helps unused portions stay fresh for 7 days or more after first opening the can.

Does pump style wet dog food last longer?

Wet dog foods packaged in pump-style containers can stay fresh a few days longer than traditional pull-top cans. Here’s a comparison of shelf life for different wet food packaging:

Packaging Type Unopened Shelf Life Opened Fridge Life
Can 2-5 years 5-7 days
Pouch 18-24 months 3-5 days
Pump container 18-24 months 7-10 days

As you can see, the pump mechanism allows less air exposure each time which extends refrigerated life after opening up to 10 days. But all opened wet foods should be used quickly.

Will freezer burned wet dog food make a dog sick?

Feeding freezer burned wet dog food is not recommended but may not make your dog sick. Freezer burn causes dry spots and rancid flavors, but does not mean the food is unsafe. Here are some potential risks of feeding freezer burned wet dog food:

  • Nutrient degradation – Loss of vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Rancid taste – Unpleasant flavors dogs may avoid.
  • Digestive upset – Stool irregularity or vomiting if food tastes bad.
  • Picky eating – Dogs may begin refusing the food.

Freezer burned food won’t directly cause illness, but the resulting taste and texture changes may lead your dog to reject the food. Try to avoid freezer burned wet foods when possible.

Can dogs get sick from spoiled wet food?

Yes, dogs can get sick from eating wet dog food that has spoiled, but the risks depend on the level of spoilage:

  • Mild spoilage – Stomach upset or diarrhea
  • Moderate spoilage – Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy
  • Severe spoilage – Toxin poisoning, E. coli, Salmonella

Moldy, rancid, and rotten wet foods contain bacteria and toxins that can all make your dog sick. Discard wet foods at the first signs of spoilage before bacteria has time to multiply.

Signs of illness

Watch for these symptoms if your dog eats spoiled wet food:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration

See your vet if symptoms last over 24 hours or seem severe. Prompt treatment can help prevent serious complications.

What happens if a dog eats spoiled wet food?

If a dog eats wet dog food that has begun to spoil, the possible effects include:

  • Upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea – from bacteria growth and toxins
  • Dehydration – from fluid loss if vomiting/diarrhea persists
  • Inappetence – loss of appetite due to nausea
  • Lethargy – dull energy due to dehydration or infection
  • Pancreatitis – if rancid fats inflame the pancreas

The severity of symptoms depends on the level of spoilage, the dog’s size, and the amount consumed. Small taste testing rarely causes issues. Large, prolonged meals of rotten food can cause acute illness.

When to see the vet

Contact your vet if your dog experiences:

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Signs of blood in stool or vomit
  • Loss of energy, appetite, or thirst
  • High fever
  • Swelling or bloating

Severe or persisting symptoms may require medications, IV fluids, or hospitalization. Call right away if your dog seems very ill after eating spoiled wet food.


Wet and canned dog foods provide great taste and nutrition, but their opened shelf life is limited. Follow the 5-7 day fridge guideline after opening and be alert to any signs of spoilage. With proper refrigerated storage, wet foods can continue providing quality nutrition for almost a week after opening. Check labels carefully and feed by expiration or “best by” dates for optimal freshness. Discard any wet food that smells bad or looks moldy.

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