Is canned dog food OK in the heat?

Canned dog food can be perfectly safe to feed dogs during hot summer months, as long as proper storage and handling procedures are followed. The key factors to consider are avoiding direct sunlight exposure and extreme heat over prolonged periods.

Does heat affect canned dog food?

Yes, heat can damage canned dog food over time by affecting the quality, texture, and nutritional value. High temperatures can cause the fats in canned food to oxidize and become rancid. The food may take on an unappealing brownish tint and smell bad. Heat can also break down vitamins like vitamin C and thiamine.

However, these changes happen gradually over weeks or months of continuous high heat exposure. Short-term warmth during transport or storage will not instantly spoil canned dog food or make it unsafe.

How to store canned dog food in summer

The ideal storage place for canned dog food in summer is indoors in a climate-controlled room. Air conditioning helps regulate temperature and humidity. Avoid storing cans in places like garages, sheds, or outdoor kennels which get very hot.

If indoor storage isn’t possible, at least keep the canned food out of direct sunlight and away from metal surfaces or walls which radiate more heat. Store cans in the coolest part of the non-air-conditioned space.

Tips for summer canned food storage:

  • Store unopened cans in a pantry or interior closet
  • Refrigerating cans is also an option
  • If kept outdoors, use an insulated cooler or storage bin
  • Keep cans under cover and out of the sun
  • Avoid sheds, metal garages, or vehicles which get extremely hot

How hot is too hot for canned dog food?

There is no precise maximum temperature canned dog food can tolerate before becoming unsafe. But as a general guideline:

  • Storage below 75°F is ideal
  • Temperatures up to 90°F for short periods are still safe
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to heat over 90-100°F

Use common sense – if the cans feel hot to the touch, the temperature is probably exceeding a safe range. Spoilage is more likely above 105°F.

Signs of heat-damaged canned dog food

Look for these signs that indicate canned food has been compromised by heat:

  • Swollen can – Internal pressure builds from gas released by spoilage
  • Bulging or dented can – Indicates bacteria growth inside
  • Rust spots – Caused by chemical reactions from heat
  • Separated ingredients – Contents settle and float in liquid
  • Discolored meat – Red meat turns brownish
  • Slimy texture – High heat alters the juices
  • Off odors – Smells rancid, rotten, or unpleasant

If a can shows these signs, return it to the store for a refund or toss it in the garbage. Do not feed it to your dog.

Is refrigeration necessary?

Refrigerating unopened canned dog food is an extra precaution that will certainly help it stay fresh longer and prevent nutrient loss from heat. However, refrigeration is not strictly necessary for short term storage, as long as the cans are kept indoors and away from excessive heat and sunlight.

Once open, canned food does need refrigerating. Transfer any uneaten portion to a sealed container or zip-top bag before refrigerating.

How long does canned dog food last at room temperature?

An unopened can of dog food will typically stay fresh at room temperature for:

  • 2+ years if stored below 75°F
  • 1-2 years if stored between 75°F and 90°F
  • Less than 1 year if frequently above 90°F

After opening, leftover canned food should be used within 4-5 days if kept in the refrigerator, or within 2 days at room temperature.

Is it safe to freeze canned dog food?

Freezing is not recommended for canned dog foods. The can could burst as the contents expand during freezing. Also, freezing and thawing will negatively affect the texture.

If transferring leftovers to a plastic container, those portions could be frozen for 1-2 months. But avoid freezing foods in a can.

Tips for feeding canned food in summer

Here are some tips for safely handling canned dog food during hot weather:

  • Refrigerate opened cans and use within 2 days
  • Discard any leftovers that smell bad or look spoiled
  • Wash hands before and after handling canned food
  • Use a clean can opener and bowl each time
  • Discard any food not eaten within 30-60 minutes
  • Keep storage areas clean to avoid contamination

Is canned food more at risk than dry kibble?

Dry kibble has a naturally longer shelf life compared to canned foods. The low moisture content and lack of animal proteins make kibble very stable at room temperature. Still, heat and humidity can eventually cause kibble to become stale, lose nutrients, or spoil with mold.

Canned food has a shorter shelf life and the can’s contents are more vulnerable to heat damage. However, as long as proper storage guidelines are followed, canned foods are perfectly safe options for dogs even in hot weather.

Best practices for transporting canned dog food

When transporting canned food in a vehicle, take steps to protect it such as:

  • Park in shade; use sun shades on windows
  • Insulate cans with towels or blankets
  • Use cooler bags, or freezer packs
  • Limit time in vehicle during hot days
  • Cover cans with lid if vehicle is not air-conditioned

Avoid leaving canned food in a hot car for more than an hour. The interior of a vehicle heats up very quickly. Look for visible signs of swelling or damage before feeding it to your dog.

Is feeding warm canned food dangerous?

Feeding canned food that is warm but not hot, around body temperature, does not pose a serious health risk to dogs. However, there are some factors to consider:

  • Nutrient levels may start declining at warmer temperatures
  • Fat oxidation accelerates above 75°F, resulting in rancidity
  • Warm food will smell and taste less appealing

While not outright dangerous in the short term, allowing canned food to heat up excessively could affect the smell, taste and nutritional quality. It is better to feed canned dog food chilled or at room temperature.

Are some dog breeds more vulnerable?

Dogs with flat faces like Pugs and Bulldogs are vulnerable to heat stress in general. However, they do not have special sensitivity to canned food stored in warmth – this affects all dogs equally. Additional precautions in high heat may be warranted for dogs who are very old, sick, or on medication which inhibits their ability to regulate body temperature.

What human foods present a risk?

Some human foods commonly given as treats should be avoided if they have sat for hours in the heat, such as:

  • Dairy products like cheese or yogurt
  • Cooked meats, eggs, or fish
  • Cut fruits or vegetables
  • Deli meat, bacon, or hot dogs
  • Cooked pasta, rice, or beans

These items can easily harbor dangerous bacteria when kept at warm “danger zone” temperatures between 40°F and 140°F for too long. Be cautious serving them after they have baked in a hot car or sat on a picnic table in the sun for hours.

Food Item Bacteria Risk
Dairy Products Salmonella, E. Coli, Listeria
Cooked Meats Salmonella, E. Coli
Produce Salmonella, E. Coli
Deli Meats Listeria

These items should be kept refrigerated. Discard anything perishable left sitting in heat for over two hours to be safe.


While heat can damage canned dog food over time, brief storage in warm places or transport in hot vehicles does not create an immediate safety risk. Use common sense, keep cans out of direct sun, promptly refrigerate opened cans, and inspect for signs of spoilage before feeding. With proper handling, canned food can be part of a safe summertime diet for dogs.

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