Is wet dog food good if left out overnight?

Leaving wet dog food out overnight is generally not recommended. However, there are some things to consider when deciding if it’s safe for your dog to eat wet food that has been sitting out.

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to common questions about leaving wet dog food out:

  • Wet or canned dog food can spoil if left out of the fridge for too long
  • Food that has been left out for more than 4 hours (or 2 hours in hot weather) should be thrown away
  • Bacteria like salmonella can grow quickly on wet food at room temperature
  • Eating spoiled wet food can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or other GI issues
  • The fridge will keep wet food fresh for 3-5 days after opening the can
  • Any food your dog doesn’t finish should be refrigerated promptly

How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out?

Once opened and exposed to air, wet dog food will start to spoil. The exact timeline depends on several factors:

  • Room temperature – Food spoils much quicker at warm room temperatures than when refrigerated.
  • Ingredients – Food with fresh meats and fewer preservatives tend to spoil faster.
  • Container – Food left in the can may last a bit longer than if transferred to a bowl.
  • Exposure – The more air the food is exposed to, the faster it will spoil.

As a general rule, wet dog food should not be left out at room temperature for more than 4 hours. In hot weather (over 90°F), food should be refrigerated after 2 hours or less. If you’re unsure how long the food has been sitting out, it’s better to be safe and throw it away.

Why Wet Dog Food Spoils Quickly

There are several reasons why wet and canned dog foods spoil more quickly than dry kibble:

  • High moisture content – Canned food averages around 75-78% moisture versus 10% or less in dry food.
  • Lack of preservatives – Some canned foods have fewer preservatives than dry food.
  • Raw ingredients – Wet foods may contain raw meats, eggs, etc. which spoil easily.
  • Air exposure – Once opened, the food is exposed to oxygen which speeds spoilage.
  • Warm temperatures – Bacteria multiply faster as temperatures rise.

Once conditions are right for spoilage, bacteria and mold can quickly overwhelm the food, making it unsafe for dogs to eat.

Signs Wet Dog Food Has Spoiled

Here are some signs that indicate your dog’s wet food has already spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Smell – Rancid, sour, or unpleasant odors.
  • Appearance – Mold, slimy texture, unnatural colors.
  • Spongy can – Bulging or spongy packaging can indicate gas from bacterial growth.
  • Change in consistency – Separated liquid or completely dried out food.
  • Discoloration – Dramatic color changes compared to a fresh package.

Trust your senses – if the food looks, smells or feels bad, get rid of it!

Dangers of Spoiled Wet Dog Food

Eating spoiled canned or wet food poses some health risks for dogs including:

  • Food poisoning – From salmonella, E. coli, listeria or other bacteria.
  • Gastrointestinal upset – Vomiting, diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain.
  • Dehydration – Which can be serious if the dog has a prolonged bout of diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Nutritional deficiencies – The food may have lost key vitamins/minerals.
  • Toxins from mold – Some molds produce mycotoxins that cause neurological issues.

Puppies, seniors and dogs with compromised immune systems are most at risk for complications. But even healthy adult dogs can get sick from eating spoiled wet food.

How to Store Wet Dog Food Safely

Here are some tips for safely storing wet and canned dog food:

  • Refrigerate opened cans/pouches right away and use within 5 days.
  • Transfer unused portion to a sealed container rather than leaving it in the can.
  • Position opened cans so the food is completely covered by the lid.
  • Use a new bowl for each meal rather than leaving food stand in the bowl.
  • Throw away any uneaten wet food after 20-30 minutes.
  • Keep cans in the fridge after opening and tightly sealed between meals.
  • Do not mix fresh food with the leftovers from a previous meal.
  • Clean food bowls thoroughly between uses.

Following proper storage guidelines will help minimize bacterial growth and keep your dog’s food fresher longer.

Can Dogs Eat Spoiled Wet Food?

It’s not recommended for dogs to eat wet food that has spoiled. The risks outweigh any potential benefits.

While some dogs may have strong stomachs and show no symptoms after eating a mildly spoiled meal, there’s no way to know if or when sickness will occur. It’s like playing food poisoning roulette.

Even if the food just smells a little “off” or has been left out too long, it’s better to be safe than sorry and toss it out. Don’t take a gamble with your dog’s health.

Should You Refrigerate All Wet Dog Food?

Yes, all opened wet and canned dog food should be refrigerated until use. Here’s why:

  • It slows bacterial growth and enzymatic breakdown of nutrients.
  • Ingredients like meat and fish spoil quickly at room temp.
  • The cool temp maintains texture and flavor longer.
  • Leftovers can be safely stored for a few days.
  • The can itself won’t keep food as fresh as the fridge.

Unopened canned food can be stored at room temperature up to two years or until the best by date. But once exposed to air, refrigeration is the best way to maximize freshness and minimize spoilage.

What Temperature Should Wet Dog Food Be?

For safety and palatability, wet dog food should be served at these optimal temperatures:

  • Refrigerated – 36° to 40°F
  • Room temperature – No more than 4 hours at 68° to 72°F
  • Warmed – Up to 100°F for no more than 15 minutes (optional)
  • Frozen – Thaw in fridge before feeding

Food left at room temperature for longer than 4 hours or in environments over 90°F should be discarded. Allow refrigerated food to come closer to room temp before serving.

Can You Microwave Wet Dog Food?

It’s not recommended to microwave canned or wet dog food. The reasons are:

  • Microwaves heat unevenly and can leave “cold spots.”
  • It can change the texture of the food.
  • Nutrients may be lost or chemicals leeched from plastic containers.
  • Already spoiled food won’t be made safe by microwaving.
  • There are better warming options, like warm water baths.

If you want to take the chill off refrigerated wet food, place the bowl in some warm water for a few minutes until it reaches room temperature. But microwaving is not advised.

Can You Freeze Wet Dog Food?

Freezing is a safe method for long-term storage of unopened canned or pouched wet dog food. It stops the spoilage process by halting bacterial growth and chemical reactions.

To freeze wet dog food:

  • Leave sealed cans/pouches in original packaging.
  • Wrap opened cans tightly in plastic wrap before freezing.
  • Portion pouches into daily servings before freezing.
  • Use freezer bags or airtight containers.
  • Press out all excess air before sealing.
  • Label with name and date frozen.
  • Use within 2-3 months for best quality.

Thaw frozen wet food gradually in the fridge before feeding. Do not microwave frozen foods as this can create hot spots.

Is it Safe to Refreeze Thawed Wet Dog Food?

Once thawed, wet dog food should not be refrozen, according to USDA guidelines. The reasons are:

  • Bacteria like salmonella may start growing again as food thaws.
  • Each freeze/thaw cycle decreases food safety.
  • Quality declines with each thawing session.
  • Re-freezing can damage texture and nutritional value.
  • Refrozen food won’t keep as long the second time.

For optimal safety and quality, wet dog food should only be frozen once. After thawing, leftover portions should be refrigerated and used within 5 days.

What Happens if a Dog Eats Spoiled Wet Food?

If a dog eats wet dog food that has spoiled, the possible effects include:

  • Nausea – Regurgitation and clear vomit are common.
  • Diarrhea – Loose stools or bloody diarrhea from irritation.
  • Dehydration – Due to fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Abdominal pain – Colic, gas, and belly tenderness.
  • Loss of appetite – Usually temporary during illness.
  • Lethargy – Due to dehydration and discomfort.

Symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea typically start within hours of ingestion and last 24-48 hours as the stomach and intestines purge themselves of the spoiled contents. Serious complications are unlikely in healthy dogs. But get prompt veterinary care if symptoms are extreme or prolonged.

How to Clean a Dog Food Bowl

To help minimize the risk of food spoilage, it’s important to properly clean your dog’s food and water bowls between uses. Here are some tips:

  • Wash bowls in hot, soapy water after each meal.
  • Use a scrub brush or sponge to remove stuck-on food.
  • Rinse bowls thoroughly to eliminate soap residue.
  • Air dry bowls completely before refilling.
  • Periodically disinfect bowls with diluted bleach.
  • Wash bowls in the dishwasher or soak in vinegar water.
  • Discard cracked bowls that can harbor bacteria.
  • Always provide your dog fresh, clean water daily.

Following a consistent bowl cleaning routine removes germs and minimizes contamination risk when serving your dog’s next meal.

Best Practices for Wet Dog Food Safety

Here are some best practices for handling wet and canned dog food safely:

  • Select reputable brands and inspect packaging before buying.
  • Check expiration dates and don’t purchase food past its prime.
  • Never use bulging, dented, or rusted cans.
  • Refrigerate opened cans and leftover food promptly.
  • Throw away any expired or moldy food.
  • Discard food left at room temperature more than 4 hours.
  • Never mix fresh food with older leftovers.
  • Serve at proper temperatures – refrigerated or slightly warmed.
  • Wash dog bowls thoroughly after each meal.
  • Freeze unopened cans/pouches for long-term storage.

Following recommended food safety guidelines will help keep your dog healthy and strong.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can an opened can of wet dog food sit out?

An opened can of wet dog food should not sit out at room temperature for more than 2-4 hours. For optimal freshness and food safety, opened canned food should be promptly refrigerated.

Can dogs eat canned food after being opened?

Yes, dogs can eat canned food safely after opening as long as it is promptly refrigerated and consumed within 3-5 days. Discard any wet food left sitting out for more than 4 hours.

Does wet dog food need to be refrigerated after opening?

Yes, opened packages and cans of wet dog food should always be refrigerated. The high moisture content causes rapid spoilage at room temperature once exposed to air.

Why does wet dog food go bad so quickly?

Wet dog foods spoil quickly due to high moisture content, air exposure, lack of preservatives, and susceptible ingredients like raw meat. Refrigeration helps prolong freshness and shelf life once opened.

Can dogs get sick from spoiled wet food?

Yes, dogs can experience vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and other symptoms if they consume wet dog food that has spoiled. Severity depends on the dog’s health status and amount consumed.


Wet or canned dog food provides important moisture and nutrition for dogs when used properly. But once opened, it requires refrigeration and has a shorter shelf life than dry kibble. Allowing wet food to sit out at room temperature for more than 4 hours (or 2 hours in hot conditions) enables rapid bacterial growth that can sicken dogs. Always discard packaging that appears swollen or is past its expiration date. When unsure if older leftovers are still safe, don’t take risks – throw it out! With proper handling and storage, opened cans of wet dog food can safely be refrigerated for 3-5 days.

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