Unopened Dog Food Shelf Life and "Best By" Dates Read This Before Buying!
Are you practising safe dog food storage methods?
Are you guilty of going to great lengths to buy a premium holistic dog food for your precious pooch, but forgetting to take into account the various dog food storage factors?
Maybe you open the bag, carefully transfer all the kibble into pet food containers, and - Presto! - You innocently believe you've done everything to ensure you're feeding your fur baby the freshest and best quality dog food ingredients possible?
For your dog's health, keep in mind that the quality of dry pet food is affected by various dog food storage methods and conditions long before you even bring the food home.
In the following article we go behind the scenes and investigate details on the dog food storage of unopened dog food, and give you tips on what to look for before you grab the first can or bag of kibble off the shelf.
We'll explain what you really need to know about pet food shelf life, and "Best By" dates. (Often also stated as "Use By" or "Best if Used By" dates).
For instance, do you know the difference between the food shelf life of canned dog food versus dry dog food? What about the "Best By" date on that dog food bag or can of dog food. What do the pet food manufacturers say it means, and what dog food storage tips do we give?
Do you buy bulk dog food and keep it in dog food storage bins? Is this wise?
We highly recommend you also take a minute to read our eye-opening article on Pet Food Containers and Oxidization. You'll be amazed at what happens once you open that bag of kibble.
Our easy-to-read chart on the Best Pet Food Storage Methods gives you the do's and dont's on correctly storing your dog's food. Should you dump that puppy kibble directly into pet food storage bins? Or is it safer to store it in its original dog food bag? Why?
Now! Let's begin with the full scoop on unopened dog food, along with our dog food storage recommendations.
Unopened Dog Food - “Best By” Dates, Expiry, etc.
All pet food should have a “Best By” date on the packaging - normally on the back or side of the dog food bag, and at the bottom of the can.
The “Best By” date - according to the pet food manufacturers - means that, by this date, the quality of the dog food ingredients have likely diminished, resulting in a less nutritious dog food. However, as per the dog food companies, it does not signify an official “expiry” date, and there should be no concerns that the dog food is contaminated, or poses a health issue for our pets.
As with human foods, the shelf life of dog food varies widely from product to product.
Dry dog food and treats can retain their quality anywhere from about four months to three years, depending on the dog food preservatives used, the quality of the packaging, and dog food storage conditions.
Canned dog food shelf life is a different story entirely. Canned food can retain its quality for two to five years from the date of canning. However, because canning is a high-heat process, the food is commercially sterile. This means, in theory - assuming the product is stored at the right temperatures (75° F and below), and the can is undamaged - canned pet foods can retain their safety and nutritional value for very long periods of time.
Note, AAFCO does not require pet food companies to disclose on their packaging, the date that the pet food was actually made. Therefore, the “Best By” date, by itself, gives no indication of the age of the dog food, or how long it's been sitting on the shelf.
Begin by remembering that the pet food didn't magically land up on the pet food shelf. We can never know all the details of its journey and what dog food storage conditions it encountered right from the time it was packaged, through to its final arrival and placement on the shelf.
All foods, whether they're preserved or not, are affected by various environmental factors including temperature and light.
You also definitely want to keep an eye open for damaged packaging and dented, bulging, leaking or rusting cans of pet food.
Be safe! Do not feed your pet a damaged product, whether it's on sale, or whether they're giving it away!
Dents in food cans can damage the seals and cause leakage. Microoganisms can then enter the product and cause it to spoil. A bulging can is an indication that the food may be contaminated. This can cause serious illness to your pooch.
Find Out When the Dog Food was Actually Manufactured
Here's how ...
Contact the dog food manufacturer and ask what the food shelf life is of their individual canned and dry dog foods.
It’s then easy to perform a quick calculation. For example, let’s assume we’re told the shelf life is 24 months, and the Best By date says December 2010. We can then determine that the kibble was manufactured 24 months prior to December 2010, i.e. December 2008.
Purchase Dry Kibble Manufactured Within the Last Six Months.
Don’t automatically assume that if you buy and use either canned or dry dog food before the Best By date, that it's a guarantee you’re feeding your pooch the best quality dog food ingredients.
Ever purchased milk well before the expiry date, only to find it's totally sour? Or opened a new tub of cottage cheese to find it full of mold? Remember that Best By dates for any consumable products should never be considered gospel. There are too many intricate factors at play.
If your dog suddenly turns up his nose at his food at any time, it could be his way of letting you know the food has spoiled.
Unopened Canned Dog Food
Wet dog foods retain their quality for much longer than dry dog food, due to the canning process. However, you should still ensure you purchase and use the food before the Best By date.
If you're tempted to go this route and buy bulk dog food, canned foods should be fine. However, for dry kibble, do first check whether its approaching the Best By date. We also don't suggest buying dry dog food in extra large bags -- An opened bag of dog food should last your pooch no more than six weeks. (Covered in detail in our article about storing kibble in dog food storage containers).
As a rule of thumb, dog food approaching its "Best Before" date is generally palatable and perfectly safe. However, as an extra precaution, it's worth keeping an extra close eye on your pooch, and immediately cease feeding the food if you have any concerns. Again, if your pooch turns his nose up in disgust and refuses to eat the food, you don't want to ignore this!
(As a side note, the Dog Food Scoop Team would personally choose to feed our dogs a holistic dog food that was "less nutritious", as it approached the Best By date, as opposed to choosing to feed a supermarket dog food brand ... even if their food was made five minutes ago! ;)
There you have it! And to think most people only worry about dog food storage methods and food shelf life after they've opened that dog food bag!