When you open a new bag of kibble or can of wet food, what do you do with the amount leftover? Unless your dog eats a whole can of food each day or devours an entire bag of dog food in one sitting, you’re going to need a storage container.
Keep reading to learn about the top three things that cause spoilage for dog food and to receive some simple tips for storing your dog’s food.
The Top 3 Things That Cause Food Spoilage
Proper storage is essential for dog food because you don’t want to risk feeding your dog spoiled food. Dogs have pretty strong stomachs so they can eat things that might make you cringe, but they aren’t immune to food-borne illness.
To keep your dog safe, you need to keep his food fresh. In order to do that, you need to understand what makes dog food go bad so you can prevent it. Here are the top three things that cause dog food to spoil:
- Air – Exposure to air will also expose it to bacteria. Once bacteria get into your dog’s food, they will multiply and they could make your dog sick. It is also important to know that when dog food is exposed to air, it starts to slowly break down – if you don’t store your food in an airtight container, it will start to degrade in terms of its nutritional value.
- Moisture – When food gets wet it tends to grow mold and that’s not something you want to feed your dog. It’s not just water and other liquids you need to worry about spilling on your dog’s food, either – you also have to keep an eye on humidity levels. Dog food should be stored in a cool, dry place to preserve its freshness and nutritional integrity.
- Temperature – Dog food is like any other food – it is going to spoil faster in high temperatures. Dog food should never be exposed to temperatures higher than 100°F, though the ideal storage temperature is much lower. Some of the best places to store food is in the kitchen pantry or in the basement, as long as it doesn’t get too hot or too humid.
Now that you know what causes dog food to spoil, you are ready to learn how to prevent it. The simplest way is to purchase a food storage container that will keep your dog’s food fresh.
Benefits of Storage Containers
Before getting into the details of different storage containers and tips for storing pet food, let’s take a minute to talk about the benefits of using a storage container for pet food. Here are some of the top benefits you should consider:
- Storage containers will keep your dog’s food fresh for the duration of its shelf life.
- A storage container offers more convenience over bags of kibble, especially for the larger sizes.
- Storage containers help to protect dog food against air and moisture which can contribute to the growth of mold and bacteria.
- A storage container keeps your dog’s food safe from insect pests as well as other animals.
- Storage containers help to preserve the taste and texture of your dog’s food.
- Some food storage containers can store and dispense the food.
- Certain storage containers have wheels on them for easy transport at feeding time.
As you can see, there are many practical benefits to investing in a quality pet food storage solution. In the next section, you’ll receive an overview of the different types of containers you can choose from.
Types of Storage Containers
Dog food containers come in all shapes and sizes, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. To give you an idea what to look for when shopping for these containers, here is an overview of some of the most popular types you’ll come across:
- Plastic Storage Bins – Plastic storage bins for pet food are one of the most popular options because they come in a wide range of sizes, they are lightweight, and they come with tight-fitting lids. There are also plastic storage bins that have two separate containers, one for treats and one for kibble.
- Rolling Plastic Bin – This type of plastic storage bin has wheels on the bottom so you can roll it out of the pantry at feeding time and then roll it back out of the way. These bins come in all shapes and sizes to accommodate small bags of treats all the way up to big bags of kibble.
- Metal Storage Bin – If you need a very large storage container for your food, a metal storage bin might be a more cost-effective option than a plastic container. Just make sure that it’s large enough to fit the whole bag of food and that the lid creates an airtight seal.
- Plastic Storage Vault – A variation on the plastic storage bin, this type of dog food container has a circular lid that spins open and closed to create an airtight seal. These storage vaults come in a wide range of sizes and they usually cost a little more than basic plastic storage bins.
- Glass Jar – Typically reserved for storing dog treats, glass storage jars can keep dog food fresh as long as they have an airtight lid. Be careful about where you place the glass jar because if your dog can reach it he might accidentally knock it over or onto the floor and that could be dangerous.
- Canned Food Lid – Though technically not a type of container, a canned food lid is what you need to keep opened cans of dog food fresh. You still need to keep the can in the refrigerator, but it will create an airtight seal to keep the food fresh for up to 3 days.
It really doesn’t matter what kind of storage container you choose, as long as it is airtight and will protect the food from moisture. Most pet food containers can’t protect against high temperatures, however, so make sure to follow the storage tips provided above and keep your dog food in a cool, dry location to maximize freshness.
Simple Tips for Storing Your Dog Food
Now that you have an understanding of what causes dog food to spoil and what benefits different storage containers have to offer, you’re ready to learn the basics about food storage. To start, here are some of the things you SHOULD do:
- Store the entire bag of your dog’s food in your chosen storage container. Not only does the package have the product’s best by date and bar code, but the inside of the bag is treated to keep your dog’s food protected from air and humidity.
- Pay attention to the “best by” or “use by” date on the package. Though you may be able to store an unopened bag of pet food for quite a while, you should plan to finish the bag within six weeks after it is opened to guarantee freshness.
- Keep your food container in a cool, dry place with a maximum temperature of 70°F and 15% humidity.
- Always clean and disinfect your storage container between batches of food and keep your dog’s food and water bowls clean as well.
- If you plan to store your dog’s food in the freezer, use airtight containers or freezer bags (vacuum sealed bags are ideal) – when you thaw the food, only thaw enough to last a few days.
- Store opened cans of dog food in the fridge for no more than 3 days and seal the can with a tight-fitting lid.
In addition to knowing what you should do to properly store your dog’s food, you should also be aware of some things you SHOULDN’T do.
Here are some examples:
- Don’t just pour your dog’s food into the storage container – always place the entire bag in the container.
- Don’t mix new food with old food – pouring new food on top of old food in your storage container is dangerous because the fats and oils may settle to the bottom, causing the old food to become rancid and contaminate the new food.
- Don’t feed your dog food that has been exposed to high temperatures, direct sunlight, or humidity – all of these things can cause the food to spoil or grow mold.
- Don’t buy food from bulk bins at pet food stores – the food has already been exposed to air (and possibly moisture), plus you don’t know how old it is.
- Don’t feed your dog any food that appears to be discolored or that doesn’t smell right –food probably won’t smell “good” to you, but you can tell the difference between fresh food and food that has gone bad.
- Don’t store your dog’s food outside, even if it is in a storage bin – not only can you not control outdoor temperatures, but you also risk pests and other animals getting into the food.
- Don’t feed your dog wet food from a can that is dented, damaged, or bulging – there is a risk that it has been contaminated or gone bad.
Proper food storage is just one aspect of food safety for dog owners. In the next section, you’ll receive some helpful tips to further protect your dog (and yourself) against food-borne illness.
Other Food Safety Tips for Dog Owners
The most basic food safety rule to follow for dog food is to wash your hands before and after handling. Not only do you want to prevent transferring any bacteria or other pathogens from your hands to your dog’s food, but you also want to avoid spreading something from your dog’s food to your own food or to the other members of your family.
The latter is largely a risk associated with raw food, but any type of food can become contaminated with food-borne pathogens so you need to be careful. You should also be careful about cleaning and disinfecting your dog’s food bowls and storage containers. You should also make sure to clean whatever utensils you use to serve your dog’s food.
In addition to handling your dog’s food properly, you also need to be on the lookout for warning signs when purchasing new containers of pet food. Never buy cans of food that are damaged or dented because they could be contaminated – bulging cans should be avoided as well because it is a sign that the product inside has gone bad.
For bags of kibble, always check the “best by” date. You can also look for the production date to see how old the product is. Keep in mind that sealed bags of food are generally shelf stable for at least 6 months but it’s always better to feed your dog a newer, fresher product when you have the option of doing so. The same is true for dog treats – check the expiration date and make sure that they come in a re-sealable package.
Not only should you know how to keep your dog’s food fresh and safe to eat, but you should be able to identify the signs of food-borne illness. Here are some of the common symptoms:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced activity level
If your dog develops any of these symptoms after eating, contact your veterinarian. You may also want to collect a stool sample, if you can, to bring with you to the vet for testing. He will need it to identify the pathogen that is making your dog sick so he can determine the proper course of treatment.
The type of dog food storage container you choose will largely be a matter of preference but you do need to keep your dog’s safety in mind as well.
Just make sure that you find a container large enough to hold a whole bag of dog food and that it has a tight-fitting lid. Once you’ve purchased your dog food storage container, all that is left to do is use it.
Is it OK to store dog food in a plastic container?
Pet food is best stored in the original bag, folded or clipped for freshness, and kept inside an airtight container. Plastic storage containers aren't always made with the highest quality plastic. The plastic can collect oils from the food and over time become rancid.
Is it OK to keep dog food in the fridge?
Store opened cans of wet dog food in the fridge. The best way to keep them moist and stop odor from transferring to other food is to use a plastic pet food lid designed to fit the top of the can. If you don't have one of those, you can use plastic wrap or a zip-seal bag, but those don't trap odors as well as a lid.
What is the best way to store dry dog food?
Store dry pet food in a cool, dry place, preferably in an airtight container, out of the light. Many pet parents find that opening a bag of dry food and lowering the entire bag into a dog food storage container best preserves freshness and helps to keep the food safe from rodents and insects.
How long does dry dog food last in a sealed container?
In general, unopened dry pet foods have a shelf life of 12-18 months, while unopened canned foods are good for two years from the date of manufacture. Look for the expiration date on the bottom of your dog's food bag or cans, and plan to open and use the food before that date.
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