Attribution: Kyle Baker, Senior Pet Food Nutritionist
If you’re a long-time dog parent and have your pup’s diet plan locked in after years of refinement, we’re guessing you might be buying food in bulk. It’s a time and money saving trick that many dog parents use to streamline canine care, but without proper oversight it can be costly in the long run.
While commercially processed dog foods tend to have longer shelf lives, they don’t last forever. And without proper storage, that can end even faster—and potentially cause bigger issues.
Fortunately, we’ve got a few tips that can help keep your pup happy and healthy, and allow you to maintain the routine that works best for you.
Start with Expiration Dates
Whether you’re familiar with your dog’s diet or you’ve just added a new furry family member, you should always check expiration dates when buying dog food. They’re easy to find – just look for the “best by” date, typically located on the bottom of bags or cans. These dates represent the food’s freshness before opening, and can vary depending on food type and the manufacturer’s quality and safety standards.
Dry pet foods have a shelf life of 12-18 months. Once opened, dry food lasts roughly 2-3 weeks, so make sure you’re buying the appropriate volume. Canned foods are good for two years from the manufacturing date. Once the top is popped, canned food will remain fresh for 3-5 days with the help of an airtight lid and refrigeration.
Open that calendar app and set a reminder to serve your dog’s food before expiration. It may seem tedious, but you’ll thank us later.
Store Processed Food Properly
Next, it’s imperative to ensure you create the right storage solution for your dog’s food—particularly with dry kibble. If you’re like many dog parents, big bags of dry food get relegated to the garage, but that’s a major no-no as heat, moisture, and even air can spell trouble for kibble.
To maintain stability, kibble should be stored in a cool, dry place away from shifts in temperature. Under these conditions, experts recommend keeping kibble in its original bag, which is designed to protect food from the elements. Again, make sure you’re buying the right size bag for a 2-3 week timeline. If you do decide to go bigger, we recommend storing the bag in a sealed container.
Why is proper storage so critical? During processing, kibble is heated and dried to remove moisture and prevent oxidation, which can breed mold and bacteria. Each time a bag or container is opened, food can lose palatability and nutritional value as fats are oxidized and the food is robbed of beneficial vitamins and minerals. With prolonged exposure, healthy fats can spoil and become rancid, creating an unpleasant smell. But even more important than the odor are the possible long-term effects as consumption of rancid fats can contribute to health issues like malnutrition, kidney and liver disease, reproductive problems, and even cancer or death.
If you’ve had food awhile and are unsure if it’s gone bad, keep an eye on your pup to see if they turn their nose up to what’s on the menu.
Keep Your Pup Hydrated
Ever try eating cereal without milk? It’s just not as good, right? At best, the experience isn’t what the manufacturer intended.
Somewhat similarly, while heating and drying keeps kibble fresh, it’s best with a little water. When eaten, dry kibble rehydrates in your dog’s stomach with the help of stomach fluid. If your pup is properly hydrated, they’ll comfortably digest the kibble for a nutrient boost. But if your pup isn’t getting enough water, their stomach will source moisture from throughout the body to assist digestion, potentially leading to dehydration.
Adequate hydration is a crucial part of maintaining your dog’s body temperature, aiding circulation, and promoting proper digestion. If you see signs of dehydration in your dog—like a dry nose or eyes, brittle fur, or heavy panting—you can readily change that by pairing wet food with dry food or adding water or animal broth and toppers to kibble.
Look for Quality Ingredients
As we’ve mentioned previously, you can give yourself and your dog a leg up by starting with good ingredients. Aware that oxidation and nutrient loss can be an issue, many pet food manufacturers supplement products with antioxidants, multi-vitamins and fresh foods to prevent free radicals and maximize health benefits.
When investigating labels, keep an eye out for antioxidants like blueberries and cranberries, sources of Omega-3 fatty acids like marine microalgae, and chelated minerals that help support immune function and nutrient absorption. And remember, if you need a hand, you can always consult your vet or local independent pet retailer.
With a little research, proper storage, and a solid plan, you can guarantee your pup’s diet is always on point.
About the Author:
Kyle Baker, Senior Pet Food Nutritionist at DOGPerfect, has a passion for educating pet parents on the power of nutrition and how it can improve their pet’s lives with proper food, supplements and treats. DOGPerfect is a locally owned and operated pet supply store with locations in The Landings, University Park, and Lakewood Ranch. Visit www.dogperfect.com for more information and to sign-up for a free one-on-one nutrition consult with Kyle.