When does dry dog food go bad?

Dog foods are made mostly to last for a long time, and it doesn’t matter if they are canned food or dry ones. It is stated by many that plenty of commercially-available dog foods have long shelf lives.

So many pet owners have asked the question ‘does dry dog food go bad?’ before deciding which kind they should purchase for their dog. The answer you are looking for is affirmative.

If you don’t store the pet-meal properly then they can easily spoil or go rancid. Though you have not much to worry about as there are lots of ways to ensure your dog’s ration stays fresh for as long as possible.

Dogs tend not to like tainted food because it smells bad and tastes even worse. It is also capable of causing dangerous health problems, including diarrhea, cancer, liver and heart ailments. Most importantly it can even cause death. It only means you have to do the proper selection, care, and storage of your dry pet-meal very carefully, and these are the best ways to prevent it from becoming rotten.

Table of contents

  1. What can cause dry dog food to go bad?
  2. How to tell that your dog food has gone bad?
  3. Manufacturing issues
  4. What if the dog food smells bad?
  5. What about dog treats?
  6. Can your dog eat expired foods?

What can cause dry dog food to go bad?

Causes that can spoil any food and in this case dry dog meal are the following.

  • Air: if the food gets exposed to the air it can go bad, as it will be affected by harmful bacteria.
  • Humidity: excess moisture in the environment can contaminate the ration of your dog badly. As it is the reason for causing the mold.
  • Temperature: excessive temperature is an effective reason for rotten dry dog food.

How to tell that your dog food has gone bad?

Every dog has incredible senses of smell and will pick up smells easily that we humans won’t find. If you notice that your dog is sniffing the bowl and turns his or her head, or takes a few bites before going away, there might be something wrong with their food.

In many cases, some dogs will eat every garbage they can find. That’s why it is necessary for you to know the signs of food that has gone wrong. There are a few noticeable symptoms you can find in your dog food.

  • You will get a notable sour or rotten odor.
  • You will find signs of moisture, mold, or bugs.
  • The food bag is past its expiration date. And it is a major sign.
  • The dry ration has been exposed to heat or humidity at some point and it causes the food to go bad.
  • If you see that your dog is refusing to eat or showing signs of sickness or any sort of discomfort after eating.

As a pet owner, if you are even remotely concerned about your dog’s food which has spoiled, you should not take any risk. You need to dispose of the food and replace it with a fresh pack.

Manufacturing issues

A specific list of the most common things that can go wrong in the production of dog food is given below.

  1. Sometimes spoiled or tainted ingredients are used in the production, including rancid fats, spoiled proteins, and moldy grains. Some of these molds tend to excrete toxins, some mycotoxins, such as vomitoxin, can make dogs very sick.
  2. There are ingredients included in excessive (toxic) amounts, including vitamin or mineral premixes, preservatives, coloring agents, etc.
  3. Sometimes ingredients that are not supposed to be in a formula are included by mistake and this is dangerous to a dog with a severe allergic reaction to an item that cannot be found on the product label.
  4. Plenty of times foreign object contamination occurs, such as- plastic, glass, metal, rodents, insects, pesticides, cleaning agents.
  5. The food may not get cooked at adequate temperatures to result in a complete bacterial kill.
  6. The plant’s equipment sometimes does not get cleaned properly or frequently enough, and it results in a contaminated product.
  7. The insufficiently dried dry food results in the growth of mold in the bags.

Luckily most of the potential manufacturing issues are taken care of or corrected and kept from harming dogs by the manufacturers’ mile-long list of hazard examinations and quality control processes.

To be honest, it is known that inspections of manufacturing plants by state officials are not so frequent, but it behooves plant operators, especially facilities that manufacture high-quality, high-priced food. It happens to pursue certification by more binding inspectors, for example- the American Institute of Baking.

Although if you are familiar with these problems of dog food production, then you can definitely take precautions that may prevent those problems from inflicting harm to your dog.

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Did you know?

We always make sure to give the best to our little pets, but when it comes to our wellbeing, we tend to forget that fibers and vitamins are essential to our good health. If you would like to know more, I recommend you check out this other article of ours.

What if the dog food smells bad?

After you open the package, if the food looks fine but smells bad, especially, if your dog seems reluctant or slow to dig into it, then it is likely that the food’s preservative and antioxidant agents have not performed as well as they should. The fats in the ration may be is contaminated already which makes it unappealing to your pet, but not necessarily unhealthy.

Keep in mind that the oxidation of the fats in the meal can result in a chemical chain reaction that leads to the rapid spreading of free radicals which means peroxidation or auto-oxidation. The absorption process of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins is significantly lessened in oxidized foods which defeats the purpose of purchasing that pricey nutritious diet.

If the dry food is giving off a strong, chemical, or a bad odor, it is probably not that harmful to feed to your dog, but it’s definitely not what the manufacturer thought so. Though so many people believe that if it doesn’t smell right then you should avoid feeding this to your dog.

What about dog treats?

Dog treats come with an expiration date too just like dry or canned dog food. Its shelf life depends on the elements, ingredients, and the types of preservatives included there.

For example, homemade peanut butter dog biscuits will have a much shorter lifespan than a commercially processed treat. And soft, meaty treats will go bad sooner than a hard biscuit. Treats that are packed in airtight containers and stored properly will last longer than treats exposed to air and humidity.

It is known that dog treats can go rancid anytime if they are not properly stored. As long as they are packed well and used before their best by date, they should work fine.

If you are interested to know about ways that can help you to learn about how to store dry dog food for a long time then you can follow another article of ours. We are sure you will get the information you need.

Can your dog eat expired food?

If your purchased dog food is past its date and if it is kept in an airtight container, then it is not harmful to your dog. But keep this in mind that it is not recommended. Dog food is a special meal that goes through a definite manufacturing process. These edible materials are treated for longevity and effectiveness.

A number of different ingredients can be found in this package, it is also known as a nutrient-dense formula to make sure that dogs can thrive on the ration throughout their lives. There are times when manufacturers include preservatives to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, and these ingredients reduce its effectiveness over time. Also, remember that the food changes as it ages. These significant changes can’t be seen, but your dog may start to feel the effects of the change depending on how old the food is.

Health risks

Different health risks may occur because of expired food, both minor and serious. Your dog may face digestion issues at first. This happens only because of spoiled ingredients within the meal. Your pet may face indigestion, diarrhea, and vomiting. All the symptoms can last for a few days, so it is vital to stop feeding them the expired food immediately and seek nearby veterinarian assistance.

A very common issue is malnutrition. When the food deteriorates and loses nutritional value, they will not be getting their daily requirements. This problem cannot be seen right away so it can be worse for any dog. They may start to show signs of lethargy or weight loss, and their energy levels will also go down. If this is not stopped, then this mare concern will result in organ and bone issues.


As all dog foods contain different elements, preservatives, and packaging types, shelf life, and expired dates will vary between their brands and types. Know that the type of preservatives used may also affect the lifespan of pet food.

Natural preservatives for example- vitamin C, vitamin E, citric acid, and a few kinds of herbs break down faster than artificial preservatives, such as- ethoxyquin, BHT, and BHA, etc, and they make natural or holistic pet foods more exposed to spoiling more quickly.

You can use our guide above as a general rule book for keeping your dry dog food fresh and always refer to the manufacturer’s recommended storage guidelines. If you have time then also check out another guideline of ours regarding best dry dog food for seniors.


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