How Much Food Is Right for Your Pet?Calculate Now

Dog Food Storage: How to Store Dog Food

Dr. Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/14/20242-4 minutes
man bending down to give dog food in kitchen

It’s fair to say that most of us are aware of the importance of food freshness, and vigilant about making sure that the foods we eat are safe and healthy. While we still might encounter the occasional leftover-turned-science-experiment in our refrigerators, we usually enjoy our meals confidently, knowing that the food we’re consuming is safe to eat, and within the “use by” or “best by” date window.

But what about your dog’s meals? Do you know if the food you’re putting in their dish has reached its “best by” date? More important, did you know that dog food actually has a “best by” date?

Does Dog Food Expire?

The “best by” date on your dog’s food (yes, all dog foods do have one) is the date by which you should use your dog’s unopened food to ensure that you’re giving them the freshest, safest nutrition. You’ll find it displayed on all Purina pet food and treat labels, along with other important nutritional information and guidance on serving. 

The “best by” date on dog food should be considered an expiration date because it factors in the nutritional value of the ingredients, and how that value decreases over time. While it may not happen that dog food does go bad after this date, it should be used as a benchmark for optimal nutrition and enjoyment of the food for your dog.

How Long Does Dog Food Last?

The answer to this question is not so simple because it involves a number of factors, including:

  • Whether the food has been opened - Once a dog food bag or can has been opened, the “best by” date is no longer a reference point. This date applies only to food in unopened packaging.

  • The type of dog food - As a general guideline, dry food, once opened, should be used within two-to-three months if properly stored, while wet food should be used within three days if sealed and refrigerated.

  • How the dog food is stored - Before opening, elements such as temperature can affect the nutritional quality of your dog’s food. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recommends storing dry dog food and unopened wet dog food in a dry place where the temperature is below 80 degrees.

Once opened, proper storage is essential to keep your dog’s food flavorful, nutritious and safe.

How to Keep Dog Food Fresh

After your dog’s food is opened, proper storage is essential for maintaining not only the nutritional value, but also the safety of their food.

How to Store Dry Dog Food

The bag that holds your dog’s dry food is more than a pretty package. It’s also designed to be an effective container to protect your dog’s food from pests, contaminants and nutritional breakdown.

For effective storage of dry dog food: 

  1. Keep dry food in the original bag. Squeeze out any extra air and seal it tightly using a secure clip.  

  2. For extra freshness protection, and to keep out pests (including your dog), place the original pet food bag in a metal or plastic bin with an airtight seal.  

  3. If you don’t want to keep the food in its original packaging, seal it in an airtight bin made for safe pet food storage.

If you are removing the dry food from its original packaging, do not dump the new food over the old food. Use the old food and wash out the container before filling it with new food.

Be sure to save or photograph the package so you have the product and company name, “best by” date, ingredients and specific lot number in case your dog has an adverse reaction to the food.

How to Store Wet Dog Food After Opening

Unlike dry dog food, wet canned food has a shorter window for usage once opened. A common question among dog owners is, “How long can you leave wet dog food out?”

Here are some important things to remember:  

  1. Wet food shouldn’t be left in your dog’s bowl for more than a few hours.   

  2. Any unused food left in the can should be refrigerated immediately.  

  3. Be sure to seal the can (a plastic can lid works great for this) before refrigerating.  

  4. If there is any food left in the can after three days, it should go in the trash instead of in your dog’s bowl.

Storing Dog Food Right is Key to Feeding Your Dog Right

You’ve put careful thought into the food you feed your dog. By putting some extra care into how you store that food, you can be confident that every meal you put into their bowl will provide the nutrition and enjoyment your dog deserves. Just as you intended.

Choosing the right dog food is another important way to give your dog optimal nutrition. Be sure the food you choose is formulated to provide optimal nutrition for their life stage, size and lifestyle.

For more expert tips on feeding your dog, explore our other dog feeding articles.   

Related articles

brown dog eating from a red food bowl
Dog owners may want to change food due to false rumors about food safety, but misinformation may lead to unsafe transitions. Learn when to switch dog food from dog experts.
person and child petting a golden retriever
person holding dog, and eating an ice cream cone
Man sitting chair with cat and dog and a phone with the Pet Feeding Guide app displayed

How Much Food Is Right for Your Pet?

Get a personalized feeding guide for your dog or cat from Purina’s nutrition experts.