Does Dry Dog Food Go Bad If Left Out? The Use-By Date

For those of us who are proud dog parents, there are times when leaving dry dog food out becomes necessary.

A busy life might not always allow us to be available for our pets during meals. Yet, a question arises: Does dry dog food go bad if left out?

In this article, you can discover whether leaving kibble out leads to spoilage and what you can do to ensure your dog’s meals stay fresh and safe to eat.

Understanding the factors affecting dog food quality is vital for your pup’s health. So, join me to know!

Does Dry Dog Food Go Bad If Left Out? 

does dry dog food go bad if left out

Yes, dry dog food can go bad if left out. When dry dog food is left exposed to air, it can undergo a process known as oxidation.

This phenomenon causes the fats within the food to break down. As a result, it turns rancid and loses its initial freshness.

In addition, moisture can foster the rapid multiplication of bacteria within the food.

This scenario paves the way for contamination and poses potential health risks for your beloved pet.

Furthermore, the longer dry dog food remains in contact with air, the more its nutrients degrade. Consequently, the nutritional value of the food diminishes over time.

Moreover, the enticing aroma of dog food acts as a magnet for insects and pests such as ants and rodents.

These unwelcome visitors are drawn to the kibble and can result in infestations that further spoil the food and make it unsuitable for consumption.

How Can You Tell If Dry Dog Food Is Bad? 

You can know if dry dog food is bad by checking for strange smells, odd colors, or if it’s clumped together. Don’t give it to your dog if it looks or smells weird.


Does dog food go bad if left out? Now you know it is a firm yes, and odor is the first sign.

I normally check by giving it a good sniff. If the dry kibble smells sour, rancid, or just off, it’s an indicator that the food might have gone bad.

Pet foods should generally have a neutral or slightly pleasant odor. Any strong or foul smell could indicate spoilage.

A tip here: Please remember a plastic pet food lid, plastic wrap, or a plastic storage container might retain odors, including plastic odors, from the environment or previous contents, so check the food itself for any unusual smell.


Checking for moisture in dry dog food is crucial. If the food appears clumpy, sticky or has changed texture, it might have absorbed moisture and gone past its prime.

It is especially important with food bags, as moisture can be a breeding ground for mold.

So again, can dry dog food go bad if left open? Yes! Moisture can break down the fat barrier and accelerate spoilage.

Therefore, stick to food packaging recommendations and avoid exposing dry food to damp environments.

Mold or Bugs

Inspect the dry dog food for any signs of mold, fungi, or insects. If you notice any green, black, or white spots on the dry kibble, it’s likely spoiled.

Similarly, the presence of tiny crawling bugs is a strong indication of spoilage. Food containers should be properly sealed to prevent contamination.

Even with commercial dog food, ensure no unwanted critters sneaking into the bag.

The Dog Refusing The Food

Watch your 4-legged companion closely when you offer them the dry dog food.

If they turn their nose away, seem disinterested, or refuse to eat it, it might be a sign that there is something wrong with the food.

Dogs have a keen sense of smell and can easily detect changes in their food. They might prefer canned dog foods or more fresh food than spoiled dry kibble.

Your Pet Getting Sick

Keep an eye on your pooch after they’ve eaten the dry dog food.

If they show signs of diarrhea, lethargy, throwing up after eating dry food, or any other unusual behavior shortly after consuming it, the bad food is likely the culprit.

In such cases, switching to a different and possibly more easily digestible option, like canned or wet dog food, might be necessary.

How Long Can You Leave Dry Dog Food Out Before It Goes Bad?

Can dry dog food go bad if left open

How long can dry dog food sit out? Six to eight hours is the answer.

However, the time can vary based on factors like temperature, humidity, and the potential for bacterial growth.

While some suggest leaving it out for 6-8 hours, others opt for shorter periods, like 15 to 20 minutes, to ensure freshness and reduce the risk of bacterial growth.

Moisture can indeed speed up spoilage, but even without moisture, extended exposure to air can impact the food’s quality.

Consequences Of Leaving Dog Food Out (With Time Frames)

  • Within 5 mins, it becomes less appealing to your dog.
  • After 20 mins, microbes start to gather. Bacteria can make food spoiled at various times. It can take 20 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the surrounding environment, the kind of bacteria, and the food ingredients. The USDA calls this the two-hour rule.
  • In 20+ mins, it can spoil.

The spoiling process is faster for wet, raw food, or homemade. Bacteria grow fast between 40 – 140 °F, doubling in 20 mins.

Remember, don’t leave food out for over 2 hours (1 hour in temps higher than 90 °F) to avoid harmful bacteria. Keeping food fresh ensures your dog is safe and healthy.

How To Store Dry Dog Food?

To keep dry dog food fresh, store it in its original packaging or an airtight container to prevent exposure to air and moisture. It helps extend the shelf life of the food.

Pet food manufacturers recommend sealing opened bags tightly with clips or using specially designed plastic containers with secure lids.

Proper storage will minimize spoilage and health issues for your furry friend. Here are the details of each method.

Use Dog’s Food Original Packaging

The original package is designed to protect the food’s freshness and nutritional value, so I recommend you seal it properly after each use by folding or sealing the top.

Remember to store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Check the label for any specific storage instructions from the manufacturer.

Airtight Containers

These containers prevent moisture and air from getting in, keeping the food crisp and tasty. Scoop the kibble into the container, then secure the lid tightly.

Label the container with the expiration date of the food. Store the container in a cupboard or pantry, away from extreme temperatures.

Airtight containers are not only practical but also help to prevent pests from approaching the food.

Special tip: If you live in a humid or hot environment, putting dry dog food in the fridge (in an airtight container) can help maintain its freshness and prevent moisture from causing it to spoil faster.

What Factors Affect Dog Food’s Sit-Out Time? 

Moisture Content

The moisture content in dog food affects how long it can sit out. Higher moisture levels can lead to quicker spoilage, so wet food may not last as long as dry kibble.

Temperature and Humidity

High temperatures and humidity speed up the spoilage process. In warmer and damp conditions, bacteria and mold can grow faster.

Therefore, these conditions make the food unsafe for your dog to eat.

Air Exposure

When dog food is exposed to air, it starts to lose freshness. Oxygen in the air can cause fats in the food to go rancid and reduce the food’s overall quality.


The packaging matters. The food can spoil quickly if the original packaging is damaged or left open. Make sure to reseal the packaging properly after each use.

Ingredients and Preservatives

The ingredients used, and any preservatives in the food can affect how long it can sit out. Natural ingredients might spoil faster compared to foods with added preservatives.


Contaminants like dirt or insects can hasten spoilage. Always store dog food in clean areas and inspect it for any signs of pests.

Storage Conditions

Where you store the dog food matters. A cool, dry place is best. Avoid storing it near chemicals or cleaning supplies, as odors can linger to the food.

Food Type

Wet and dry dog foods have different shelf lives. Due to higher moisture content, wet food can spoil more quickly than dry kibble.

Nutrient Degradation

Over time, dog food can lose its nutritional value. Vitamins and minerals might break down. Hence, there are less nutritious meals for your furry friend.

Microbial Growth

Warmth and humidity can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. These can make your dog sick if they consume food with these contaminants.

Storage Container

The container you use for storage matters. Airtight containers help keep out moisture and air. It preserves the food’s freshness and taste.

Exposure to Light

Light can degrade the quality of dog food. It breaks down nutrients and causes fats to go rancid. Store the food in a dark place to maintain its quality.

What About Canned And Wet Dog Food? 

how long can dry dog food sit out

How Long Does Canned Dog Food Last? 

Around 2 to 5 years. Canned dog food is a convenient option. It usually lasts quite a while from the production date, which can be found on the can.

But remember, this doesn’t mean it serves the best quality for that long. Over time, the food might lose some nutrients and flavor.

How Long Does Canned Dog Food Last Once Opened?

From 5 to 7 days.

Once you crack open a can of dog food, the game changes. You should treat it like perishable food and keep it in your fridge.

Seal the can and refrigerate it. It’s good for about 5 to 7 days. If it starts to smell funky or look weird, toss it.

How Long Does Wet Dog Food Last? 


  • Unopened, stored in a cool and dry place: Around 1 to 5 years, depending on the brand and storage conditions.
  • Unopened, stored in a place with temperature fluctuations or extreme heat/cold: The quality might deteriorate faster, so it’s best to use it within the first 1 to 2 years.
  • Opened, stored in the refrigerator: It’s safe to keep in the fridge for about 5 to 7 days.
  • Opened, left at room temperature (50°F or warmer): You can leave it out for up to 4 hours, but after that, it’s recommended to discard the remaining food.
  • Opened, left at room temperature (above 90°F): Discarding the food after just 1 hour is safer due to the higher risk of bacterial growth.

However, please note that these timeframes are general guidelines.

Dog parents should always use their senses, such as sight and smell, to check the food’s freshness before feeding it to your dog.

If the food looks or smells unusual, it’s better to be cautious and not give it to your furry friend.

How To Keep Canned & Wet Food Safe

Check the Dates: Before you buy, look at the “best by” or “use by” date. Pick the one with the furthest date.

Storage: Keep unopened cans in a cool, dry place. Extreme heat or cold can mess with the quality.

Open with Care: When ready to serve, use a clean utensil to scoop the food. Avoid touching it directly.

Refrigerate Quickly: Once opened, transfer the leftover food to an airtight container and put it into the fridge. The cold slows down bacteria growth.

Smell and Look: Before feeding your dog, sniff the food. If it smells off or looks weird, discard it.

Rotate Stock: Pick the ones with the furthest expiration dates when buying canned or wet food and always use the oldest ones first.


Does dry dog food go bad if left out? Yes, dry dog food can indeed go bad if left out. Now you get everything about dry dog food and even canned food longevity.

Don’t risk your pup’s well-being by leaving dog food out too long. It loses its freshness and nutritional value.

Keep an eye on the expiration date and storage recommendations to provide the best for your furry companion. It is how you can ensure your pet’s meals stay good.


Photo of author
Hi I am Mitchell. Dog Growth is a blog about dog caring and training where I share my experiences to my community. Hope you enjoy it!

Leave a Comment