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7 Mistakes to Avoid When Storing Dog Food

Golden retriever eating food out of bowl
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As a pet parent, you care about the quality of your dog’s food, but proper storage is just as important. 

Chances are, you’ve put a lot of time and energy into making the best dog food choices for your pup. Proper dog food storage, on the other hand, is often an afterthought for even the most discerning pet parents. 

In light of recent dog food recalls due to common bacterial contaminants like Salmonella and Listeria, you might be wondering: How can I ensure my dog food is safe? For starters, you can check up on your own dog food handling and storage habits.  

Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about proper dog food storage, including common mistakes to avoid and dog food storage ideas, according to veterinarians. 

Why Dog Food Storage Is Important 

Dog at an empty food bowl looking confused

“Much like storing our own food, properly storing pet food helps avoid spoilage,” says Dr. Cullen A. Domaracki, a veterinarian and assistant professor of veterinary clinical sciences at the Louisiana State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

The best dog food storage solutions not only keep your dog’s food fresh and tasty, but they also protect your pup by keeping mold, bacteria, and household pests like insects and rodents out of his dinner.

So, is your pup’s food safe? Read on for the most common mistakes pet parents make when it comes to dog food storage. 

Mistakes to Avoid When Storing Dog Food 

Puppy at table begging for food

Dog food storage seems simple enough, but there are a few common mistakes that even the most caring pet parents are susceptible to making.  

Here are seven dog food storage mistakes to cross off your list for a happy and healthy pup:  

Mistake #1: Storing Food in the Garage 

It’s an easy mistake to make, especially if your home is short on storage space. However, excess heat or moisture—common problems in some garages during the summer—can degrade essential oils and break down nutrients in dog food, explains Dr. Julie A. Churchill, Ph.D., a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and professor of veterinary clinical sciences at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in St. Paul, Minnesota. Your dog’s food could also be at greater risk of being exposed to pests like insects and rodents.  

What to do instead: Store your dog food where you’d want to store your own food. Like other pantry items, dry and canned dog food should be stored in a cool, dry place like a dog food storage cabinet. Always keep it in a controlled environment under 80 degrees Fahrenheit, per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Mistake #2: Leaving Dry Dog Food Unsealed 

Dried dog food close up

Fold over or roll up a large bag of dog food, and it might seem like that’s good enough for your pup. 

The problem: Leaving food unsealed is a big mistake, as oxygen causes the fat in the food to go rancid, which ruins the flavor and, in the worst-case scenario, could even make dogs sick, says Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, an experienced companion animal veterinarian based in Alderney, U.K.   

What to do instead: To keep your dog’s dry food fresh, store it in an airtight dog food container, says Woodnutt.

Mistake #3: Pouring Dry Dog Food Out of Its Original Bag 

“Many pet parents will tip dry food into an airtight pet food container, but this can cause the food to go off more quickly, and scratches in the surface of the container can hold bacteria and allow the food to spoil,” says Woodnutt. 

What’s more? The bag dog food comes in often has an oil-resistant liner, which is designed to help retain flavor, adds Dr. Kristi Flynn, an assistant professor in the department of veterinary clinical sciences at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

What to do instead: Store your dog food in the original bag inside a sealed container. As this can make for clunky dog food storage, keep large bags of food in a storage bin and use smaller, more convenient containers that hold about a week of food for feeding time, suggests Flynn. 

If you do decide to pour dog food out of the bag and into a container, at least snap a picture of the barcode and expiration date or cut out that portion of the label, says Churchill. This way, if your pup ever gets sick or you have questions about the quality or safety of the food, you can share this information with the company and the FDA in case there’s a product defect or dog food recall. 

Mistake #4: Regularly “Topping Off” Dry Dog Food

Nearly empty kitchen container

If you already store your dog food in an airtight container, a common mistake is to fill it back up before it’s totally emptied out. The problem with this is that leftover fat and crumbs from dog food can build up inside the container over time and, again, start to go bad. 

What to do instead: Use up all of the food in an airtight container before you refill it. “When the bin is empty, that’s a good reminder that it’s time to wash it out and then add fresh food,” says Churchill. 

Mistake #5: Leaving Canned Food Out Too Long 

We’ve all been there—you feed your dogs, get distracted with other to-do’s around the house, and then find the can of dog food sitting on the kitchen counter hours later. The problem: Wet dog food that’s been left out could become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and flies could also touch down and lay eggs, says Woodnutt. Ugh. 

What to do instead: If it’s been a few hours or longer, don’t risk it. Toss out the canned food in a securely-tied plastic bag in a covered trash can so your pup won’t be tempted to go digging for it. In the future, after you open canned dog food, tightly cover it with a reusable lid or plastic wrap, refrigerate it, and make sure to use it within three days, says Domaracki. 

Mistake #6: Not Taking The Expiration Date Seriously 

Cute puppy looking up at owner waiting to be fed

Like our own food products at the grocery store, it is hard to pinpoint when any pet food will truly “expire,” says Dr. Domaracki. That said, since the nutritional value of food can’t be guaranteed after that printed expiration date, it’s best not to feed your dog expired food, he says—even if it passes the sniff test.  

What to do instead: Buy a bag of dog food that your pup can eat within a few months of opening, says Dr. Flynn. If the expiration date is looming, consider marking it on your calendar or setting a reminder on your phone.  

Mistake #7: Only Washing Your Dog’s Bowls Once in a While 

Yes, life is so busy. But unwashed dog food bowls can develop bacteria, mold, mildew, and other contaminants, says Domaracki. Naturally, you don’t want any of that anywhere near your pup. 

What to do instead: While it may seem like an extra chore at first, get used to washing your dog’s food and water bowls and measuring scoops with soap and hot water after every single meal, per the FDA

Best Dog Food Storage Containers and Tools

Dog food scoop next to dog food bowl

Cleaning up your dog food storage routine only takes a few simple tweaks. For proper dog food storage, start with the right storage containers and tools.  

Here are all of the must-haves to include on your next shopping list: 

Airtight dog food containers. For dry dog food storage, opt for airtight containers that are large enough to fit a whole bag of food inside, says Woodnutt. Remember to clean them with soap and warm water after each batch of food. 

Dog food scoops. Measuring scoops are a great way to ensure your dog is gobbling up the appropriate amount of food at each meal. Since recommended amounts on the bag are often too large or don’t take into account your dog’s breed, lifestyle, or body type, check in with your veterinarian for a suggested serving size, says Domaracki. Like dog food bowls, measuring scoops should be cleaned after every use. 

Can lids for wet dog food. Silicone or plastic can lids can help keep a can of wet dog food fresh inside your fridge, says Woodnutt. However, anything you use to cover up your own food—like plastic wrap or food storage containers—should do the trick too, adds Dr. Domaracki.