How Long is Dog Food Good After Expiration Date?


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With several companies issuing recalls regarding dog and cat food lately, it is no longer surprising to see plenty of pet owners, who are concerned about the quality and safety of the foods they serve to their beloved pets. Furthermore, the safety of serving pet foods after they have exceeded the indicated “best by”, “best before”, or expiration date is still undergoing constant discussions.

It should be noted, in the US, pet foods do not need to put expiration or best before dates in the labels on their packaging. However, many pet food companies do so as a means of informing stores and consumers about the specific length of time when they can guarantee the quality of their products based on what they advertise.

Also, note that different factors, such as the strength of packaging and degradation, have a major impact on the length of time the dry and wet foods for pets can exceed the recommended dates indicated in the packaging’s label. So how long is dog food good after expiration date? Find out through this article.

Understanding the Shelf Life and Expiration Date of Dog Foods

All foods designed for dogs, whether they are dry kibble or the canned dog food variety, come with a “best before” or expiration date. Like foods designed for human consumption, such info can give you knowledge of the product’s longevity. In dog foods, you can see the date somewhere on the bag or can. It could be at the back or the side. It should be noted, though, the date indicated does not necessarily mean the dog food is officially expired and is no longer safe for consumption.

What it means is that the food can no longer offer the quality and nutrition indicated in its guaranteed analysis. In other words, the highest level of nutrition the product can provide to your dog is the one before it is officially expired. As for the food, you can still expect it to be good, just not the same quality the manufacturer initially advertised.

As for the shelf life and expiration date of a specific dog food, take note that it varies significantly from one manufacturer to another. Dry dog foods, for instance, can be expected to have a shelf life that ranges from 4 months to three years. The pouched or canned varieties, on the other hand, have a shelf life of around 1-5 years. As for dog treats, they usually have a similar shelf life as to the dry food products offered by the same manufacturer.

The “best before” or expiration date indicated on the dog food is not an indication of the actual age of the product, though. You can’t consider it as the manufacturing date of the food. In fact, you can’t tell the food’s manufacturing date just by checking its expiration. It only gives you an idea of the exact date the manufacturer determined as the time when the food can no longer supply your pet with proper nutrition.

There are still ingredients used in the product that can offer enough nutrition even after the “best before” or expiration date, but the nutrition value of other added ingredients has faded. With that in mind, it is necessary to check the expiration date of the dog food prior to buying it. Make it a point to use it within that period, too, especially if you want the best nutrition for your beloved dog.

When studying the shelf life and expiration dates of dog foods, take note that the preservatives used in them, if there are any, have an impact on it. Natural preservatives, like Vitamin E, tend to break down faster when you compare it to artificial preservatives. That said, it is not surprising to see the shelf life of dog foods with natural preservatives to be a few months shorter compared to those containing artificial ones.

If you want to go all-natural, consider buying those with natural preservatives but go for the smaller packages. This is to ensure you can use the product without exceeding the shelf life, thereby allowing you to give your pet only the best.

Is it Still Safe for Dogs to Eat Expired Dog Foods?

Basically, dog foods that are past their prime are safe to eat. That’s particularly true for those foods stored in airtight containers. However, feeding your dog with such expired foods is not always recommended. It should be noted that dog food undergoes a unique and different process of manufacturing. It is often treated for effectiveness and longevity. Also, several ingredients are used and integrated into a nutrient-dense formula as a means of ensuring your dog can survive on it.

Manufacturers also incorporate preservatives into dog foods as a means of preventing the development of mold and bacteria. The problem is that such ingredients also have the tendency to degrade over time. The food is also prone to changes, once it starts to age. While the changes are often invisible, your dog will still begin to feel the changes and their effects, depending on the actual age of the food.

So how long is dog food really good after expiration date? In most cases, you can expect such food to be safe for dog’s general consumption a few months beyond its expiration date. The effect is different from humans, who will most likely not touch expired food, even if it is just a day past its expiration date, because dogs are known to have better tolerance than humans as far as digestion and food are concerned. However, prior to feeding the expired food to your dog, make sure to check it thoroughly for bacteria and mold.

Note that mold tends to grow on the upper layer of the food, while producing a foul smell that a dog can’t seem to handle and tolerate. However, if you notice the food does not have the mentioned issues, then you can let him enjoy the food even after it expires. Again, it is safe for consumption within a few months past its expiration date but make sure to check it for mold and bacteria growth.

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Common Problems with Dog Foods Past their Expiration Dates

Dog foods tend to undergo a lot of changes, once they age. Such changes can have an impact on your dog, especially in terms of his health and level of energy. With that in mind, it is crucial for you to be aware of the common problems associated with expired dog foods aside from checking them for mold and bacteria. By knowing these problems, you can decide whether you should feed the food to your dog, even when it expires.

(1) Low Nutrition Value

A dog food’s shelf life refers to the time wherein the manufacturer can guarantee the highest nutrition value of the product based on what it advertises on the label containing its nutrition facts. Such varies significantly based on the kind of food (dry or wet) and the brand. If there is an old bag or can of dog food, note that it does not instantly mean it has gone bad or has lost its nutrition value.

However, avoid relying too much on those dog foods that are over three months of their expiration date. Note that, even if the dog food is still not open, does not show signs of contamination or spoilage, or does not produce a foul smell, there is still a tendency for it to have diminished its nutritional value because the essential fats and preservatives break down naturally.

That said, ensure it’s not over three months past the expiration date prior to feeding it to your dog. This will ensure you won’t feed him something that might trigger deficiencies in his diet, resulting in chronic health risks.

(2) Contamination

The packaging used in dog foods is mainly designed to fight contamination. However, there are also certain types of packaging that are more prone to contamination than the others. For instance, a permeable package might expose foods to insects, other pests, or moisture. There is an even higher chance for that problem to happen as the product ages.

That’s the main reason you have to check the dog food for mold, pests, and any other contaminants, especially if it has expired, prior to feeding it to your dog. This will ensure the dog won’t get sick from the food. Also, note that it is possible for the food to be contaminated, even if it is not yet expired, so it is still important to check it for signs of contamination from time to time. Some signs are discoloration and foul smell.

(3) Spoiled Fat

Note that fat is a vital component of any dog food. The problem is it is also one of the first components of the food that might go sour. Fat can provide energy and improve the flavor of food. If it goes rancid, then you can tell by the noticeable strong, foul smell it tends to make. You really have to check the food thoroughly for the mentioned issue, since dogs are immune to such foul smell.

That said, he won’t be able to detect it, making him eat the food, regardless if it is bad. It can also result in digestion issues. Once the dog food is beyond its expiration date, it is your responsibility to assess and check it thoroughly and figure out if the fat has gone rancid. If it does, then dispose of it right away, instead of feeding it to your dog.

(4) Mold Growth

There is a great chance for mold and bacteria to form and grow in the dog food if the preservatives utilized in keeping it fresh start to degrade. Once the products expire, it is also possible for the preservatives to reach that point where they can no longer perform their primary purpose.

Mold growth may even accelerate if you keep the food in a moist and hot area. Such environment might cause the constant formation of mold spores. The problem with mold is it has a negative impact on the health of your dog. That’s why you have to check whether an expired food has mold before deciding to feed it to your dog.

If any of the issues mentioned above are apparent in an expired dog food, then avoid feeding it to your dog, even if it has been said that dog foods are generally safe after a few months of their expiration date. You should check the expired issue for the mentioned problems as such might lead to various health risk, minor and serious.

One problem your dog might face is in his indigestion, which often happens due to the spoiled ingredients. It might result in indigestion, vomiting, and diarrhea. There’s also a risk for your dog to deal with malnutrition, especially once the food loses it nutritional value due to deterioration. Among the signs that he is malnourished are sudden weight loss, low energy levels, and lethargy.

There’s also a risk for contaminated foods to trigger chronic foodborne illnesses, like botulism, E. coli, and salmonella. Ingesting a contaminated dog food will cause the bacteria to spread through your dog’s bloodstream, causing some health issues, and in worse cases, death.

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Knowing exactly how long is dog food good after expiration date can help you keep your dog safe by ensuring you feed him foods that are safe and of top-notch quality. If you decide to feed him the expired food, considering it is generally safe, make it a point to check it for issues first. That way, you can prevent him from experiencing various health risks caused by expired foods with issues.