Expiration dates are common problems that we all run into if we like to shop in bulk. Other times, it is possible to buy expired items like dog food and not notice until you get home and proceed to feed your dog. Expired dog food can sometimes be harmless but other times it can cause health issues with dogs and even allergic reactions if the meat is spoiled.
With all of this in mind, can you give your dog expired dog food? Expired dog foods are generally okay to feed to dogs if within a month or two past the expiration date. Anything longer than this can run the risk of your dog catching a food-borne illness or possibly ingesting dangerous substances like mold or mildew. Always check expiration dates on dog food.
All too often, we trust that a market retailer or online retailers will be observant of expiration dates on items like dog foods. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and feeding your dog expired food can potentially lead to illness.
In this guide, we will explore the ins and outs and all the essential information you need to know about feeding your dog out of date food. Read on to find out more about this common issue.
How long is dog food good for after expiration date?
For dog food, and most human foods for that matter, expiration or best buy date is used to indicate maximum taste and freshness and not necessarily safety. Dog food, be it canned wet food or dry kibble, is already designed to endure a long shelf life.
This long shelf life is promoted by the use of preservatives in the dog food, some of these are totally healthy for your dog, and others, like sodium, are typically measured at just the right amount to promote the preservation and still meet healthy guidelines for dogs.
A manufacturer of dog food will frequently put out guidelines for how much preservatives to add to the food to keep it from spoiling, while also still maintaining an attractive taste for dogs.
In addition to this process, the best buy label is applied to a can or a bag to indicate a cut-off time for how long the food will preserve its taste before the preservatives start to become more pronounced in the aroma and taste.
The matter of when dog food becomes unsafe for your dog is a different matter. The “best before date” on dog food indicates that the essential nutrients that are most beneficial for your pet will be at peak freshness on or before that date. After the best before date has come and passed, the nutrients will begin to degrade but the food will still be edible to your dog-just not as healthy.
Therefore, the essential nutrients begin to lose freshness and potency, but just how long can expired dog food last before it becomes unsafe for dogs?
There are no established rules or protocols attached to the safety of dog food after it passes its expiration date. We can see that the nutrients in the food start to lose freshness but as a general rule of thumb, dry dog food or kibble is typically okay to eat for up to 6 months after it is opened, and about a year if the bag has remained unopened.
Canned food is a bit different since the can seals in the food and the preservatives are compact enough to absorb into the food. You can typically get about another year of safety in canned food after the expiration date.
Can expired dog food grow mold and bacteria?
Bacteria, mold, and contamination are common with dry and canned dog food months past the expiration date. The main reason for this is that dog food is an organic matter of course, which means that no matter how many preservatives are in the food, the quality will eventually degrade over time and bacteria will begin to form.
With dry dog food, mold growth is not a concern if the food is stored properly and remains unopened. Once the bag is opened, the air immediately begins to respond to the organic matter, and light, either sunlight or artificial, the moisture in the air (needed for mold and mildew), and mold spores that routinely float in the air become absorbed into the food.
Mold can only be toxic if it is allowed to grow, therefore, this is why it is important to keep dry food sealed or closed after opening.
Canned dog food is a bit different. Opened canned food is of course immediately exposed to mold and bacteria, and unless you use an entire can, this bacteria can grow rapidly without refrigeration and proper storage. Opened canned dog food that is not used in one feeding should be used within 1 to 2 days even with refrigeration.
Unopened canned dog food refers back to the previous paragraph, and mold and bacterial growth are not an immediate concern with unopened, sealed cans. To find mold growing inside of canned dog food, this would likely only occur after years past the expiration date-if at all. If this is the case, you shouldn’t attempt to feed this to your dog in the first place.
In summary, of course, dried and canned dog food can grow mold and bacteria but this is typically only seen if the cans or bags have been opened and exposed to air.
What does the date on pet food mean?
With pet foods, and indeed most of all human food, there is a date listed somewhere on the container. As mentioned, this is what is known as a best by date.
It is easy to get confused by the different labels that can appear on pet food. This is because, depending on the manufacturer, some pet food may have a best by date or expiration date, perhaps even both. Let’s take a closer look at some details behind both types of dates.
Best By Date
We have already talked about the best by date and what this typically means. This is the date when you can expect the nutrients to start losing their value and your dog will largely be eating the preservatives as well as loads of salt and fat.
For dry food, never go a few months past the best by date and for dry dog food that has been opened, never feed it to your dog after the best by date.
With canned dog food, since the food is sealed in a can usually, this is one of the most proficient ways of preserving food on the planet but it will largely also depend on the nature of the preservatives.
Pet food companies want to prevent mold growth at all costs, so the shelf life of the food may have a best by date to alert you of when the food should be given to your pet.
Essentially, what this means is that the quality of the preservatives used in the canned pet food will start to degrade once the best by date has passed.
Sometimes, although not all the time, pet food manufacturers will also list an expiration date on dry or canned dog foods. Expired food is absolutely off-limits for feeding a dog.
Expired food for dogs should be treated in the same way that we treat rancid milk in the fridge – it should be thrown out immediately.
Expiration is meant to be a bit more extreme in its definition than a past its best date. Once an expiry date has passed, dog foods are likely either undergoing a chemical change or are already actively rancid and spoiled.
It’s not just a matter of the pet food has lost its nutritional value, expired food is a health risk and should be thrown out immediately.
Not all pet foods will have both dates listed and it can be confusing to read between the lines, but keep these key points in mind when judging what either of these dates means.
What are the health risks to giving your dog out of date food?
The health risks for your dog eating spoiled or expired food can be minimal or benign or even life-threatening and in need of immediate veterinary attention.
Dogs eat in similar ways that we eat; they enjoy food but are also in need of essential nutritional value. Therefore, a dog may not immediately reject rancid or spoiled food as we would because they need sustenance and nutrients to properly function at a higher rate than us. We can train ourselves to abstain from food, but dogs are much simpler in their thinking and expect to eat when hungry.
If expired and spoiled food is what is presented to them, they will typically eat it.
The most obvious response to spoiled food for a dog will likely be nausea and diarrhea. Sometimes, this may rid the pathogens and your dog will return to normal, but if something serious like E. coli or pathogens leading to botulism are ingested, these bacteria can be deadly.
E. coli in dogs can lead to extreme dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea, as well as severe urinary tract infections that could lead to organ failure in dogs. If left untreated, this bacteria can also lead to blood poisoning in dogs, which has a low survival rate.
All canned foods, either for pets or humans, run the risk of growing bacteria that can lead to botulism. For dogs, this bacteria is typically acquired from eating dead and decomposing animals or other organic matter, but canned foods can also harbor the bacteria and this typically happens once an expiry date has passed.
Botulism can lead to a condition causing paralysis in dogs and is notoriously difficult to treat.
Additionally, feeding your dog foods that have outlived their shelf life causes problems related to the lack of nutritional value in the food.
After a prolonged loss of nutritional value through food, dogs can experience weight loss and nutritional deficiencies related to a loss of vitamins and minerals leading to poor quality of life.
Does dry dog food go stale after opening?
Beyond dog foods that have gone bad is the problem with stale food, particularly stale dry pet foods.
Dry food becomes stale mostly due to the starch within the food. Staleness relates primarily to moisture content which also involves the freshness or quality of food.
When food goes stale, the moisture content inside of the food will start to move to the outer edges of the food, like a round piece of kibble for example.
The outer edge will have a moist texture while the inner core of the piece of food will be dry and virtually tasteless. As the air begins to oxidize dry food, this accelerates the drying process and is also when mold begins to absorb the remaining bits of moisture in the food.
If you have ever eaten a stale crisp or piece of bread, you likely remember how the piece of food had a tasteless, hard, and “off” taste to it. This is because the nutrients and even the seasonings have been overtaken by oxidation and degradation of the quality of the food to where you are essentially tasting nothing but plain starch.
Dry dog food is no different and since kibble is starchy, increased oxidation can lead to staleness. When it comes to if eating stale pet food can make your dog sick, it’s a flip of a coin.
Can stale dog food make your dog sick?
More often than not, stale food will simply taste bad, and sometimes, it will be so hard that your pet cannot even chew the kibble. The problem with stale dry food is that most of these formulations are made with meat and protein, and this can accelerate kibble from simply being stale to becoming rancid quite quickly.
Meats undergo a much different process when exposed to open air and will begin to grow bacteria a lot quicker than an item such as bread.
With meat, even meat that is processed and broken down as seen in dry pet food, there are already microorganisms present in the meat before any additional processes take place. These organisms can include parasites, pathogens, and mold spores that are already present and do need to land on the food to begin the molding process.
Furthermore, when meat or meat derivatives are exposed to leat and heat, the breakdown of the cells in the meat will accelerate rapidly, and this is also true of meat that has been cooked or processed, such as the meat products in dry kibble.
When dry kibble is being manufactured, the meat that is used in the process is also being exposed further to germs and pathogens during the mechanical processes that compound and form dry kibble.
Preservatives will help to keep the food for a long while, but dry kibble that is constantly exposed to open air or light and heat will cancel out the effects of the preservatives and begin to break down and foster the dormant bacteria.
Also, meat products in dry kibble will react and break down simply from exposure to oxygen. Some pet owners may notice this when they first open dry kibble and over time, the color of the food has degraded or even turned. This all relates to the meat products in the kibble meeting oxygen and degrading.
This will make your dog sick and could lead to the same health risks associated with expired food. Although stale food in and of itself may not make your dog sick, a dog will likely avoid the food, and rightly so.
In summary, dry kibble has many more concerns with it than simply regular starch going stale after being exposed to oxygen. If your brand of dry kibble is vegan or meat-free, then you may simply only have to contend with the food going stale after prolonged exposure to the open air.
Why you shouldn’t give your Cavapoo expired dog food
Expired dog food runs the possibility of containing harmful bacteria that can cause serious problems with your dog’s overall health. Apart from the food that has lost its nutritional quality, expired food can lead to a range of harmful illnesses that is not worth the risk.
A Cavapoo needs a healthy and substantial diet to promote good health and a great quality of life. Expired food is tantamount to feeding your Cavapoo empty organic matter that is likely harboring dangerous pathogens that will lead to illness.
To avoid these problems, always check the labels of both dry and canned pet food to make sure the dates are still far away. For dry food, always make sure you seal the bag after serving a portion. The key is to make sure no air can be exposed to the food, and it may help to empty the bag into a sealed container and then discard the original bag.
Dog food that comes in cans is important to provide your dog with texture and some semblance of whole foods and meats to keep them engaged with their meals. Since a Cavapoo is a small dog, you may find that feeding him/her an entire can for one meal is too much.
This may cause you to only feed your Cavapoo a half can and save the other half for a meal later in the day. This is fine but make sure you do not leave the can in your fridge for longer than 24 hours. Also, always put the wet food in the refrigerator and never live it sitting out at room temperature.
Apart from this, always pay attention to the best by and expiration dates on canned food.
For information on the best food to feed your Cavapoo, check out our blog.
Is it safe to feed your dog human expired food
When it comes to human foods, there is actually very little that is acceptable and good for dogs in the first place. In terms of expired foods, the same concern for you also applies to your dog. In fact, there are very few differences between the spoiling process of expired human foods and expired dog foods.
Exposure to air and light accelerates human foods in much the same way. Also, the loss of nutritional quality and taste are the same as seen with expired dog foods. Treat the process the same way and also avoid feeding your dog human foods that would cause them problems in the first place.
Can you feed dogs out of date meat?
Out of date meat is a major problem and risk for virtually any animal and humans as well. Since meat already contains a range of pathogens and even parasitic organisms in its raw state, there are more dangers with feeding your dog out of date meat than any other type of food.
Pet owners should be aware of the oxidation process that meat responds to when it is exposed to air. This goes for cooked and processed meat just as it does for raw meat as well. Additionally, out-of-date meat allows parasitic organisms like worms to become more apparent. Avoid out-of-date meat at all costs.
Can I feed my dog out of date chicken?
Perhaps even more dangerous than out of date red meat is out of date poultry like chicken. Spoiled chicken brings with it all the dangers seen with spoiled meat but there is also the added risk of giving your dog salmonella poisoning when feeding them rancid chicken.
This illness would require immediate veterinary attention and can even lead to death if not addressed. Raw chicken, rather out of date or not, should never be given to your dog under any circumstances to avoid severe illness.
In summary, giving your dog expired or out of date food is not a good idea. There may be instances where the expired food may not cause any reactions at all or, there could be the risk involved that could lead to a serious illness like E. coli or botulism for rancid food that has gone long past its shelf life.
Make sure you inspect the dates listed on either dry or canned pet food. Be sure to keep dry food in a sealed container to avoid the oxidation process that occurs when dry food becomes exposed to air.