When preparing for emergencies, don’t forget about your dog. You will need to stockpile food, water, and first aid items for your dog.
Here’s what you need to know about storing dog food long-term, so it doesn’t go bad.
Does Dog Food Go Bad?
Just like human food, dog food can go bad. Even dry dog kibble can start to grow mold or microbes, which could make your dog sick.
Over time, dog food can also:
- Lose nutrients: Some nutrients are sensitive, so old dog food won’t be as nutritious as fresh dog food.
- Get infested with pests: Pantry pests like moths and weevils especially love dog kibble. These pests can then infest the rest of your food supply. Your dog might not mind eating insects, but I certainly don’t enjoy them in my food! Read about how to keep insects out of your food supply.
- Go rancid: The fats in the dog food will go rancid. While rancid food won’t necessarily make your dog sick (not like bacteria or mold will), it develops a nasty taste. Your dog might not want to eat kibble after it’s gone rancid.
How long does dry dog food last?
Unopened and in its original packaging, dry dog kibble will last approximately 6 to 18 months. Dog food with lots of preservatives will last longer than higher-quality dog food with natural ingredients. If stored in an airtight container in a cool place, dry dog food can last a couple years. If stored with oxygen absorbers and kept cool, dog food can last over 5 years without going bad.
How long does canned dog food last?
Most canned dog food has a “best by” date of two years after manufacturing. However, most canned food will last indefinitely, including canned pet food. For more, read this article about how long does canned food last?
Because it never goes bad doesn’t require any special storage, canned dog food is the most straightforward emergency food for your dog. However, canned food is pricier and takes more space than dry kibble. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense for most people to store canned food for their pets.
How to Store Dry Dog Food Long-Term
The best way to store dog food long-term (more than a year) is to put it in an airtight container with oxygen absorbers.
This creates an environment that is almost entirely free of oxygen. Microbes and insects can’t survive without oxygen. Fats won’t go rancid, and nutrients won’t break down as quickly without oxygen. It’s also essential to keep the dog food somewhere cool and safe from rodents.
Instructions for storing dog food long-term:
- Put it in a Mylar bag. You can also use other airtight containers like Mason jars, but Mylar bags are the most convenient for storing large amounts of dog food long term.
- Add oxygen absorbers. The amount of OAs depends on the size of the Mylar bag.
- Seal the bags: Don’t forget to label them!
- Put it into a bucket with a lid. This will keep the Mylar bags safe from pests like rodents.
- Keep somewhere cool. Even when stored with oxygen absorbers, fats will still go rancid in hot temperatures. Try to keep the dog food somewhere cool.
For more detailed instructions, read:
Can I store dog food in 5-gallon buckets or plastic containers?
Some people simply dump bulk dog food into 5-gallon buckets or other large plastic containers. Stored this way, dog kibble won’t last much longer than in its original packaging. There is simply too much air in the container, which will cause the dog food to go bad.
In some cases, the dog food might go bad faster in a plastic container as scratches can become breeding grounds for mold or bacteria.
Also, don’t be surprised if you end up with an insect infestation if you store dog food this way. Often, insect eggs are already in the dog food when you buy it – especially if you buy dog food in bulk. The insect eggs eventually hatch and infest your entire home. Moths and weevils are surprisingly good at getting through even “airtight” lids!
If you still want to store dog food in plastic containers, make sure you:
- Use plastic containers with good lids. Mason jars also work, but most are too small for storing large amounts of dog food.
- Take steps to kill insect eggs in the dog food, such as by freezing the food for a few days before storage.
- Rotate through the dog food within 1-2 years. Make sure you label the containers with the date to rotate in the correct order.
What about vacuum-sealing dog food for long-term storage?
Vacuum sealing removes some of the air from the bag, thus helping the dog food last longer. However, vacuum sealing does not remove all of the oxygen. On top of that, vacuum sealer bags aren’t completely airtight. They will eventually allow some air and moisture into the sealed bag. For this reason, vacuum sealing is NOT a good long-term food storage method.
For more, read: Vacuum sealing vs. Mylar Bags for Food Storage
Should I keep dog food frozen?
Dog kibble will stay fresh indefinitely when stored in the freezer. However, freezing dog food generally is not a good long-term storage method. Dog food has a powerful odor. It doesn’t take very long until everything in your freezer starts to smell like kibble. To prevent this, you have to repackage the dog kibble in airtight packaging.
If you are already repackaging the dog kibble, it probably makes more sense to just put it in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Packaged that way, dog food doesn’t need to be kept frozen and will last for years without going bad.
Another Option: Freeze Drying Dog Food
Freeze-drying is a process that removes moisture from food, thus allowing it to last for a very long time.
Freeze drying machines are expensive, but you can freeze dry wet dog food if you have one. You can then store this dried food in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Stored like this and kept cool, the dog food might last well over 10 years.
Some brands sell freeze-dried dog food, but it is primarily costly raw food that isn’t suitable for long-term storage.
Read more about freeze-drying at home here.
Do you store emergency food for your dog? Let us know your storage methods in the comments section below.