Can Dogs Eat Expired Dog Food? 7 Health Risks To Consider

Canine chow rarely has an appetizing aroma. Can we still give it to Fido even though it’s expired? So, in a nutshell, you can give Fido stale dog food, but that doesn’t mean you should. And remember, if it smells rancid, it probably is, so toss it, not your dog.

No matter how long it has been sitting, dry food won’t give off any odor. What if it doesn’t go bad smelling after that date; can we still feed it to Fido?

We all know he’s had worse on his foraging expeditions through the trash can or in the park’s dumpsters. How dangerous, then, is it for him to eat from a can that’s been open for a week or kibble that’s been in a bowl for a month?

In this piece, we’ll go over the criteria you should use to determine if Fido’s food is still good to go.

Does Dog Food Expire?

You must first learn the rules governing dog food expiration dates. In the United States, pet food packaging is not required by law to include a use-by or expiration date.

Many pet food manufacturers, however, supply them to help retailers and consumers determine whether or not a given product actually delivers the claimed nutritional value. The quality and nutritional value of the food deteriorates over time.

Pet food typically has either a “best by” or “use by” date. The first one tells you when something is fresh enough to provide your body with all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber it needs.

The best-before date is more of a recommendation than a warning, as the food’s nutritional value may decline after that time.

Use by dates, on the other hand, are more concrete and serve as a warning that the food may be spoiled if consumed after the specified time. Consequently, you should think twice before feeding it to your pal.

Not only could the food have lost some of its nutritional value, but it could also have gone bad. caused by the growth of mold or bacteria.

Yorkshire terrier eating from feeding bowl

Can Dogs Eat Expired Dog Food?

After a few weeks or months past the best by date, most dry dog food is still a safe bet. However, this is only true if the packaging has not been opened. However, there are some distinctions to be made with wet foods.

Wet foods are canned with preservatives that work by depriving the food of oxygen and the bacteria within it, preventing spoilage and the growth of mold and bacteria. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of these supplements will decline over time.

It is best to open a can and inspect the top layer for mold and a rancid, rotten odor before consuming it. Because it probably is if the smell is off or the color is wrong.

Even if you’ve opened a bag of kibble that’s a day or two past its expiration date, it’s probably fine to feed your pet for at least a few more days.

The kibble is usually fine if it is still dry, not turning white and powdery, and does not smell musty.

Don’t rely on the smell of rotting to tell you when your dry food has gone bad. Eventually, it will become stale in flavor, and your dog may stop eating it. Dry goods that are more than a few months past their “use by” date should be thrown away because they may develop mold and bacteria.

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Accidentally feeding your dog spoiled food is a surefire way to make them sick. Bacteria like E. coli and Botulism can cause a severe upset that lasts for days and can be life-threatening, unlike food that simply doesn’t agree with him.

If vomiting or diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, it’s best to consult a veterinarian.

What are the Issues With Expired Dog Foods?

As you can see, if the best-before or use-by date has passed, the quality of the food may have declined to an unacceptable level.

You should be aware of what these low-quality foods are and how they affect your dog, as their effects may be more subtle than you think.

Low Nutrition Value

These dates are meant to inform you of the window of opportunity during which the food’s nutritional value is at its peak. With each passing day after an expiration date, the food’s nutritional value decreases.

It depends on the type of food (dry or wet), the brand (cheap or premium ingredients), and whether or not the package has been opened. The food could still be bad, though, even if these things are considered.

The risk of natural breakdown of essential components like fat and proteins exists even if there are no outward signs of spoilage or a bad smell. Because of this, it’s possible that you could get sick.

sad labrador


Most food is stored in containers that are hermetically sealed to keep out air and bacteria that could cause spoilage. Unfortunately, even the best quality packaging can deteriorate over time, letting dust, dirt, bacteria, and even insects in.

Furthermore, some packages and cartons can develop leaks. This means that water gets in, which leads to the growth of mold and the release of bacterial toxins.

Unfortunately, this encourages pests to make a home in the food, where they can lay eggs that can cause severe health issues in the dog if they are consumed.

This is the primary justification for strict quality control measures before canine consumption of packaged food. If food hasn’t been stored properly, it can even be past its expiration date but still contain mold.

Spoiled Fat

While it’s true that some forms of fat can contribute to weight gain, your dog still needs some in his diet.

It’s a tasty way to spice up their diet and gives them a boost of energy as well as essential oils for a shiny coat and sharp mind.

It is also one of the first things to go bad and spoil in a recipe. When it goes bad, the odor is strong and unpleasant in the extreme. At least for the two of us. In contrast, Fido won’t care and will happily devour spoiled fare.

Bad food, especially if the fat has gone rancid, can mess with your stomach.

Mold Growth

Mold can usually be seen at first glance. Even on fluffy white bread, the spores are noticeable, and the same is true of your dog’s kibble if you examine it closely enough.

Whether the food is wet or dry, it will grow on the top, making it easy to spot. Mold has an unpleasant odor that is off-putting to dogs, unlike sour fat. If Fido won’t touch it and it has an unusual odor, then it might be moldy.

Remove any moldy items and replace them with new food. Then, keep an eye on him in case he experiences any stomach distress.

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Black domestic dog are stoop body and vomit mucus

What are the Health Risks of Expired Dog Food?

We wouldn’t recommend taking any chances with expired food because of the potential for both mild and severe health problems for your dog.

Although food that is slightly past its expiration date is safe, taking the risk of your dog getting a stomach upset is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

Bad dog food is the leading cause of diarrhea and other health issues in canines. In order to rid itself of the bacteria that will inevitably be present in spoiled foods, the body will produce more urine and/or feces than usual.

A few days is a reasonable estimate for the duration of symptoms. The vomiting and diarrhea should stop within 24 hours, though the loose stools may persist for several days.

If this occurs, throw away any stale food and stick to a bland diet of chicken and rice to avoid further stomach distress.

When food spoils, harmful bacteria can multiply, and your dog could be exposed to them.

The bloodstream is an ideal medium for the dissemination of bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, botulism, and many more. The health problems this causes in your dog, if left untreated, could be terminal.

Malnutrition is a less dire but still serious result of consuming food past its prime. Oftentimes, the nutritional value of foods that have degraded is lost even before they begin to mold or rot.

It’s clear they’re not giving your dog what he needs, even if he seems to be digesting it okay.

Lack of his basic needs can cause a gradual, unnoticeable decline in his health. Lethargy, which may be misunderstood as laziness, or weight loss may be the first signs. Malnutrition can cause bone issues and organ failure if not treated early.

dog eating

Best By vs. Expiration Dates

Best-by dates and use-by dates are not the same thing. A food’s expiration date indicates when its constituents may have begun to deteriorate.

However, after the “best by” date, the food isn’t as nutritionally complete as it claims to be on the label.

This is not necessarily a sign that the pet food is no longer secure. There will still be “best by” dates on most pet food, giving owners peace of mind that their pets are getting the optimum nutrients, smell, taste, and texture.

Pet food manufacturers can estimate “best by” dates for their products by looking at the preservatives they use.

Canned foods have a longer shelf life than dry ones because the canning process acts as a preservative.

It’s important to note that pet food may contain a wide range of artificial and natural preservatives.

Preservatives, despite the negative connotations associated with the term in recent years, are essential for ensuring that your pet’s food is safe for consumption.

However, the shelf life of pet food can vary because not all preservatives degrade at the same rate. After the sell-by date, the preservation methods will no longer be as effective.

When that happens, they stop working as effectively to prevent your dog’s food from going bad due to the growth of mold or bacteria.

However, after the best-before date, the quality of the product will decline regardless of the presence or absence of preservatives. The food will lose some of its nutritional value and become less complete and balanced in terms of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.

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Dog Food Storage Best Practices

Products that are still within their best-before dates can still go bad if they are not stored properly, regardless of how long they have left. Air, moisture, and high temperatures are the three most common causes of dog food spoilage.

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Food that has been exposed to air can become contaminated with harmful bacteria and grow in quantity.

Mold can develop on pet food if it is kept in a damp area. Fats in the food can go rancid if the storage environment is too warm.

If the food for your dog has gone bad, you might not be able to tell by looking at it, but you definitely will be able to tell by the sour or rancid smell. Moisture, mold, or insects may also be visible in the food.

If your dog is particularly picky, he may even turn up his nose at the food if he detects a scent that you don’t.

While you’re preparing his breakfast, if he runs up to the bowl with eager anticipation, stops short, and sniffs the kibble apprehensively before walking away, there may be an off-putting odor in the food that you don’t notice.

The best way to keep dry dog food fresh and safe from pests is to keep it in the original bag it came in and store it in an airtight container. To prevent air from escaping, roll the top of the bag down.

It’s not a good idea to pour the kibble into the food storage container straight away because you can’t control how much air gets in there.

You also won’t be prepared for a recall if you don’t have the lot number and expiration date written down. Dry dog food is best consumed within about two months of opening the bag.

Tightly covering opened cans or pouches of wet dog food in the fridge is the best way to keep them fresh. Wet foods have a three-day shelf life once opened.

This is because the nutrients begin to degrade more rapidly once the can is opened, as fewer preservatives need to be added (since the canning process itself preserves the food).

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What If My Dog Eats Contaminated or Expired Dog Food?

If your dog eats spoiled or old dog food, he or she may exhibit symptoms of gastrointestinal distress like vomiting and diarrhea.

However, your dog could become fatally ill if exposed to a particular pathogen. Illnesses brought on by bacteria like E. coli can be fatal if not treated.

Mycotoxins are toxins produced by mold and include vomitoxin (which can cause severe gastrointestinal disease if untreated) and aflatoxin (which can cause liver disease and death if untreated). Muscle tremors can also be caused by ingesting other mycotoxins.

Because of the wide variety of illnesses that can cause vomiting and diarrhea, it’s crucial to get your puppy checked out by the vet as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms.

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Even though it may be safe for Fido to eat expired food that isn’t at its best, you shouldn’t feed him that food because you know better.

Check for the aforementioned problems to make sure you won’t be causing any stomach upsets if you decide to finish that bag of food that has just gone over the best by date. Alternatively, life-threatening bacterial infections.

Buy enough dog food to last a minimum of a month at a time. Therefore, even if it goes bad quickly after purchase, you should still be able to consume most of it. Your dog’s health and fitness should come first, though, so there’s no reason to take any chances.

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