Your pet’s food is one of the most expensive aspects of his care, and it makes sense to limit waste as much as possible. Additionally, the proper storage of food can mean the difference between a healthy meal and one teeming with bacteria and pathogens. Whether you give your pet dry, canned, semi-moist or raw food; store it properly, practice good hygiene and exercise care with leftovers to avoid any problems.
When it comes to proper food storage, pet food is no different from people food. Over time, the food will break down, and may develop molds, bacteria or other pathogens. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, even dry foods may harbor bacteria, notably salmonella. In all cases, it is important to shield your pet’s food from contact with oxygen and light by sealing food in opaque, airtight containers. Additionally, protect it from the heat by keeping it in a pantry or the refrigerator.
While dry food will not spoil as rapidly as other types of food, it does not last indefinitely. Always make sure that you use such foods before the expiration date. Keep the food dry and store it inside the bag it came in; manufacturers design the bags to resist moisture and airflow. The best way to store a large bag of dog or cat food is to place the original bag inside a clean plastic pail or container with a secure lid. Do not store dry food in humid rooms, as damp conditions will accelerate spoiling. Always roll the top of the bag down tightly and cinch it closed with a clip. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pet owners keep dry foods and treats in locations that do not exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
While still sealed in the original packaging, most semi-moist foods have long shelf lives; however, they spoil quickly once you open them. In contrast with dry foods, which spoil when kept too humid, moist foods may become unpalatable if kept too dry. Tightly seal any leftovers in an airtight plastic bag or container and place it in the refrigerator. Always keep such leftovers below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Discard any uneaten food after two or three days of refrigeration.
Canned food has an exceptionally long shelf life, and its airtight, opaque packaging eliminate oxygen and light from contacting the food. However, cans will last longer if stored in a cool area, such as your pantry. Once they're opened, you must place any leftovers in an airtight bag, inside the refrigerator. As with moist food, you must store canned food in a way that does not let it dry out. If sealed well and kept under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, canned leftovers last about two or three days.
Because of its nature, raw food can contain high levels of bacteria or pathogens. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discourages the use of raw foods entirely, other authorities offer suggestions for safely handling raw foods. The Association of American Feed Control Officials recommends that you keep raw food frozen until needed. Completely thaw the food in the refrigerator or the microwave before offering it to your pet. Remove and discard any food that remains in your pet’s dish after two hours. It is imperative that you wash your pet’s bowl, any surfaces used in preparation and your hands after handling raw food.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Pet Food and Treat --Tips for Keeping People and Pets Healthy and Safe From Salmonella
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Safe Handling Tips for Pet Foods and Treats
- Doctors Foster and Smith: Dog Feeding and Storage of Pet Food FAQs
- Association of American Feed Control Officials: Product Handling Safety
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