Does More Expensive Dog Food Last Longer?

Dog food shelf life depends on the preservation method used.
Jupiterimages/ Images

The choice of dog food types and brands confronting today's dog owner is staggering. There's grain-free food, easily-digested food, food for allergic dogs, food for vegan dogs, food for raw-meat-eating dogs, food for various life stages, and even formulations that claim to be breed-specific. Some dog owners prefer dry kibble, while others prefer canned food. With all that choice, there also is a wide variation in price. Buying more expensive dog food does not guarantee it will last longer.

Dog Food Cost

Some premium dog food brands may cost three to four times as much as brands you find on your grocery store shelf. According to the authors of the 2010 book, "Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog or Cat," most premium brands contain very similar ingredients, such as chicken, broth, grain, and vegetables. The main difference in non-premium brands is the use of more grains and meat-byproducts. Health benefit claims made by dog food companies are not regulated, and there is little evidence that anything beyond a dog food labeled "complete and balanced" is required to maintain your dog's health.

Counting Calories

A dog requires a certain number of calories per day to supply his energy needs and maintain a healthy weight, depending on the size, age, and activity level of the dog. Regardless of price, complete and balanced dog foods formulated for adult dogs do not differ greatly in calories per cup (generally between 350 and 450 calories). That means whether you feed your dog a relatively low-priced or a high-priced brand, the amount you feed per day will be about the same. If cost is what's keeping you from selecting a specific brand over another, though, it's a good idea to compare cost per calorie for those brands before you choose. If you'd be feeding less of the more expensive brand to provide the calories your pal needs, a bag will last longer, and the cost difference per meal will not be as quite as great as it appears at first glance.

Unopened Dog Food Shelf Life

An unopened package of dry kibble will not last in storage as long as canned dog food because of the differences in the preservation method. Check the "best if used by" or "use by" date on the dry dog food bag before you buy it, to get an idea of its freshness and how long it will last unopened in storage. An average canned dog food will have a shelf life of two to five years from the date of canning.

Opened Dog Food Shelf Life

The moment dry dog food is opened, oxidation begins to degrade its quality. To keep dry food as fresh as possible, store it in its re-closed package in a clean, airtight, light-proof container at or slightly below normal room temperature. Buy no larger package than your pup will use up within two to three weeks. Cover opened canned dog food with a tight-fitting lid, and refrigerate it. An open and covered can of dog food stored in the refrigerator should be consumed within three days.

Types of Preservatives

Some expensive dog foods actually may not last as long on the shelf as less expensive brands because of differences in the preservatives used. Many expensive dog food brands labeled "natural" use preservatives such as Vitamin E rather than artificial preservatives (ethoxyquin, BHT, and BHA). This can shorten shelf life by several months. If you are uncertain about the shelf life of the dog food you select, check the ingredients label and the "best by" date on the package.