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How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out? Surprising Vet-Approved Facts

Dean Eby

By Dean Eby

wet dog food

Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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There are many ways to feed your dog. While the vast majority of people simply purchase a commercial dry kibble to feed their pooch, others opt to cook everything fresh. Somewhere in between these two methods is wet dog food.

Wet dog food is far different from dry kibble and must be stored under different conditions. Of course, the main difference is that dry kibble can be left out in the bowl for longer than wet food can. Wet dog food cannot. So, how long can you leave wet dog food out? How long can you leave dry dog food out? And how can you store leftover wet dog food from a can?

You shouldn’t leave wet dog food in a bowl for more than two hours, and in the summer months, this is down to one hour. If you store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, wet dog food will last around three to five days, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations. Dry dog food can safely sit out for up to 8 hours. In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more to cover all of your questions regarding wet dog food.

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How Long Can You Leave Wet Dog Food Out?

The answer to how long can dry dog food sit out is simple: it should be fine for about 8 hours. When you put dry kibble into your dog’s bowl, you can generally leave it for the rest of the day without worrying, as recommended by some dog food manufacturers.1 It doesn’t contain any moisture that might invite mold or mildew. But it needs to be in a dry and cool area, not in direct sunlight or available to insects or other animals.

However, we would recommend storing it more appropriately, if your pooch has not finished their meal after a few hours. Reason for this is the presence of various bacteria, viruses, mold, insects, house dust mites, dander, spores, and other air pollutants, that circulate inside and outside our homes continuously.2 This will contaminate the food that’s sitting in the bowl for prolonged periods. So, when your pooch has finished eating, store the food in a closed airtight container, and place it somewhere dry and cool, while the bowl should be washed daily.

But canned dog food is wet and can’t be left out in the same way that dry kibble can. Instead, it can only be left open for a short time before going bad.

dog eating

Once you put wet dog food out for your dog, all of the food should be eaten within one to two  hours. Bacterial numbers can double in as little as 20 minutes, and according to USDA, they grow most rapidly at temperatures between 40 ° and 140 °F. This range of temperatures is often called the “Danger Zone.” If the temperature is above 90 °F, wet food should not be left out for more than one hour, as the risk of food going bad is high, and you may not notice it at first, but your dog’s stomach most certainly will.

Stick to the “two-hour rule” for leaving items needing refrigeration out at room temperature. Ideally never allow wet food to sit at room temperature for more than two hours—one hour if the air temperature is above 90° F.

After even as little as four hours, bacterial numbers could be very high, especially if the weather is hot, and the food may no longer be good and must be thrown away. This applies to all wet canned pet foods, especially when humidity is high. Good ventilation inside the home may help to reduce these bacterial numbers. Depending on room temperature, humidity, and ventilation, some food may be fine after four hours, but there is no real way of knowing, and most dogs will eat almost anything, so they can’t be the judge of good vs bad food.

dog wet food pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

How Long Will Wet Dog Food Stay Good Once It’s Open?

Once you open canned dog food, it’s got approximately a two-hour life while exposed to the air. But if you store it properly, you can keep it for up to 3-5 days. To store it properly, the food must be kept air-tight and refrigerated. The food must be kept between 40–45 degrees Fahrenheit.

To keep the can air-tight, you can get a plastic pet food lid that covers the can. Alternatively, you can put the can or its contents in a plastic container with an air-tight lid. The last method is to store the can inside a zip-lock bag in the fridge. However, zip-lock bags aren’t the best oxygen and odor barriers, so plastic containers or lids are preferred.

When buying canned food for your dog, it’s best to buy smaller cans that you can use within a few days, rather than large ones that will stay open for longer and be a source of odor in your fridge. Larger cans may also lose quality and safety as the time passes.

Storing Canned Dog Food

While still sealed, canned dog food can be stored quite easily. They should be kept in a dark, dry place with a temperature below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too high, especially in combination with high humidity, it can cause the contents of the can to go rancid. On the other hand, if you keep them stored at too low of a temperature, you could freeze the food and alter its taste and texture.

cans of wet dog food
Image By: Pixabay

How to Tell if Canned Dog Food is Good

Just because a dog food is stored in a can doesn’t mean it stays good indefinitely. If you offer your dog expired canned food, it could potentially result in health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, reduced appetite, abdominal pain, or worse. Luckily, it’s quite simple to tell whether an unopened can of dog food is still good or not.

Look at the bottom of the can in question. There should be a date stamped on the can labeled as a “best before” date. Only use the can if the best-before date has not yet passed. If the best-before date has already passed, then you should throw away that can of food and refrain from feeding it to your dog. Inspect the can and check for cracks or damages in the seams and lid. Make sure there is no leakage or bulging of the can and no fluid or foam spurting out when you open it. Some of the dangers of canned food are toxins made by a bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Luckily, botulism in dogs is rare.

However, if the can has been opened and not stored appropriately, it should be thrown out as well, as it’s likely going bad, and you may not be able to tell. Familiarize yourself with the smell and texture of your dog’s food so you can easily spot any little changes that may indicate the food is starting to spoil. Of course, if the food smells bad or is moldy at the top or discolored, it should be trashed.

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So how long can wet dog food sit out, and how long can you leave dry dog food out? Dry dog food is easy to store and keep. In most cases, it can be left in your dog’s bowl all day without consequence. You are also less likely to deal with mold and mildew issues with dry dog food, but it can still get contaminated with indoor bacteria, house dust mites, and insects. However, canned food requires more care. You should only leave canned food in your dog’s bowl for two hours maximum, and just one hour in hot and humid weather. Once opened, canned dog food can be stored for up to five days, or according to the food manufacturer’s guidelines, in an air-tight container between 40–45 degrees Fahrenheit.

And always check the best-before date on any can of dog food before you feed it to your pooch. Failing to do so could result in serious health issues for your canine.

Featured Image Credit: Sharaf Maksumov, Shutterstock

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