Is it ok if your dog eats out-of-date dog food?
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Is it ok if your dog eats out-of-date dog food?

Dogs
Health & Safety

There is no denying the fact that feeding your dog can be very expensive over the dog’s lifetime, especially if you have decided that the best food for your dog is a premium brand, and/or your dog is very large. Buying in bulk can often offer significant savings in the medium term, but this can in some cases be a false economy-for instance if you buy a huge bag of dog food for a small dog. This may mean that the bag of food sits open for weeks or even months while the dog gets through it, and can spoil or even pass its use by date in the meantime.

There are also several websites and other places like discount stores online and in the high street, and market stalls etc., that sometimes sell off short-dated or out of date dog food at a significant saving, which can of course be very tempting!

So, is it ok to feed your dog out-of-date food, either that you have bought with a short date or because it is taking your dog so long to get through the bag? In this article, we will cover some of the factors that you should take into account when it comes to answering this question, and how to determine the right answer for you and your dog. Read on to learn more.

Advantages and problems

Nobody likes to waste food, particularly if that food is expensive-and if your dog’s food bag only has a few meals worth left and the bag has just gone out of date, but it is important that you look at the big picture, in terms of the problems that can arise if the food has spoiled.

The same is true when it comes to knowingly buying food that is either out of date or that you know will be out of date by the time it has finished, and there are a couple of different factors to bear in mind.

The first and largest potential risk is that the food itself will have spoiled-this is of course much more likely to happen, and easier to spot with wet food, which will look, smell and taste foul when it has turned bad, but dry food is not safe either! Dry food that spoils is unlikely to smell bad, but it will often taste stale, which your dog will not like. Dry food can also start to grow fungal and bacterial nasties if out of date and/or left open for a long time, which can sometimes be seen by the naked eye, or can cause discolouration and changes in the food’s appearance.

Feeding your dog food that has spoiled-either dry or wet-is apt to give them an upset stomach and potentially, harm their health either short term of long term in other ways too, and so regardless of the date on the food, spoiled food or questionable food should always be thrown away well out of your dog’s reach!

Use By vs. Best Before

All dog food sold to the UK market must by law display information on the date by which the food should be eaten, but this can be expressed in different ways, which mean different things.

Also, if you are looking at a packet of food from a multi-pack and cannot see a date, check the main packaging instead as the date might be here.

Best before dates on food are given as an advisory-the food is considered to be at its best before the given date, but after this point it may well still be perfectly edible and just as good as it was the day before. Best before dates tend to be used on foods that are not among those that need to be handled, stored and prepared with lots of care-such as dry food-and/or on foods that have a long shelf-life.

After the best before date has passed, the potential problems are that the food will start to decline in terms of texture, taste and other quality factors and vitally, it is also likely to start to lose its nutritional value too. However, these things do not happen overnight-a food that was within the best before date will not suddenly change the next day, and so if the food is fresh, newly opened and within a few days of the date, it will almost certainly be ok to feed to your dog.

Use by dates, on the other hand, merit rather more respect and speculation. Use by dates are given as a warning rather than an advisory, because food eaten after that date is likely to not only decline in quality, but may also be spoiling, growing bacteria and other nasties, or generally, not be a good bet to eat.

Use by dates are most commonly used on foods that need to be handled with respect-such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, and other things that have a relatively short shelf-life and that are likely to deteriorate markedly each day after the date.

Food that has passed its use by date should not be fed to your dog, even if it appears to be fine.

Think of it as the difference between eating a sealed bag of crisps a couple of days after the date has passed, versus the suspicion that you would view a pack of raw chicken breasts with that was also just a couple of days past the date!

Yes or no?

Overall, it is not a good idea to knowingly buy short dated or out of date dog food for your dog, and you should never do this if the food is wet. However, if you have a recently opened or sealed bag of dry food that is only out of date by a few days, this should be fine and will not have begun to decline in nutritional content in any meaningful way-assuming that you do not keep feeding it for more than a few days past the date.

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