How Long Does Kibble Stay Fresh?

Picture of a Pappion Dog

Dog food kibble far outsells canned dog food for many reasons. It’s more convenient for most dog owners to feed. It costs less to feed per ounce. And you don’t have to cope with lots of cans. Plus, kibble stays fresh after you open the bag. We all know that a can of pet food won’t stay fresh very long after it’s opened. But, how long does kibble stay fresh? We have some answers for you.

Dog Food Kibble and Preservatives

Unlike many canned dog foods, kibble usually includes some preservatives. The process used to make kibble does not particularly discourage the growth of bacteria, unlike the cooking and canning process for canned dog food.

At one time dry dog foods were full of artificial preservatives such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), tert-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), propyl gallate, and ethoxyquin. Artificial preservatives have been linked to health problems such as cancer.

Today many better quality kibbles use natural preservatives such as tocopherols (forms of vitamin E), citric acid (vitamin C), and extracts such as rosemary.

Artificial preservatives can keep kibble usable for a long time. They are also very reliable in a chemical sense. With natural preservatives kibble won’t be good as long. Natural preservatives are weaker than artificial preservatives but they don’t have the negative side effects. We recommend kibbles that use natural preservatives even though these foods have a shorter shelf life.

Dog Food Kibble and Fats

One of the ingredients that is most likely to go bad in your dog’s kibble is the fat content. Just as the cooking oils in your kitchen can go bad if you keep them a long time or if they are exposed to heat, the oils and fats in your dog’s food can go rancid if the food is stored in a hot place or if you keep the food for a long time.

If you open a bag of dog food and it has a bad smell, it might be from the oils and fats that have gone a little “off.”

How Long Does Kibble Last?

Every bag of kibble should have a “best by” or “best before” date stamped someone on the bag. This date tells you how long the food should be good – as long as it is unopened and stored in favorable conditions.

In speaking to one dog food company representative, we were told that they make their food in small batches so that it doesn’t sit on the shelf in a warehouse for a long time. The food is made, stored for a few days, and then put on trucks to be distributed to retailers. It can reach consumers just a few days after it is made. This timeline can vary, depending on the company. Some companies might store their bags of kibble longer before shipping them to retailers. The food will still be good but it will not be as fresh when you purchase it.

It’s also important for companies, trucking lines, and retailers to store the bags of kibble correctly before you buy it. It needs to be kept in cool, dry places. Bags of kibble that are stored in hot warehouses can go “off” even though they have not been opened. Exposure to air, light, heat, and humidity speeds up the rate at which the food will degrade.

When you purchase a bag of kibble you should examine the bag to make sure it hasn’t been damaged or opened in any way. A damaged or opened bag – or any kind of hole in the bag – means that the food will not be fresh.

Many companies go to great lengths to design dog food bags that cannot be opened accidentally or easily damaged. In fact, it can be hard just to open a bag of dog food today. If you notice that the bag is opened when you get it home or if the food is “off” in some way, it’s best not to feed it to your dog. You can contact the store or the company and get a replacement or a refund.

How Long Does Kibble Last Once the Bag Is Opened?

After you have opened a bag of kibble, it’s important to store it in a dry, cool place. This will help it stay fresh longer. You should also use a clip or some other method of keeping the top sealed. Some people like to place the bag into a rubber container such as a clean rubber trash can with a properly fitting lid to keep the food fresh.

A bag of kibble will usually stay fresh and suitable for your dog to eat for about 4-6 weeks after it’s opened as long as you take care to store the food in a cool, dry place with the bag sealed.

If you pour some dry kibble into your dog’s dish, it can normally safely sit out for a day or so. After that time, if your dog hasn’t eaten it, throw it out. If you have mixed canned food or toppers with the dry food, don’t leave it sitting out that long for your dog. Throw it out after 2-3 hours if it contains canned food and your dog hasn’t eaten it.


Kibble is very popular with many dog owners because it’s easy to feed. Even dog foods that are made with natural preservatives, which don’t last as long as artificial preservatives, can keep food fresh several weeks. Always be sure to check the “best by” date on the bag. If in doubt, trust your nose. If the food smells questionable, don’t feed it to your dog.



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