How long does opened, canned pet food remain safe?

We all want to feed our pets healthy, wholesome food. While keeping dry pet food fresh is mostly a matter of storing it properly in an appropriate sealed container, there are different considerations when it comes to canned pet food. Unopened, canned pet food is good to use until the “use by” or “best by” date marked on the can. However, once the can of dog or cat food has been opened, do you know how long the food will remain good to use?

First, let’s consider the food you put down for your pet. When you open a can of pet food, ideally you should serve a portion that your dog or cat will finish in one sitting. If your pet does not finish the entire portion of canned food, it is best to pick up any uneaten food within 30 minutes, and even more quickly on warmer days. The high moisture content combined with exposure to air and warm temperatures makes canned food susceptible to bacteria and mold growth. The uneaten food in your pet’s dish should be discarded. Use a clean pet food dish for every feeding.

What about the food remaining in the can? If you have a partial can of open dog or cat food, it should be closely covered and immediately placed in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that when you serve your pet the food from an opened can, most pets prefer the refrigerated food to be gently warmed to room temperature. This releases the aroma of the food, and many pets (cats especially) do not like cold food. Any uneaten pet food in the open can should be discarded within 3 days after opening.

If you tend to store a lot of opened cans of pet food in the refrigerator, use a marker to write directly on the can the date that can was opened. This will help you track of when the opened can should be disposed of.

Another option to consider is dehydrated pet food. Just add warm water and you have a tasty, nutritious meal for your dog or cat and you don’t have that open can of uneaten food to deal with. Plus, since you add the water right before serving, dehydrated pet food is much more compact and easier to store than canned foods.

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  1. Hi Ben. We don’t recommend serving canned pet food that’s been unrefrigerated overnight.
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  2. If I open the can and then immediately transfer the food into an airtight container, how days is it safe to keep the food before throwing out if not fully eaten?

    I use this container:

  3. I would like to know the answer to Rahim’s question too?! TKS

  4. Pedigree says up to 3 days in a sealed container refrigerated.

  5. Need confirmation of opened canned dog food left outside in 115 degree heat. How high is the contamination and risk of neuro incident or poisoning.

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