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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23 Comments

  1. But, once can is opened , then 1/2 can sealed tightly how long will it stay in the fridge? Is there any way at all you can tell if it’s bad like a smell, change in color? I smell it first, I don’t smell a rancid smell at all it definitely doesn’t look or smell bad. Is it safe? It’s my last 1/2 can until tomorrow I think it’s only been in fridge today being 3rd day

  2. It should be good for the pet to eat.

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  5. Thank you for the information regarding how long to leave wet dog food down. I open three containers of Cesar food for my chow at dinner most times she eats all other times she leaves about 1/2 and goes back later to finish. If she doesn’t eat all by my bed time I throw it out but it sounds like I need throw out sooner

  6. Thank you for the information regarding how long to leave wet dog food down. I open three containers of Cesar food for my chow at dinner most times she eats all other times she leaves about 1/2 and goes back later to finish. If she doesn’t eat all by my bed time I throw it out but it sounds like I need throw out sooner

  7. I just bought cesar classics today. My question is should I put it in the refgrigerator until she eats it?

  8. I have to feed the feral cats wet food to get their attention to get into the trap to be spayed and neutered and release back out to the area where it came from and I was wondering how long it is it safe to leave it out there to attract

  9. Once you store opened wet food in the refrigerator. How long do you let the remaining food sit to room temperature to feed the unused portion that was in the refrigerator.

  10. Hi Yolanda. It’s best to pick up uneaten, canned food within about 30 minutes. This also trains your pets to eat when hungry and not “graze” all day.

  11. Hi id just like to know if i mix dry and wet food if that is ok to leave in the fridge? My dog is very on and off and ive been throwing alot more food than id like out.

  12. To keep dry kibble fresh and crunchy, it’s best not to store the mixture together if possible.
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  13. Hi: I just bought Mighty Dog for my dog (it is the ONLY food she will eat), about 20 cans. It has been VERY HOT lately. I’m afraid if might spoil in the pantry. Is it ok to store these cans in the fridge BEFORE opening?

  14. Hi Tina. Unopened cans of pet food don’t need to be refrigerated, and are safe as long as the temperature remains between 50 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  15. Hi.I can open a 3 oz can of food n put rest away n say that afternoon i try n give him other half n he won’t touch it.But if i open a new can he eats it. ????????

  16. I have the exact same problem as the last gal (Lois F Goins, December 12, 2018) so I’m eagerly waiting your answer.

  17. Many pets (cats in particular) dislike eating food cold from the refrigerator. This is partly because when the food is cold, it doesn’t smell as strongly. Gently warming your pet’s food will release the aroma, which is often enough to entice the pet to eat. Remember, you don’t want to actually heat or cook the food, but just warm it to room temperature or slightly warmer. If you warm your pet’s food in the microwave, be sure to use a low setting and stir thoroughly to make sure there aren’t any spots that are too warm.

    Remember, any open can of pet food stored in the refrigerator should be discarded within 2 – 3 days after opening. Using a marker, note the date the can was opened directly on the can so you know exactly when the can should be discarded.
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  18. I opened a can this morning, took a little out for one dog, covered it and forgot to put it in the refrigerator. It sat on the counter for about 4 hours. Should I throw it out? It’s a brand new can that I just opened and only used a couple spoonfuls, so I hate to discard it if it’s ok.

  19. Hi Nick. Of course, it’s always best to cover and refrigerate the open can immediately. However, it is recommended that canned food that has been opened and left at room temperature should be discarded after four hours if the ambient temperature is above 50 degrees F. When it comes to food safety, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

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  21. What about unopened caned dog left in the sun will it go bad ?

  22. Storing canned pet food in an uncontrolled environment such as outdoors is not recommended. Most manufacturers recommend storing dry and canned pet food in a cool, dry place.
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

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