Unlike cats, dogs aren’t obligate carnivores. That means that although their “natural” diet does consist primarily of meat, they also eat plant materials. They can eat a surprisingly wide variety of foods, as long as they’re getting the right nutritional balance. This includes vegetables and grains, and dry dog food almost always contains such a plant-based carbohydrate component.
It might seem surprising that something so close to a wild wolf would need anything other than meat, but domestic dogs actually do have genetic mutations that allow them to digest starch more easily than their wolf-like wild ancestors. This was probably a side effect of domestication, and of eating human leftovers over the course of millennia.
There are people out there who cook up their own dog food. After all, their diets are pretty similar to ours in many ways, though there are foods like onions and garlic that are toxic to them. Meat, potatoes, and vegetables in an ad-hoc stew is quite suitable for a dog.
But let’s be honest, unless your dog has a serious food sensitivity, that’s an awful lot of work. Most dog owners go for either canned wet dog food, or dry food.
Dry food is more popular for a number of reasons. It’s generally less expensive overall, and storing it in bulk is more convenient. Plus, it does have some unique benefits that your dog doesn’t get from softer foods.
As with “people food,” dog food is something where you can save money by buying it in bulk. When you do this, however, you need to make sure you’re storing it right. Otherwise, it actually can go stale, or even spoil.
What About Plastic Containers?
Generic plastic bins contain microscopic pores and nooks in the surface, smooth as it may feel to human fingertips. As the fats and oils rub off and settle on the walls, they oxidize and get rancid. In fact, they can become a growth medium for molds that are too small to actually notice.
So you don’t want to store dry dog food in regular household storage containers. With that said, there are special containers designed for dog food, and those are a great choice. If you’re going to use a plastic bin, use the right kind, not just any old container. The ones designed especially for pet food are airtight.
The Best Airtight Dog Food Storage Containers
We’ve mentioned that regular plastic storage bins aren’t suitable for keeping dog kibble, unless it’s still in its original bag. But there are actually some specialized airtight containers that are designed especially to keep dog food safe and fresh as long as possible.
Here are the best dry dog food containers on the market that will keep your dog’s food safe and fresh longer.
1. Vittles Vault Airtight Stackable Food Container
The Vittles Vaults have a unique shape and design, and it’s made to be airtight and moisture-proof. If you buy more than one, they stack together — great if you have more than one kind of pet. It’s made out of FDA-compliant, food-grade polyethylene.
You can also get a variety of different sizes depending on how much food you need to store at once. The spinning lock system on these “vaults” is great for ensuring your pets don’t get into the food while maintaining easy access. Your pet would also have a hard time knocking this container over, making it great for dogs with a history of breaking into food bags!
We recently picked up two of these ourselves as Kartoffel and Pidgy are now on two different foods. The stackable design is awesome for saving space, yet still letting you access the dog food easily.
Pictured above are the “40 lb” size. They hold a standard bag of dog food (~27 lbs) perfectly.
2. The Iris 3-Piece Airtight Food Container Combo
Need to store both dog food and cat food? This one is a great choice for that. This package deal comes with a 33-quart container, a 12-quart container, and a 2-cup scoop. Both containers are designed to be totally airtight, keeping humidity, moisture, and pests. The material it’s made from is also FDA compliant, and free of harmful chemicals like BPAs.
The base unit is also on wheels which can be great if you need to maneuver the food bin around every so often. The smaller container is also great if you ever go on short road trips and need to take some pet food with you.
3. Bergen Stack-N-Stor Container
If you’re looking for some heavy duty plastic storage containers, the Bergen Stak-N-Stor containers might be what you’re after. These are available in a variety of sizes, but don’t seal as good as the above Vittles Vault. Some users report their dogs are even able to open the door themselves, so if you have a mischievous dog we’d suggest you stay with the Vittles Vault linked to above.
Why Go with Dry Dog Food in the First Place?
Believe it or not, dry food is great for your dog’s teeth. You can also leave it out in the bowl to let your dog eat as it pleases, without worrying about it attracting flies or going bad quickly. It can stay out for days without spoiling, although as we’ve mentioned, it does spoil eventually.
The downside is that it doesn’t provide as much moisture as wet food. This isn’t a huge deal for the most part, as long as your dog stays hydrated. As your dog ages, and becomes more susceptible to kidney problems, you may want to consider switching over to wet food in their final years of life. We also recommend supplementing your dog’s diet with the occasional can of wet food, which they’ll often see as a tasty treat.
How Long Can I Leave a Bowl Of Dog Food Out?
We’ll tackle this issue first, before we talk about long-term storage for bulk quantities of dry dog kibble.
If you’re like most pet owners, you probably keep your dog’s food bowl full regularly, letting them eat out of it as they please. This is a fine way of doing things, so long as it doesn’t lead to a weight problem.
Of course, there’s the question of how long the food can actually stay out. After all, your dog may not eat all of it at once.
It can stay out for quite a while, but there’s one mistake that’s quite easy to make. If you’re like a lot of people, and your dog eats most of the bowl but not all of it, you may continually be topping it off, emptying it to clean it only rarely. Over time, moisture happens. Dog saliva gets in it, water from their water bowl might splash on it, and eventually, you’ll get bacteria and mold. It does take a while, but it’s pretty gross.
We recommend figuring out approximately how much food your dog is likely to eat, in its entirety, from the bowl. This could be over the course of a day, or of part of the day. Either way, it helps minimize waste and avoid nasty surprises at the bottom of the food bowl.
How Long Can Kibble Last in an Open Bag?
It’s not uncommon to open the dog food bag, fill the bowl regularly, and then fold the top down when you’re done. Pretty simple, and convenient.
It’s basically “nonperishable,” and doesn’t spoil fast. But how long should you really be holding onto kibble that’s still in its open original bag?
Experts actually recommend about two weeks, at most. This could be an issue if you’re buying giant bags of kibble on sale at Costco. Some of those deals are pretty hard to resist, and when you’re well stocked on dog food, that’s one less thing you have to worry about adding to your grocery list.
Here’s the problem: it oxidates. More specifically, this chemical process affects the oils and fats in the kibble. These lipids are highly nutritious for your dog, but the chemical structure itself is quite sensitive to oxygen exposure. In a process somewhat related to rusting in metal, the fats go rancid over time.
The food may still be edible after this occurs, but there’s evidence it could increase your dog’s susceptibility to certain kinds of cancer, so it’s definitely something you want to avoid.
Tips for Storing Dry Dog Food
So how do you make sure your supply of dry food keeps as long as possible, without putting your dog’s health at risk?
Keep the kibble in its original bag.
This might seem counterintuitive, but you have to remember that the bags dog food is packaged in are specially designed to minimize spoilage and prolong the shelf life of the product. To close it off, just press out as much air as you can, and roll down the top. Secure it with a chip clip, and you’re good to go.
Buy smaller bags.
Oxidation becomes an issue after the bag is opened. Instead of buying one massive bag of dog food, buy multiple smaller bags instead. As long as the bag is still sealed, it will keep longer than it would if it were open.
Put open kibble bags in a plastic container.
Dumping the kibble out of the bag into a plastic bin isn’t the best way to store dog food, but you can place the entire open bag in a bin for a little extra protection from moisture. Honestly, you may as well just buy a container designed for pet food.
Check the use-by or sell-by date.
These terms are rather confusing for consumers. In most cases, these expiration dates don’t mean the food is definitely toxic or anything, but they do indicate that it’s likely that they’ve lost a lot of their original quality.
Like people food, dog food isn’t always a definite no-go because the date on the bag was two days ago. But you do want to keep an eye on it.
If your dog refuses to eat from its bowl, it’s trying to tell you something.
If your dog doesn’t seem to want to eat out of its food bowl, the food in it has probably gone bad.
When Kept Correctly, Dry Food is a Great Choice for Your Dog
A good brand of nutritious dry dog food is a great choice for your canine companion. As long as you keep it properly stored, and safe from moisture and too much air exposure, it’s at a low risk of going bad.
Specially designed dog food storage containers are one of the best ways to keep your dog’s kibble fresh, especially if you like to keep large quantities on hand. There are all kinds of shapes and styles to choose from, giving you quite a few options.