How Long Does Dry Dog Food Last?

Dog kibble has a 12- to 18-month shelf life, but once it’s opened, you must use proper storage to avoid the dog food going bad.


Dry dog food, otherwise known as “kibble,” is known for its long shelf life, but how long does dry dog food really last? Once a bag is opened, it should be used up within four to six weeks, assuming it’s stored under optimal conditions.

Shelf Life of Nutrients

Generally, bags of unopened kibble have a shelf life of 12 to 18 months. The “best by” or “use by” date printed on the original packaging is based on the date the product was manufactured. While dry dog food doesn’t technically expire, you could consider that “use by” or “best by” date an expiration date.

Over time, some nutrients, like vitamins, start to naturally degrade. Fortunately, nutritionists are acutely aware of this. When formulating a food, nutritionists ensure that these nutrients are added in levels high enough to account for these natural losses. This ensures the food remains complete and balanced for your dog, even toward the end of the food’s shelf life. However, once opened, the kibble should be used within four to six weeks.

Storage Matters

The way you store your dog’s kibble can impact your dog’s dry food and cause it to spoil quickly. Conditions that hasten spoilage include:

  • Exposure to air
  • Sunlight
  • Heat
  • Moisture

To maximize kibble freshness, after opening a bag, store it in the bag it came in (tightly resealed) or inside an airtight container. Exposure to air, and subsequently oxygen, increases the rate of oxidation of fats within the food, causing the food to rancidify. Exposure to sunlight and heat also expedite this process, which is why kibble should always be stored in a cool, dark location.

Obviously, your dog’s dry food needs to be kept dry. Exposure to water or excess humidity can cause the food to grow mold, which can produce harmful toxins if your dog eats it. Freezing your dog’s dry food will help prevent fat rancidification, but it can lead to moisture buildup and condensation within the bag when defrosted and is therefore not recommended.

While dry dog food has a reasonably long shelf life, once opened, it’s up to you to ensure its freshness. Use proper storage methods and consider how much food your dog consumes when choosing a bag size. Select the size that will be finished within four to six weeks after opening. These practices will help to ensure your dog consistently receives fresh food every day.

Previous articleDownload The Full April 2023 Issue PDF
Next articleThe Popularity of French Bulldogs
Mary Cope, PhD, earned her Doctorate in Animal Nutrition from the University of Georgia in 2021 and has her Professional Animal Scientist (PAS) certification with a specialization in companion animals. Dr. Cope works as a companion animal nutritionist for a pet food consulting firm. Dr. Cope competes in a variety of AKC dog sports with her rescue dog and smooth Collie, including agility, Fast CAT, and herding.


  1. We recommend to our customers that they leave the food in the bag it came in, as it is designed to keep the food as fresh as possible. If one wishes to use a container (often for esthetic reasons,) get one big enough to hold the full bag also. The kibble has not seen oxygen since being sealed in the bag at the factory. If one pours the bag of kibble into the container, they are oxygenating every piece as it is poured and starting the process of degradation, resulting in stale food sooner. Not to mention that A) most folks fail to clean the container between fills, leaving food residue at the bottom that could be years old; and B) the bag has lot codes, dates, and the UPC bar code on it that would be needed for any customer returns or recalls that occur. (Another reason to always purchase from a local store rather than online…good luck with a return via most online retailers)

  2. I just have to air my pet peeve here, given your recommendations. I have a ten pound dog and even with a five pound bag of kibble (the smallest I can find) we cannot use it up in four to six weeks. What are we to do?!
    And second to that comment is the fact that small bags of kibble NEVER go on sale, but that is another matter entirely!