Does Wet Dog Food Need To Be Refrigerated: Safe Storage Tips

One common question many dog parents have is: does wet dog food need to be refrigerated? In this blog post, I’ll dive into the best practices for storing wet dog food, how to identify if it’s safe to serve, and the dos and don’ts of handling this type of food.

two dogs standing in front of dog food

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What Exactly is “Wet” Dog Food?

Wet dog food, also known as canned food, fresh dog food, or semi-moist dog food, contains higher moisture content compared to dry food.

This type of food usually comes in cans, pouches, or plastic tubs and is known for its palatability and nutritional benefits.

The high moisture content makes it appealing to dogs and can help with hydration, but it also means it requires careful storage to prevent spoilage, as it can quickly become a breeding ground for bacterial growth.

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The Importance of Proper Storage

When it comes to feeding your pup, proper storage of dog food is crucial for maintaining its quality and ensuring your pet’s health. Proper storage of wet dog food is essential for several reasons.

First and foremost, it helps to maintain the nutritional value and flavor of the food, ensuring that your dog receives all the benefits intended by the pet food manufacturers.

Incorrect storage can lead to spoilage, which not only wastes food but can also pose serious health issues to your dog, including digestive problems, bacterial infections, exposure to harmful bacteria like E. coli, and other medical conditions.

all-natural wet dog food

Safety Before Serving

Before serving wet dog food to your dog, it’s important to check both unopened and opened containers for signs of spoilage.

For unopened cans of dog food, inspect the packaging for any dents, bulges, or leaks. These can be indicators of bacterial contamination or compromised food quality. And always check the expiration date and avoid using any food that is past its date.

For opened cans or containers, examine the food for any changes in color, texture, or smell. If the food has developed an off smell, is moldy, or has become discolored, it’s best to discard it.

Also, be cautious of uneaten food left in your dog’s bowl for too long, as high temperatures can accelerate spoilage.

Finally, once your pup is done eating, make sure to clean out their dog bowl before the next meal. 

bowl of natural dog food

How to Properly Store Wet Dog Food

Unopened Containers

Unopened containers of wet dog food, such as cans or pouches, should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and high temperatures. T

The original packaging is designed to keep the food fresh, so there’s no need to transfer it to another container. Plus, an opened can of dog food needs to be used within a short period of time.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to rotate your stock and use the oldest items first to ensure none go past their expiration date.

Opened Containers

Once you’ve opened a can or pouch of wet dog food, proper storage becomes even more critical.

The best way to store this leftover dog food is to transfer it to an airtight plastic storage container (or other food-grade material) and refrigerate it. This helps to prevent bacterial growth and keeps the food fresh for a longer time.

Alternatively, a pet food lid is another good option. Simply cover the can of food and store it in the refrigerator.

In general wet dog food does not have a long shelf life, and once opened, it should be used within 3-5 days. 

If you prefer not to refrigerate the food, make sure it’s kept in a cool, dry place and consumed within a shorter time frame, typically within 24 hours.

No matter the storage method you use, always ensure the container is tightly sealed to prevent contamination and moisture loss.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Wet Dog Food Safety


  • Store unopened wet food in a cool, dry place.
  • Check expiration dates and rotate stock to use the oldest first.
  • Inspect the food for signs of spoilage before serving.
  • Use an airtight plastic container (or other food-grade material) for storage.
  • Use a pet food lid to cover opened cans if leaving the food in the original container.
  • Refrigerate opened wet food.
  • Use opened wet food within 3-5 days.
  • Clean out your dog’s bowl after each meal.


  • Use dented, bulging, or leaking cans.
  • Serve food that is past the expiration date.
  • Ignore unusual smells, colors, or textures in the food.
  • Use food storage containers that are not airtight.
  • Store opened wet food containers at room temperature.
  • Leave wet food in your dog’s bowl for an extended period of time. 

By following the guidelines provided in this post, you can keep your dog’s food fresh and safe, preventing spoilage and bacterial growth.

Remember, does wet dog food need to be refrigerated? Absolutely…especially once it is opened. By taking the right steps, you can ensure your dog enjoys nutritious and safe meals every day.

FAQs: Does Wet Dog Food Need to Be Refrigerated

How long can I leave wet dog food out at room temperature? 

Do not leave wet dog food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. High temperatures can cause rapid spoilage and bacterial growth.

How can I tell if wet dog food has gone bad?

Signs of spoilage include changes in color, texture, and smell. If the food has an off odor, appears moldy, or has a different color than usual, it’s best to discard it.

What should I do if my dog accidentally eats spoiled wet food?

If your dog consumes spoiled wet food, monitor them closely for signs of illness such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.

Are there alternatives to wet dog food for dogs with special dietary needs?

Yes, there are alternatives such as dry kibble, semi-moist dog food, and fresh pet foods that can cater to special dietary requirements. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best option for your dog.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Each post reflects both my research and my personal experiences (as well as those of my pups). Always contact your veterinarian before making changes to your dog’s routine, trying out new toys and activities, and introducing new foods. Every dog is different, and what works for my furry family may not work for yours.

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