committed to buying your pet only the highest-quality, holistic food.
You've done the research, asked the questions, and feel good about
what you're putting in his bowl every day.
But if you aren't storing that high-quality, sometimes high-dollar, food properly, it's possible that harmful things are making their way into your pet's body – or, at the very least, the nutritional content could be compromised. Finding the healthiest food for your particular pet is, of course, the right first step. But then what you do with it after you get it home and open it is pretty crucial too.
You might be making some common storage mistakes that you've never even heard you should be aware of. Don't worry, though; here's a guide to help you store smarter!
We touched briefly on proper food storage in a previous article, some of which we'll recap here. And we'll elaborate more, particularly on dry food.
Rule No. 1 – Keep dry food in its original bag!
Ideally, you want to keep dry food in the original bag and place the whole bag in a container instead of pouring the pet food into a container. The food will stay fresher longer, and less air will get to the kibble. Even airtight containers can expose kibble to air when the lid is opened. Storing the bag this way will also give you easy access to the information you might need in case of a recall. Bags from reputable, holistic companies are designed to keep out the elements but can always use extra help from a metal or food-grade, BPA-free plastic container (which also keeps a hungry pet from getting into the supply on his own).
If you decide not to put the bag inside another container, make sure to clip the top of the bag closed after you roll it down rather than just leaving it rolled. At the very least, roll down the top; a bag sitting open for any length of time is a sitting duck for problems!
Rule No. 2 – Transfer opened canned food into another container.
Using canned pet food is a healthy addition to any pet's diet. There is a lot of moisture and actual meat in the canned diet that our meat-eating animal friends crave. If you are not using the entire can in one feeding, it is advisable to transfer the canned food from the can into a reusable food container, such as glass or BPA-free plasticware, for food storage (with the lid) before placing in the refrigerator. The linings of cans can contain BPA or toxic metals that leach into the food once it is exposed to air and while stored in the refrigerator. Some pets can be sensitive to these toxins, especially cats. It is also easier to spoon canned food out of a container. Canned food actually lasts longer in a food container as well, up to 3 days. It is recommended that you do not store an open can with food in it for more than a day.
Rule No. 3 - Plastic and fatty foods don't mix!
It's a matter of science. Another reason not to pour dry food from its bag into a plastic container is that fats in the exposed food can go rancid rather quickly and cause oxidation (damage) to the food when it comes into contact with plastic. Oxidation can have harmful effects on the body. Plastic contact might also compromise the nutritional content of the food. In addition, chemicals from the plastic might leach into the food even if you find a BPA-free container. Especially if you aren't cleaning out the container with soapy water between each bag you pour in, you're putting brand new, safe food right into contact with old, compromised crumbs that can contaminate the new food and giving the fat a chance to embed itself in the pores of the plastic.
We also recommend feeding your pet from a stainless steel bowl rather than a plastic one for the same reasons. Even with a steel bowl, make sure to wash it regularly with hot, soapy water to get rid of any lingering rancid film and crumbs. Don't leave uneaten kibble out in a bowl for more than a day.
Rule No. 4 - Don't necessarily buy the biggest bag you can find.
While buying in bulk is often less expensive in the long run and can also save you some trips to the pet store, it's not the best option unless you have a lot of mouths to feed and know you will go through it quickly. It's much safer to buy smaller bags of dry food so you're not storing an opened bag as long. Opened dry food might stay fresh for 2-6 weeks when stored in optimal conditions (the timeframe varies depending on the source). If you have a small dog and a large bag that stays open or gets opened for 3 months, his food could be compromised and unsafe – and definitely not fresh.
Many sources will also recommend that you check the date codes on all food and buy the ones with the “best by” dates that are the furthest out. And we're not saying don't look when you buy from Park Pet Supply. But know that we are always checking the dates for you already to make sure what's on our shelves is fresh and safe. Do keep in mind, however, that the date applies only to unopened bags.
Rule No. 5 - Don't force food when your pet turns up his nose!
It might not just be a matter of a picky eater. Dogs and cats have a more developed sense of smell than we do and might notice when something is “off” about their food even when we don't. Especially if it's something he's eaten before with no problem, don't automatically assume he's just tired of the brand or flavor. It could be rancid or have something even worse wrong with it.
If this happens, don't throw away the food and especially not the bag! Return the unused food in the original bag or can to the store; reputable manufacturers will stick by their products and offer an exchange or refund. Same applies if you should notice any strange odor, dampness, or odd color as well. Don't take chances! If something seems off, it probably is.
Rule No. 6 - Limit exposure to the elements.
Even when your pet's food is stored in its original bag inside another sealed container, don't store the bag or container in a damp or humid location like a basement. Laundry rooms that don't have adequate ventilation for the dryer can also be damp and humid, as well as bathrooms that steam up from the shower (though we don't know why you'd store food in the bathroom, we thought it was worth pointing out). Food that is exposed to moist air can grow mold, and it might not be something you can see or even that your dog can taste...but its effects can be very harmful to his health!
It's important to limit food's exposure to heat, light, and oxygen (air) in general as well. Keeping the bag in another sealed container can keep out other “elements,” like mites (which can trigger allergic reactions in pets), rodents, and bugs.
Just a few simple steps can ensure that the high-quality food you get for your pet stays fresh and healthy.
Let us know if you have any other storage practices that could be helpful!
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Victoria Park is the owner of Park Pet Supply in East Atlanta Village, established in 1999. Park Pet's goal is to help your pet live the healthiest and happiest life possible, with affordable prices and incomparable customer service for you.
Image credit: flickr