Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon

Several years ago, my home was infested with little moths.  Mostly in the kitchen.  My husband and I could not figure out where they were coming from.

When the exterminator came, he knew exactly what they were.  To our surprise, he went right to the pantry to assess our problem.  He told us these moths were in one of the dry food products on our pantry shelves.

We could never identify which food item it was—even after we emptied every packaged dry food into plastic containers.   We found nothing.

But knowing what I do now, I suspect they came from our dogs’ food.

We never found bugs in any of their food or ours.  But these common household invaders love pet food!  And other dry food.

What are these things and where do they come from?

These pantry pests can come into your home in any dry food package.  You can just as easily infect your home from a box of cereal as you can a bag of dog food.

The most common food pest—and the one that infested our home—is the meal moth.  You may find these moths in the food package or flying around your home like we did.

Larder beetles, cabinet beetles and carpet beetles are also common pantry pests.  Thankfully, we didn’t have those.

Moths and beetles go through the typical life cycle you would expect from a bug… egg, larvae, pupa and adult.

If you open a bag of dog food and find bugs in any of these life stages, don’t panic!  Believe it or not, it’s not that unusual.

If you’re wondering how you’d know, the moth eggs are white grey and measure 1 to 2 hundredths of an inch.  The mother will lay about 400 eggs at a time—hard to miss.  And beetles can lay between 45 and 90 eggs at a time.

The larvae look like worms.  Yuck!  They’re caterpillars that will turn into moths or beetles.

The worms will move away from the food before they pupate (make a cocoon).  So you may find them on your pantry shelves, or the walls or ceilings in the kitchen.

Once they spin their cocoon, there may be webbing or silk in the corners of the pantry or in the food packaging itself.

Adult moths are small, only 1/2 to 5/8ths of an inch, and can be reddish or grey/white depending on the type of moth.

However, light attracts the beetles.  You may see them on your windowsills.

But if you open a bag of dog food and find worms or beetles, you have a problem.

If you find these in your pet food should you change foods?

Not necessarily.  Pet food manufacturers try their best to minimize the likelihood of these creatures getting in their pet food.

They heat the food to high temperatures during the manufacturing process.  This eliminates these pests.  But often the problem occurs after the food leaves the manufacturer.

In a warehouse, a store, or your home, pet food is a magnet for these moths and beetles.

Pet stores sell many brands of food that come from lots of different locations (manufacturing facilities and warehouses) where the contamination could have occurred.

Also, pet stores sell birdfeed, a common source of food for these moths and beetles.

Birdfeed does not go through the heating process during manufacturing that dog and cat food does.  So contamination of the bag of pet food can happen at a pet store that sells birdfeed.

Remember too, these bugs may already be living in your pantry when you bring the pet food home.  They will be attracted to your pet’s food and find their way into the bag.  This is a good reason not to store your pet’s food in the pantry.

Likewise, if the pests are in the bag of pet food, they will find their way to the other dry foods in your pantry.

Storing pet food in another part of your home won’t eliminate the problem.  But if these pests are in your pet food when you bring it home from the store, keeping it out of the kitchen may prevent spreading the pests to your food.

But don’t store pet food in the garage. It can get too hot causing the nutrients to break down.

Although pet food manufacturers do their best to eliminate these pests, it’s still not uncommon for them to get into your pet’s food.  And it’s not a reflection on the food manufacturer or the quality of the food.

If you open a bag of food and you find eggs, worms, silk webbing, moths or beetles, return it to your pet food retailer.  The retailer should take the food back without question and exchange it for a fresh bag.

If your pet has eaten the food before you notice these guys are living in the bag, don’t be too concerned.  They may be repulsive but they’re harmless.

If moths or beetles are living in your pantry, how do you get rid of them?

Inspect the dry food in your pantry.  If you find pests in any life stage, throw out the whole package.

Store all foods that aren’t contaminated in plastic or glass containers.

Vacuum the entire pantry especially in cracks and corners where bugs or bits of infested food can be hiding.  Then throw out the vacuum cleaner bag.

You may find a stray moth flying around for up to 3 weeks.  But if you still see them after 3 weeks, you haven’t gotten rid of the source.

If there’s a food product you’re not sure isn’t contaminated, you can put it in the freezer at 0 degrees for 4 days.  But personally, I’d throw it out if in doubt.

Don’t ask your exterminator to spray an insecticide.  That won’t work.

You’d only be spraying the empty cabinets where you keep your food.  You’re not going to spray your food, or your pet’s food.  And if you don’t get rid of the source, the bugs will live on.

Since my experience with meal moths, I empty the dog food bag into a dog food bin as soon as I get it home from the store.  If there’s anything living in the bag that’s not supposed to be there I’ll find it before the pest can contaminate other food in my home.

Have you ever found worms, moths or beetles in your pet’s food?  Share at the top of the page.


23 thoughts on “Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon

  1. I found the worms and webs today in a bag of dog food I had been feeding to my new 3 mo old pup. Freaked me out, but mostly, I was so upset that I had been feeding my pup worms. My first thought was I had given her dog worms (and my older dog). I found many articles on India Moths, but yours is the first and only one that removes the “drama” and I’m now much calmer. I’ve had dogs for 40+ years and never before found worms and webs inside a bag of dog food (or the cat food). Thank you for removing the panic.

    Now to determine if those darn maggots got into any other areas. AZ is a difficult place for these types of food critters. I’m always so careful with all the dry food, just never considered dry dog food to be a culprit. I was thinking of getting another dog food bin for the pups food (I have one for the older dogs food), and now I definitely will get one. So, it’s not the food brand, just the warehousing (or I’m suspecting now the trucks that haul the food).


    1. Thank you for your feedback. It feels scary but that is why we did the article….it is a fact of life. They are not harmful to your pet. Yes a sealed food bin is the best solution. Many times the worms are from your own pantry unfortunately.

      Thank you




  2. I found what appears to be a worm-like creature (larvae) in the plastic scoop that came with my dog’s rolling food bin. Science is my thing so I wasn’t grossed out, just immediately confused. I buy the dry food, bring home, immediately empty entire 40 lb bag into the sealed container and no problem until now. I’m assuming ths food is the initial source. My dog regularly gets heartgard. You’ve obviously experienced the investigation part. Should I be concerned or just continue with the same routine?


    1. Hi Megan

      It could have been picked up anywhere easily. The Meal moth worms are not harmful for your pet…they only eat processed dry foods so the heartgard is completely related to a totally different type of worm. I would just be vigilant with your storage (the food bin is great), but also careful with all of the other food products in proximity.


  3. I made a mistake and mixed two foods together in one large bin. I had a plastic garbage bag lined the can. I have had the food many months but was not concerned. Today I find tons of larvae in the food and some worms and some large ones and so they were probably there a while and maybe from the new Happy Cat Food I bought. I mixed it with Royal Canin which are all expensive. I am out hundreds of dollars now. I did throw it all outside to the stray cats. They acted like they were in pig heaven.


    1. It is alarming…but not harmful. The live worms indicate recent infestation, because their life cycle is not that long. But often people will only find the “webbing” which can be from a previous infestation. VERY COMMON.


  4. Thanks for a great article. I noticed black beetles ever since I added a dry dog food that comes with pieces of dry chicken.
    I will stop buying it and check my pantry…


  5. Found these pesty moths in our dog food that we just kept out in the garage. Very upsetting because it was basically a new bag (2 weeks). Had to run down to the pet store and buy a another bag same kind just a smaller in size and bought and container to keep outside in the garage.
    Thanks for the article now I need to check inside my kitchen to make sure there isn’t any of the moths in my cereal boxes and other dry food items.


    1. Anna-They will be attracted to all of the dry goods in your pantry area, not just pet food. So I would suggest that you go through everything to find the source. The treats must have been open at some point for them to gain access. I would suggest looking in that area for any cocoon’s as well because they can make their cocoons on walls, shelves etc…not just the food products. Remember…they are not actually harmful, but certainly unsettling. Good luck.


  6. We just found some worms in our dog food as well, luckily we keep it in a coat closet by the front door and away from the kitchen, and in a container that I hope is sealed well…. if no moths have escaped, do I need to worry about them spreading to the kitchen? I first noticed the worms 5 days ago, the dog food was purchased a month ago and just taken out of the bag around 2 weeks ago, do you think they were from the dog food bag or got into it some other way? Thanks for the article, it helped to calm my fears for sure!


    1. Well like a butterfly, the worms will turn into moths and then they are pretty tough to catch etc. But yes if they were in a container that is good. It is hard to say where they originated. Look for the “webbing” that they spin to nest in until they are transformed, they will often make this in a place that is not a food source. So I would check the corners etc of that closet. Try to dump food directly into a food bin. And other dry pantry items should be stored air tight as well.
      Glad it helped to calm you. It is not harmful to you or your pet.


  7. Today on Aug. 6, 2018, I found 4 worm like beetle larvae 1/4 inch long in my dogs Royal Canin dog food which has been stored in an air-tight container. It was a disgusting sight.


  8. Hi I just opened 3. Boxes of purina indoor cat food and they were filled with maggots and what seems like a sort of fly carcus shell. Maggots squirming about everywhere with there eggs al over the place.
    This is the first time I’ve seen this living in Bahrain the in the Middle East.


  9. Yes im finding these fuzzy worm like creatures in my cat food and i have emptied it in a plastic container but they seem to multiply 😦 im scared for my cats cuz i know they are a parasite of some sort.


    1. It is disturbing. If they are meal moth’s (even in worm form) they are not harmful to your cat. They cannot live inside the animal when ingested like a parasite can. Take the food and put it in the freezer for at least 4 days and that will kill the existing ones so that they cannot reproduce. Then keep everything in your pantry air tight going forward.


  10. Thank you. You answered my biggest concern if the works are harmful to my cats I was worried the would be harmful. Whewww
    And I have a lot of moths fly around in house due to door with no screen left open


    1. The best way to get rid of pantry moths is to put every dry food item in air tight containers. The existing items should either be thrown out or frozen for at least 4 days to kill any pests. But even if you ingested one it is not harmful…just seems icky!


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