How To Safely Store Your Pet Food

I’ve said often that researching and writing this blog have made me a more informed and smarter pet owner.   Years of pet ownership can lull you into thinking you know all there is to know… or most everything anyhow.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s always good to keep up to date and educated about issues that keep your pets happy and healthy.  And hopefully this blog helps you do that.

Food storage, which seems straight forward, is one thing I thought I had all the answers to.  But some things I’ve learned in the last few days are causing me to question that.  You may find, after reading this, you need to rethink your pet food storage too.

If you read this blog, you’re probably already putting a lot of effort into choosing the best quality food you can afford for your pets.  But do you know the right way to store it so it maintains maximum nutritional value and freshness?

Whether you feed dry, canned or raw there are right and wrong ways to store your pet’s food.

First, always check the “Best by” or “Best before” date.  All pet food has one on the packaging.  Once the food is past the date, it’s time to throw it out.

When you buy your food, choose a “Best by” date that’s far enough out you’ll be able to finish it before it’s spoiled.

Food can go bad even before the “Best by” date if the packaging is compromised.  So check before you buy to be sure bags aren’t torn or open, and cans aren’t bulging or leaking.

If the food doesn’t smell or look right when you open the bag, or if your pet won’t eat it, notify the manufacturer immediately.  If they’re reputable, they’ll refund your money or replace the food.  But more importantly, they need to know if there’s a problem in their manufacturing or packaging process.

Storing dry food

If you feed your pet kibble—which I do—air, light, hot temperatures and humidity can degrade your pet’s food.  Exposure to any of these environmental factors at the least puts your pet at risk of not getting the nutritional benefits from their food.  At worst, they can get very sick from mold, bacteria or rancidity.

High temperatures and moisture inside the bag of food can increase the risk of salmonella and other bacteria as well as mold growth.  This contamination can make your pet sick.  In fact, it can kill them.

I read a story on social media the other day about a family that lost two dogs who consumed moldy food.  After the dogs died, the owners inspected the bag of food and found the food at the bottom was covered in mold.  Somehow, moisture got in allowing the mold to grow.

This leads to another important storage consideration.  Many food manufacturers recommend keeping your pet’s food in the bag it comes in instead of transferring it to a food bin.  The bags are made to absorb any excess fat that accumulates and might turn rancid.

The bags also keep light out.  And moisture, if you are careful about where you store the food… off the floor and in a dry location.  You must also close the bag correctly by rolling the top down and securing it with a clip.

But if you leave the food in the bag, you won’t see all the food before your pet eats it.  You won’t see if there’s mold in the bottom until you get to the bottom. That’s a huge risk.  One I hadn’t considered before I heard of these poor dogs, and one I’m not willing to take.

But I was already using a food bin for reasons I’ll tell you in a minute.

My suggestion for you is to follow the manufacturers recommendation with regard to storing in the bag. You could empty the food, inspect it, and then put it back in the bag.

If you’re worried about fat turning rancid, this is a bigger problem for lower quality foods. They tend to spray the necessary fat in the recipe on the outside of the kibble.  Premium foods, like Husse, use a vacuum process so the fat penetrates the kibble.

If you feed a premium food, the risk of mold is a bigger concern than rancid fat.  So the argument for keeping the food in the fat-absorbing bag may not outweigh the risks of moisture getting in and mold growing.

This is especially the case if the manufacturer uses a micro perforated bag.  These bags have miniscule holes to keep air from building up and inflating the bags in the warehouse.  This can lead to puncture when the bags are stacked.  The holes are small enough to keep pests out but moisture can still get in.

If you opt for the food storage bin, metal or glass are better than plastic.  Plastic can leach chemicals and possibly retain residual fat.

But if you’re already using plastic like I am, that’s okay.  Just be sure to thoroughly clean the container between each bag of food. This assures that you’ve gotten rid of any left over crumbs which will go bad, or fats that have adhered to the container and can turn.

And don’t mix old kibble with new kibble.  Finish the old first.  If it has been over 6 weeks since you opened the bag… throw it out, wash the bin, and fill with fresh food.

Regardless of the container you use to store the food, never store it in the garage.  Summer temps can top 100 in there. And vitamins degrade at 104 degrees.  Garages can be humid too, increasing the moisture risk.

Find a cool, dry location in your house.  Possibly the pantry or another closet.  But storing in the pantry can contaminate other food products if the pet food bag has meal moths.

And that’s why I store my dogs’ food in a food bin.  Since my experience with these annoying critters—read Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon to hear more about that—I’ve emptied my dog food out of the bag to check for meal worms/moths.  And after reading about that deadly mold, I will continue to do so.

I store my food bins in the coat closet.  That moth infestation was not easy to get out of my pantry and I’d rather not go through it again.

Store the bin off the floor to avoid pests and moisture getting in.

If you empty the food from the bag, save the UPC code, lot number, brand, manufacturer, and “Best by” date in case you have a problem with the food or it’s recalled.

Storing canned food

If you feed your pet food from a can, those cans can stay fresh for years if unopened and stored in a cool, dry location.  Again, below 100 degrees.

But don’t buy more than you’ll use before the “Best by” date.

Once the can is open, it can last for 4 hours at room temperature.  Then you should throw it out.

Refrigerate any unused food for up to a week.  Cover the can with a plastic pet food lid or plastic wrap to prevent moisture loss and odor transfer.

If you don’t think you’ll get through the can in a week, then you can freeze single serve portions.  But freezing can change the texture and taste.

Storing refrigerated pet food

These types of foods have a short shelf life.  Check the “Best by” dates. Once they’re open for 5 days, you need to throw them out.  You may be able to freeze these foods, however.  But check the packaging to be sure.

Commercially produced raw food diets have storage instructions on the package.  If you make your own raw food diet for your pet, you may not be sure of the best way to store it.

Some meats spoils faster than others.  And raw meat contains high levels of bacteria, making proper storage even more critical.

You can refrigerate ground meats—whether beef, poultry or fish—for up to 2 days.  If you won’t get through it in that time, freeze it.

Large cuts of meat can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days.  You can freeze meat if it’s wrapped well for 4 to 6 months.

Whatever food you feed your pets, be sure you are storing it so they can get the most nutritional benefit, and you can avoid a serious and potentially fatal illness.

How do you store your pet food?  Share your thoughts in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Insect Stings… What You Need To Know

The summer’s warm weather brings us out of hibernation.  We spend more time outside this time of year and so do our dogs.

But we’re not the only ones who come out of hiding when the weather’s nice.  The bees, wasps, hornets, spiders and scorpions are all active in warm weather too.

What does this mean for your dog?  What would you do if your dog were stung by one of these critters?

If your dogs are like mine, their noses are always where they shouldn’t be when they are exploring the yard.

They sniff in holes, bury their heads in flowering shrubs, and paw at anything moving in the grass.  They don’t care how many bees are buzzing around their heads.

This can be dangerous behavior.   Complete oblivion can mean trouble if your dog sticks its nose where these insects are nesting.

Dogs are most likely to be stung by insects on their noses, in their mouths or on their paws because those are the body parts they use to investigate their surroundings.

If your pet is stung, you may hear them yelp or see them paw at their face.  Should you be concerned?

Well, that depends.  Let’s talk about which stings are harmless, which ones can be serious, and what you should do if this happens to your dog.

Bees, wasps, hornets

If your dog gets stung by one of these guys, and it’s only one sting not multiple stings, they will most likely be fine after the initial discomfort.

Remove the stinger right away… if you can find it.   The stinger will continue to release venom as long as it’s still in the skin.

Do not use a tweezer or squeeze the stinger with your fingernails. This can pop the venom sac, releasing more venom into your dog.  Instead, use a credit card or piece of cardboard to scrape it off.

Clean the area with cool water and soap.  You can apply a cold compress or an ice pack to reduce any swelling.  Use the ice for 5 minutes on/5 minutes off for the first hour.  Wrap the ice in a washcloth to avoid damaging the skin with direct contact.

You can also use apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball to neutralize the venom.  Do this a few times until the swelling subsides.

No cider vinegar on hand?  Try a baking soda paste.  Mix 3 parts baking soda with one part water and apply it to the sting once every two hours for the first day until the swelling goes down.

Aloe vera gel is also effective but be sure it’s pure aloe.  No aloe lotions.

When using any of these remedies always avoid the eyes.

A bee sting is painful for your dog, just like it would be for you.  But after the initial redness and localized swelling, a healthy dog shouldn’t experience any serious symptoms.

Your pet can have an allergic reaction making the sting more than just uncomfortable for your pet.  If there’s swelling around the face, not just at the spot of the sting, call the vet.  You can give your dog Benadryl but you must ask your vet for the recommended dose first.

The alarming symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, weakness, and difficulty breathing within a few minutes of being stung.  These are the signs of an anaphylactic reaction.  This is serious.  Get to the vetimmediately.

Additionally, shock can set in.  If their gums are pale, your dog is going into shock.  Get to the ER.  Shock can be fatal.

The good news is one sting rarely results in these serious reactions.  A dog is more likely to have a serious allergic response if they have been stung before or if they experience multiple stings at one time.

Consecutive stings can also result in a dangerous reaction.  To avoid another sting, don’t allow your dog outside by themselves until they recover.

Black widow and brown recluse spiders

The two spiders most likely to cause a problem for your dog are the black widow and the brown recluse.

The black widow lives all over the U.S. but primarily in the Southwest.  It has a distinctive red or orange hourglass on its abdomen.

The brown recluse lives in the Midwest and is active at night.  If this spider bites your dog, it’susually because they disturbed the spider when it was resting.

The bite of these two spiders can be a nonevent or very serious.

If a spider bites your dog, try to catch it in a jar so your vet can see it.  If a black widow is the culprit, watch for muscle cramps, entire body pain, shaking and panting.  The risk with this kind of bite is elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

Any of these symptoms means a trip to the vet.

The brown recluse destroys the skin surrounding the bite because of necrosis.  The skin cells die.  If the bite is on a limb, it can result in amputation.

I knew a dog that lost his tail from a spider bite.  The owners weren’t even aware he was bitten until he developed this terrible ulcer on his tail.

The ulceration can take a long time to heal and can become infected.  If gangrene sets in or the venom enters the blood stream and travels to the organs, the brown recluse bite can be fatal.

Signs of this spider’s bite can be nothing at all or some local pain followed by itching.

The signs of a more serious reaction are bloody urine, fever, chills, rash and weakness.

The skin surrounding the bite can be red with a white lesion and a dark central scab.

Because the dying skin tissue can lead to the loss of a limb, the faster the vet can diagnose a brown recluse bite the better.  And the more likely you’ll prevent complications.

Scorpions

If you live in the Southwest, scorpions are what nightmares are made of.  There are hundreds of species of these little devils.  Many of them are non-venomous and, although painful, their stings are not life threatening.

But, the bark scorpion—one of the more common species—is extremely venomous.  If one of these gets your dog, it can be fatal.

If a scorpion stings your dog, restrict their movement to keep the venom from flowing from the sting to other parts of the body.

Call your vet to get the right Benadryl dose and to tell them you’re on the way.  It’s advisable to see your vet if a scorpion stings your dog.

You don’t want to wait for the drooling, watery eyes, dilated pupils, trembling or breathing difficulties to set in.

Or course, how your pet responds to any of these stings or bites is dependent on their age, weight, and general health.  But an allergic reaction can happen to any dog.  Be prepared and know what to look out for so you can act quickly if necessary.

Has your dog ever been stung by one of these creatures?  Share your experience in the comment section above.