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What should you do if your dog doesn’t eat their entire meal? How much kibble should you buy at once to ensure your dog eats it before it spoils? And what to do with the leftovers, wet or dry?

Feeding our dogs is a daily process. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an entirely intuitive one! We’ll take a closer look in this article at when kibble goes bad, how long you can safely leave out wet food, and the best ways to store extra dog food.

Should I remove uneaten kibble?

If kibble is not eaten entirely in one meal, it’s fine to save it for another meal or two to see if your dog will eat it later. However, you should avoid saving uneaten kibble for more than a day or two (and avoid putting it back in the unused storage bag or container) because it can spoil and degrade when left out.

Kibble is OK to remain at room temperature longer than wet food, since the lack of moisture in kibble helps prevent bacterial growth, but any food left out for too long has the potential to spoil.

You also want to ensure you know exactly how much food your dog is eating. If you keep a bowl constantly full, rather than at least checking that it’s been eaten daily, you won’t be able to tell if your pet has a decrease or increase in their appetite.

Another reason to remove uneaten kibble is to encourage your dog to eat on a schedule. If your dog is used to eating and grazing throughout the day, they may not eat when offered food if they expect it to remain available.

Not only is teaching your dog how to eat their entire meal when it’s offered a helpful way to monitor how much food they’re eating, but it can be essential when you have multiple dogs in the household – especially if they’re on different diets.

By offering your dog food for 15 minutes, and then taking away any uneaten kibble until the next mealtime, your dog will learn to eat shortly after food is available. Skipping a meal or two is rarely detrimental to your dog’s health, and having them on a feeding schedule can actually mean you pay closer attention for changes to their appetite.

dog food storage solution

Should I remove uneaten wet food?

Wet food should always be removed if not eaten. Left in a bowl and at room temperature, remaining dog wet food is likely to become colonized with bacteria and even maggots.

We go into more detail on this in our article Soaking Puppy Kibble: How, Why, and When to Stop

The “Danger Zone” where food is likely to grow bacteria occurs when the environment is between 40-140°F. Because of this, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends that refrigerated food should not be left out longer than 2 hours (or only 1 hour when the temperature is 90°F).

Wet food falls under this category since it’s recommended to be refrigerated after opening if not used right away.

It also only takes flies minutes to find food and start laying eggs – which can hatch into maggots in less than a day.

Thus, with wet food, you should always remove it if your dog doesn’t eat it right away. Not just to encourage good eating habits, but to ensure your pet doesn’t become sick.

If you would like to use your dog’s kibble as treats, then be sure to read our post Can Kibble be Used as Treats? (Dog trainer answers)

How do you store leftover kibble?

Leftover kibble, including the kibble remaining in the bag, should be stored in the original container or bag. Not only is it important to have the info on the bag handy in case of a recall, but the bag is already designed to keep the food fresh.

Since the bag is already the best option for keeping food away from the elements while keeping the oils and fats in the food, it’s best to keep kibble in the bag and seal the top between uses.

If you want a convenient way to store the bag of food, such as in a dog food container on wheels, just put the entire bag in the container rather than dumping the kibble directly into the plastic, metal, or another type of container.

When kibble is stored directly in a plastic container, it’s likely the oils and fats in the food can be absorbed into the plastic and begin to oxidize (degrade).

If you need to pour the food into another container for storage, ensure it’s a clean and dry container that has an airtight lid. When you use up one bag of food, wash out the inside of the container and dry it completely before putting the new kibble back in the container.

If your dog is refusing to eat their kibble for more than a meal or two, it may be a sign that the food has spoiled, or a sign that your pet is sick and should visit the veterinarian.

You can use a dog food service like PetPlate and never have to worry about your dog food going bad again. We have a great write-up on it here.


Can you store uneaten wet dog food for later?

Yes, uneaten wet dog food can be stored for later. Once you’ve opened a can or pouch of wet food and taken out the portion needed for your dog’s meal, you should seal and refrigerate the remaining amount.

Cans can be sealed simply by using foil or kitchen wrap, or by using a washable rubber lid designed to fit snugly on top of the can.

Pouches can be sealed within a reclosable plastic bag, a plastic container, or with a clip that seals the opening.

If you are unable to store the remaining wet food shortly after opening it, you should toss the food rather than leave it out for next time.

When you feed your dog wet food, you should only feed them the amount they will eat at one time. While it likely would be safe to refrigerate the uneaten portion if they did not finish their meal, it’s also the case that every time the wet food is brought back out of the fridge it has the potential to grow more and more bacteria.

Thus, avoid feeding your dog more wet food than necessary at a time, and store unused portions in the fridge for up to a week for future meals.

For more information on the best ways to store wet or dry dog food, see the FDA’s recommendations.

When should you throw away dog food?

You should throw away dog food anytime it has expired or otherwise become unsafe to eat. This may occur if there was a breach in the packaging, if the food was exposed to heat or humidity, or bugs and bacteria were introduced inside the bag.

You might notice the food has gone bad because of a sour smell. Your dog may or may not care about the smell themselves, depending on if they are a chow hound or a picky pooch!

Obvious visible signs of moisture, mold, bugs, mice, or other contaminants would also be a reason to throw away dog food.

Food should also be thrown if it’s been making the dog sick. A dog that’s regularly sick after eating should also visit a veterinarian to rule out medical conditions.

Finally, most kibble should be tossed within a few days of being out rather than in storage. Wet food should be tossed after each meal if not eaten, and unused portions of wet food can be refrigerated and used as needed for up to a week.

How long does Kibble last after opening?

As long as your kibble does not pass its expiration date, properly stored kibble should last for 4-6 weeks after the bag has been opened. Improper storage or buying a bag close to expiration may change this timeline.

Because kibble should be used up within a month or so, it’s important to buy the bag that you will use within that time. If you have a singular small dog, you will likely not use a 50 or 60lb bag of food before it expires.

While the bigger bags of food can cost less per pound, it’s a waste of money in the end if you have to toss half of it because it’s gone bad. 

Are you feeding your dog the correct amount of food? We now have a dog feeding calculator, so be sure to check it out here: Dog Feeding Calculator

Are you interested in reading this post: When Can Puppies Eat Kibble? Answered!

Does your dog get diarrhea from eating chicken? If so, you can read our post about that subject here.