Devoted dog caretakers would do anything to protect their pets and support their good health—from researching micronutrients and purchasing supplements to getting pet health insurance and booking regular vet appointments. But one of the simplest ways to protect dogs is often overlooked: The proper storage of food, supplements, and medications. Eating expired or spoiled food can be just as dangerous for dogs as it is for humans, and the risks of medication mismanagement are potentially deadly. Arm yourself with the following best practices in pet supply storage.
Storing Canned Food
As long as it remains unopened, canned pet food can have a long shelf life. To prevent spoilage, rotate the cans every time you purchase new ones. Place the new cans in the back and move the older cans to the front. Open one can at a time and store the leftovers in the fridge. Seal the opened can with a reusable can lid or a clean piece of aluminum foil.
Storing Dry Food
Depending on how large your dog is, you might be in the habit of purchasing huge, economy-size bags of kibble. This is cost-effective, but unless you use up the kibble quickly, the large bags of kibble may turn stale or spoil more quickly. You can prevent this problem by storing the kibble in two places. Use a sealable plastic container to store a few days to a week’s worth of kibble. Feed your dog from this container. Store the rest of the kibble in its original packaging. You should always keep the original packaging for these reasons:
- You’ll need to check the lot number if there is a food recall.
- The original packaging is designed to prevent fats from turning rancid and soaking through.
Seal the original packaging as tightly as possible using bag clips. If the manufacturer has designed the packaging to be re-sealable, press along the Ziplock edge twice to ensure the bag is completely closed. To keep insects and other household pests away from the food, and to keep it dry, place the sealed bag inside a large plastic bin.
Storing Dehydrated Food
Many dog caretakers choose dehydrated food and treats because they tend to be minimally processed and nutritious. The most important storage consideration is moisture. The food should stay dry as long as it’s kept in the original packaging. But if you have leftovers, you’ll need to take care to protect them from moisture. If the original packaging isn’t designed to be re-sealable, place the leftovers in a glass or durable plastic storage container, preferably one with an airtight lid.
Most supplements can be stored at room temperature, but you should always read the label to make sure. Pay attention to the expiration date. Generally, liquid supplements have a shorter shelf life than solids. Store all pill and powder supplements in their original containers, and keep them in an area that isn’t subjected to major temperature fluctuations. If you’re storing them in the kitchen, keep them away from the stove. Note that some supplements can degrade when exposed to sunlight. These should come in a dark container, but just in case, you can place them inside a cabinet or drawer.
Pet medications often include additives to make them taste good to pets. This is helpful for encouraging a stubborn pooch to take her medicine, but it also increases the risk of an overdose. Dogs have been known to sniff out their own medications or meds intended for other animals (or humans), and devour many doses at once. Scenarios like this result in lots of calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center every year. You can protect your dog by taking these steps:
- Keep all medications in their original containers.
- Double-check the label before administering any medications.
- Keep the med containers in a secure location, out of reach of pets and children.
- Safely dispose of expired medications and meds that are no longer needed.
- If you have livestock and your dog goes to the barn with you, keep all livestock medications and dewormers in a secure, out-of-reach location.
The safest way to get rid of unneeded medications is to bring them to a pharmacy’s drug take-back program. These programs accept pet meds. Otherwise, if you discard the meds in the trash, mix them with something unappetizing first, such as used coffee grounds. Then, place the mixture in a sealed plastic bag and toss it in the trash.
Curious dogs have a knack for getting into trouble, but by taking some precautions, you can protect your beloved pet. Remember to consult your veterinarian if you have any questions about your dog’s medications, supplements, or food.