How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out? To Eat or Not to Eat

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Author: Jeanette Hampton

Imagine a tasty bowl of yummy and moist wet food for your furry friend, but it is left untouched for several hours. As time passes now we wonder what should we do.

Should we put it in the refrigerator for future cravings or should we show it the way to garbage cane?

How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out

Ah! Probably the most confusing food question for dog owners, how long can wet dog food sit out? Let’s dive into the food world for our beloved dogs and find out all the fuss around it.

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What Is Wet Dog Food?

Wet food starts with grinding the protein sources, or meat ingredients. Then a gravy that contains vitamins, minerals, and grains is added.

Wet food is made primarily of protein and fat, with few carbohydrates, and is tastier as well as easily digested. Once those are mixed, the food is cooked and sterilized to produce the canned product.

How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out

“As a result, wet food has a much higher moisture content than dry food. A dry food might have around 10% moisture max, while a wet food might have something like 75% moisture”, suggests Dr. Heather Hoffmann from PetMD.

Wet dog food in the UK typically contains a high moisture content compared to dry kibble. Many dog owners believe the best wet dog food uk options provide added flavor and nutrition.

How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out?

Most dog foods have a “best by” or “best before” date printed somewhere on the bag or can. Whenever possible, purchase bags or cans with dates that are as far in the future as possible.

Dry dog food stays fine for long hours especially if dry kibble into your dog’s bowl. “Pet foods will retain their best flavor if stored in the original bag, which provides a fat barrier But, wet food can’t be left out in the same way that dry kibble can. Instead, it can only be left open for a short time before going bad”, confirms Dr. Jennifer Coates.

How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out

So, always follow the ultimate 2-hour rule. If your food is sitting out untouched for more than two hours it is safe to just discard it[1]. After this, the bacteria start to grow which leads to potential food spoilage or food-borne diseases.

Once you open canned dog food, it’s exposed to the air. But if you store it properly, you can keep it for up to 3-5 days. To store it properly, the food must be kept air-tight and refrigerated. The food must be kept between 40–45 degrees Fahrenheit[2].

It is advisable to consult with the vet if you feel confused or if your dog ate anything which was not good for his stomach. The vet will provide proper advice.

How Should We Store Wet Dog Food?

Don’t let improper storage sabotage your dog’s health and well-being. Here are some tips to store your wet dog food safely:

  • Foods that require refrigeration should be put in the refrigerator as soon as you get them home.
  • Keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C). Check temperatures periodically
  • Check storage directions on labels 
  • Use ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible
  • Keep track of food for spoilage, as it can make you very sick even when it doesn’t look, smell, or taste spoiled
  • Do not freeze canned cat or dog food as it can change the texture and taste of the food[3].
  • You can keep canned meat, poultry, and veggies for up to five years. Keep tomatoes, pickles, and fruit for up to 1 and 1/2 years.
How Long Can Wet Dog Food Sit Out

But remember, “They’ll only stay safe to eat if you store them in a cool, dry place, and make sure the cans haven’t gotten damaged or corroded. That’s the scoop on canned food safety”, says the experts at WebMD.

How Do I Know if Dog Food Has Gone Bad?

Dr. Katie Tolbert from Texas A&M University advises that “Shelf life is dependent on the type of food and its composition. For example, canned food has a longer shelf life, while foods with more fat, especially polyunsaturated fat, will have a shorter shelf life”

Most quality dry dog and cat food are designed to have a reasonable shelf life, assuming the food is kept indoors and away from heat or humidity. You should always take the guidance of a vet if you feel confused at any point.

dog eating wet food

She also adds that “Open canned food can generally be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours; otherwise, canned and dry cat and dog food should be stored in its original container or in an airtight container, such as a large plastic container, away from light, heat, and moisture.”

Look for signs of spoilage like mold, an off smell, or a change in texture or color. This is especially important with wet and hypoallergenic dog food, which spoils more quickly


How Long Is Canned Dog Food Good For After Opened?

Your pet’s bowl should be emptied of moist or canned food not eaten by your cat or dog within 4 hours if the ambient temperature is above 50°F. Opened cans should be stored in the fridge, at temperatures between 40-45°F, for a maximum of 5-7 days. Any cat or dog food remaining after that time should be thrown out.

How Long Can Wet Kibble Stay Out?

The general consensus is that if wet dog food has been left out for more than two to four hours, it is best to discard it. The food is very likely contaminated with bacteria, which can cause illnesses in pets. If the food is not contaminated, it may still spoil and become dangerous for your dog to eat.

Can You Freeze Wet Dog Food?

Can You Freeze Dry or Wet Dog Food? Unfortunately, freezing dry dog food and then thawing can cause mold to develop. DON’T freeze wet dog food because it changes the taste and texture of the food and can reduce its nutritional value.

Does Wet Food Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening?

It’s really important to store wet dog food in the refrigerator once it’s been opened. This is because wet food exposed to the open air is more likely to spoil, attract bacteria, and/or dry up, which ruins the texture and flavor of the food for your dog.

Is It Okay to Add Water to Wet Dog Food?

If your pet eats their food quickly, feeding wet food is an excellent way to help them slow down (especially when combined with a slow feeder). You can always add extra water to wet food to help slow your pet down even more! Mealtime should not be over in five seconds.

How Long Can Wet Dog Food Be Refrigerated?

After opening a can or pouch of wet dog food, transfer any unused portion to an airtight container and refrigerate it for no longer than three days. Always check the expiration date on the wet dog food before feeding it to your dog. It should be thrown out if it is past its expiration date.


As responsible pet owners, it is our duty to provide safe meals to them. Pets will eat almost anything, but just because they can, doesn’t mean they should.

When choosing a wet dog food, be mindful of sodium content, especially if your dog requires a low sodium dog food.

Make sure to buy food with expiry dates and serve them with precautions. Look out for your dog’s eating timings. Avoid giving food that was sitting out for a long time.

A little attention will keep your dog happy and healthy. Meanwhile, enjoy those furry cuddles and Bon Apatit!


  1. Ask USDA. (n.d.). What-is-the-2-Hour-Rule-with-leaving-food-out- USDA.
  2. Center for Veterinary Medicine. (2020). Proper storage of pet food & treats. U.S. Food And Drug AdministrationFDA
  3. Colgate. (2023). Pet food storage tips- Hill’s Pet Nutrition
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Jeanette Hampton
Jeanette Hampton is a content writer at WWD and an expert on all things pets. She’s been writing pet blogs for over 5 years and knows everything there is to know about dogs. Jeanette enjoys writing about pet-related topics because she enjoys helping people learn more about their furry friends.

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