Things People Don’t Know About Dog Food: Part 3

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This week is part 3 of the continuing series on things that people don’t know about dog food.  The first two installments are available here and here.


Meat as the first ingredient is a good rule, but by itself is not a true indication of a foods overall quality or appropriateness.  Ingredients are listed in the pet food label in the same order as their relative weight in the recipe.  Thus, meat as a first ingredient is supposed to signify that the food is high quality.  However, there are ways to manipulate the ingredient list so that the meat component is listed higher and other, inferior fillers lower than is really the case.  This practice, called ingredient splitting, is common as it occurs in about 1/3 of all pet foods.  By splitting low quality ingredients into two or more components, (e.g. rice gets listed as both ground rice and rice bran), each rice ingredient individually accounts for a smaller portion of the recipe, and thus, they appear lower on the ingredient list, often allowing the meat to become the first ingredient listed.

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Here is a real life example.  These are the first five ingredients from a so-called ‘premium’ dry dog food.

Lamb Meal, Brown Rice, Ground White Rice, Rice Bran, Canola Oil

Is there any doubt that this food is made up mostly of rice?


While having meat first in the ingredient list is a good rule to use when evaluating a dog food, a little more diligence is required to make a better choice.


Expiration dates on dog food labels don’t meant that an opened bag or can will last that long.

We have all noticed the expiration date (also known as the “good until date”) on pet food packages.  One of the first things that I notice is how far in the future these dates can often be (which is somewhat scary if you think about it). Many pet parents are not aware that once the package is opened, those expiration dates no longer apply.  You see, once a package is opened, the food will begin to oxidize and, from a nutritional perspective, start to degrade.  The vitamins and minerals will lose potency as they are exposed to oxygen, and in some cases, mold or mycotoxins can form which are potentially detrimental to the dog’s health.


Even storing the food in a plastic container with a lid will do little to stop the oxidation process.  Although the popular pet food storage bins can help keep the food odor at bay, they really do little to extend the life of the food.


So how long will an opened package of dog food last?  The answer depends on a lot of factors, but dry food will retain most of its nutrition for up to 2-3 weeks once the bag is opened.  Wet foods will degrade much faster and usually have a shelf life of only a few days (assuming refrigeration).   This is sad news for all of those pet parents who choose to buy the larger bags of dog food to save money.  Yes, they are a lot cheaper to buy on a per pound (or kg) basis.  But because those large bags will normally last many months, the pet is actually being fed nutritionally inferior, degraded, and sometimes toxic food.


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  1. I agree with you, as soon as I open the bag this process starts, no matter that I put it in a container what has a “freshness seal”. Probably Easy knew that and therefore he eats only food from small bags :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog TROUBLE TUESDAYMy Profile

  2. Between Eko and Penny, “big” bags aren’t so big, so we luckily never have an issue with food sticking around too long.

  3. We say get more dogs so the big bag doesn’t last as long! Our bags last 3 weeks max, and the canned food toppers are only in the fridge for about two days tops. Fresh food is just another important part of a good diet, as is quality food.
    Emma recently posted…The Luck Of Kiss Me I’m Irish StewMy Profile

  4. I was shocked to realize how deceptive food labels can be. It casts doubt on most of the major dog food companies.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Is Liver Good for Dogs?My Profile

  5. We have been ‘victimized’ by the expiration date detail and wondered if it was something we did (or didn’t do) properly. Now we know! Thanks for the heads-up.

  6. You have taught us to read labels and now we are learning more about what to look for.
    jan recently posted…PetSmart and the Diamondbacks set up dog-friendly areaMy Profile

  7. Reading labels is so important. I have always wanted to makes sure the food for Daisy and now Cocoa was good but it really is even more important with Cocoa’s tummy issues. We do not get the super big bags because she does not eat a ton so I want to make sure it’s fresh for her.
    Julie recently posted…Stuff and ThingsMy Profile

  8. Great information, thought the expiration part was really good.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Hello World Let’s Get This Day GoingMy Profile

  9. And then there’s the problem where as soon as you open the bag, you can smell the mold. I had that happen three separate times with the same brand. I called them each time to report it (and received profuse apologies plus full refund); but the third strike meant – as in baseball – YOU’RE OUT! Have never bought it again since and never will. And it was one of the higher-quality brands, too.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…A Tired Dog Is A Good DogMy Profile

  10. I guess that’s when having multiple dogs and large dogs can be a bonus – they may eat more food but at least we can buy the larger bags and it will still stay good!
    Jan K recently posted…Black & White Sunday – Heat HoundMy Profile

  11. Interesting news about the expiration date. Thank you.

    I used to think meat as the first ingredient was a great idea; however, I’ve since learned that it depends on the meat, how it was processed, etc. I was surprised to learn that for some foods, “meal” is better, because there might be more meat in the food. It all makes my head spin and very happy that information like this is out there for people who are looking.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Pet Talk Episode 3 | Dangers of Doggy KissesMy Profile

  12. I love being on “autoship” with their food. I don’t keep too much and I don’t run out. I’m a stickler for looking at dates too!
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…THE PET FRIENDLY WENTWORTH MANSION® #THEDOODLESPOTMy Profile

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