Have you ever taken a look at kibble after it sits for a long time?
It probably looks like it did when you opened the bag.
But appearances can be deceiving …
Once opened, kibble has a shelf life of 2 weeks at most. After that, it begins to lose nutritional value and can even make your dog sick.
You may not believe me. And I get it … the best before date on the kibble is at least a year, after all.
And that’s true … but like many of the products you use yourself, that’s how long it’s good for if you don’t open the bag. Once it’s opened you usually have a week or less to finish it up.
So why do you have to toss your kibble two weeks after you open it?
What Is Oxidation?
Oxidation happens when an atom or compound loses electrons. In some cases, the oxidation process is obvious. Take a look at iron or apples.
When iron reacts with oxygen, you get iron oxide. You know it better as rust.
When a cut apple gets exposed to oxygen, it turns brown.
Oil is similar but the reaction is less obvious. When oil reacts with oxygen, the effect is rancid oil.
Oxidation of oil starts the moment it comes into contact with oxygen.
Pet food is full of fats and oils. That means that as soon as you open the bag of kibble, oxidation begins, and the oils start to go rancid.
Oxidation can also reduce the nutritional value of vitamins and other important nutrients. (I’ll cover this more in a minute).
The Role Of Antioxidants
Antioxidants help slow down the oxidation process. And that can delay rancidity.
Food manufacturers will add antioxidants to their food to protect it once it’s opened. It acts as a preservative (like sodium nitrate in cured meats).
But like any preservative, antioxidants can only work for so long … then oxidation will win out.
The Problem With Rancid Oils
Once the antioxidants run out and oxidation begins, fats begin to get damaged.
Fragile fats like omega-3 fatty acids, are often the first to become damaged. Once damaged they become rancid … they’re spoiled.
And spoiled oil is no good. Here are some of the problems it can cause …
Less Antioxidants For Your Dog
Antioxidants not only prevent food oxidation … they also protect your dog from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage cells, DNAs and proteins which leads to …
- Chronic disease
- Joint problems
- Organ disease
- Cognitive decline
- Premature aging
“Rancid fish oil may increase your risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis and blood clots. When you consume rancid fish oils, your body must use its stores of antioxidants such as vitamin E to neutralize the rancid oils, leaving fewer of these resources available to your body for cellular repair and disease prevention.” – Livestrong
Rancid fats damage healthy fats, vitamins and minerals your dog needs. This will lead to nutritional deficiencies.
It can even inactivate biotin (vitamin B7).
Other studies suggest the consumption of oxidized oil could increase the inflammatory response. Their pro-inflammatory properties may also lead to cancer and other chronic health problems.
Can You Store Kibble In Plastic Containers To Prevent Oxidation?
It may seem like a good idea to store your dog’s kibble in a plastic container to prevent oxidation … but this can lead to even more trouble.
Plastic containers may feel smooth to the touch, but they have microscopic pores.
Every time you put a new batch of food in the container fats get left behind. They coat the sides and base and get trapped in the pores.
Eventually, these fats begin to go rancid. Bacteria and mold can start to grow. And now the new food you put in gets contaminated quicker.
With each new bag of food, the cycle continues.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Oxidation
If you want to stick with a kibble diet, there are some steps you can take. This will help to reduce oxidation and the impact it has on your dog.
1. Smaller Bags Of Kibble
Opt for smaller bags of food. It’s best to use it within 7 days.
2. Kibble With Less Fats
Buy kibble that has less fat content and add fresh fats yourself. But remember these fat supplements can also oxidize … so be sure to store them properly.
Fish oil is a popular supplement for dogs but the omega-3s in fish oil are very susceptible to oxidation. The oxygen that leaks through the plastic bottles can even oxidize the oil before you open it.
Better options to add omega-3 fatty acids are:
If you do buy fish oil … make sure it’s high quality, in a dark glass bottle, and store it in the refrigerator.
3. Don’t Let Your Dog Graze
If you decide to add an oil or fat supplement to your dog’s food, don’t leave it out all day. This will expose it to even more oxygen, which could speed up oxidation.
Even if you don’t add supplements, you may not want to leave food out for long periods of time. It isn’t natural for carnivores like dogs to graze. And it can cause nutrients to spoil.
4. Freeze Kibble
If you don’t think you’ll be able to use up your dog’s kibble in 7 days, freeze the extra kibble to prevent oxidation.
5. Torn Bags
When you buy kibble, don’t buy torn or damaged bags.
6. Listen To Your Pet
If your dog doesn’t seem interested in his kibble, don’t try and make him eat it. Your dog’s senses are much better than yours … he may be trying to tell you something.
7. Store Kibble In Bags
Manufacturers have designed dog food packaging to keep antioxidants in and oxygen out.
Keep your dog’s food in the original bag. If you have to store it in a bin, store the whole bag and make sure that you reseal it after each use.
Oxidation can be dangerous for your dog. If you take these steps, you can limit the damage rancid oils do and keep your dog healthy.