Can I Give My Dog Out Of Date Meat?


It sometimes happens that we, as dog owners, pick up a can of dog food from our cupboard only to realize that it’s already a couple of weeks or even a month past its “best by” date. It could be that we’ve had the dog food there for a while and simply forgot or we may have bought expired items from the store, but the big question is, is it okay to feed these expired items to our dog?

Let’s find out why in this case there is a big difference between ‘can’ and ‘should.’

Can I give my dog out of date meat?

The simple answer is yes, giving your dog out of date canned meat for dogs will not hurt your dog but it also won’t give him much in terms of nutritional value. 

Unlike human food, dog food doesn’t really have a hard expiry date that tells you not to eat it past that date. Dog food has a “best by” date instead which pretty much means that you’re getting the food at its best quality if you eat it before the indicated date. This let’s stores sell old dog food even past its prime, so be sure to take a close look at those dates printed on the labels.

Unfortunately, even the “best by” date doesn’t really tell you when the food was prepared and canned. While the dangers of losing nutritional value, getting mold, and losing its integrity in general is higher for dry kibble, even canned dog food has its limits.

Just so we’re all on the same page, dry dog food has a shelf life of about three months whereas canned dog food can stay on the shelf for five years. It may sound like canned dog food could survive a nuclear holocaust but it’s still not rare to accidentally pick up canned doggie food that’s well past its expiry date.

Keep in mind that expired dog food, even the canned ones, has the nutritional equivalent of cardboard. Could be tasty, could be filling, but has zero of the vitamins and nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy.

Can dogs eat cooked meat left out overnight?

No, your dog cannot eat meat or canned dog food labeled as meat when it has been left out overnight, and neither should you (just in case the thought passed your mind).

Kidding aside, feeding your dog meat that has been left exposed for hours could post a serious danger. Food usually has a safe zone of two hours if you leave it out in the open which you can extend for another two hours if you reheat the meat past 65°C. Whether the meat smells bad or not, it is no longer good for consumption. Your dog will be at a high risk of getting food poisoning.

There is also the matter of fat content. Fat content in dog food is usually the first to go bad, but the good thing is you’ll be able to tell from the strong rancid smell that the food is no longer edible. 

Can dogs eat raw meat that has been left out overnight?

No, it is also a bad idea to feed your dog raw meat that has been left out overnight. In fact, it’s an even worse idea than feeding your dog cooked meat that’s been left outside for hours.

Raw meat already has some bacteria that can easily propagate very fast to the millions within a mere four hours let alone 8 to 12 hours. Again, the same rules of keeping food out in room temperature applies. After two hours, you need to reheat or cook it to at least 65°C to extend its life for another two hours. More than that and you will have to discard the meat.

It bears repeating that it doesn’t matter whether there is a bad smell coming from the food or not. Most bacteria that causes food poisoning doesn’t give off a foul scent so it’s always better to err on the safe side.

What is the most dangerous old or rotten raw meat to feed a dog?

The most dangerous rotten raw meat for dogs is raw chicken. The danger in eating raw chicken for dogs is not mainly because of the Salmonella but because of the possibility of causing a common disease in dogs called acute polyradiculoneuritis or APN which causes dog paralysis. 

With APN, the dog’s own immune system attacks the dog’s own nerves which can lead to paralysis and a lot of pain. APN is caused by ingesting the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni that is present in raw chicken and can multiply to exponentially large numbers in old or rotten raw chicken.

The first runner up for which old or rotten meat is dangerous for dogs is pork fat. Dogs are already sensitive fatty food as it is. Add the fact that it is old or rotten, and you’ll have a pet that is at high risk of suffering from pancreatitis as well as food poisoning and indigestion.

What is the most dangerous old or rotten cooked meat to feed a dog?

The answer to the most dangerous, old or rotten cooked meat to feed your pet dog is still food that contains very high fat content like bacon, ham, or meat trimmings. The high fat content will compound the problem of high bacterial content and you’ll have the bonus problem of high salt content as well.

However, keep in mind that all cooked food that has been left out for too long or has been allowed to rot can pose a danger to your dog’s health no matter what. 

Human stomach vs dog stomach – how do they differ in digesting rotten food?

Surprisingly, dogs and human stomachs have become more similar over the hundreds of years that dogs have been domesticated instead of hunting for food in the wild.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still some key differences between dog stomachs and human stomachs. Dogs still have a much more acidic digestive tract which allows them to digest tougher food and they can even eat food that has more bacteria than what humans can handle. On top of that, dogs only digest their food for hours, unlike us frail humans that have to digest our food for days. But despite these advantages, they have become more prone to spoiled or contaminated food than most animals you’ll find in the wild.

While dogs are still keeping a lot of their resistance for spoiled, dirty, and tough to digest food from millions of years of evolution, their stomachs are simply not as tough as wolves, for example, simply because they’ve been eating processed food for hundreds of years. 

What are the signs that your dog has food poisoning?

The symptoms for food poisoning in dogs is generally the same as with humans which include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and dehydration or also a combination of any of these things. The effect of food poisoning on dogs can also differ depending on your pet’s sensitivity as well as the amount of bacteria ingested which means that some dogs could even exhibit tremors or experience seizures.

If you see your dog exhibiting any of these symptoms, let your vet know but it’s also the rule of thumb to only offer water for 24 hours and observe if, after or during the fasting, your dog’s condition improves. If it doesn’t, take your dog to the vet immediately for further treatment.

Also, be sure to not mistake food toxicity for food poisoning. While the symptoms are practically the same, the treatment could differ and knowing what your dog is suffering from could save your pet’s life. While food poisoning is caused by eating rotten or contaminated food, food toxicity is caused by eating food that are poisonous to dogs (but are often okay for humans) such as chocolate, sugarfree gums and candy, and grapes or raisins among others.


We learned that while feeding your dog canned food past its “best by” date won’t hurt them, it will offer very little nutritional or dietary value and, in the long term, can be bad for your pet. We also learned that feeding your dog food that has been left out in the open for hours as well as rotten food is bad for your dog and can cause food poisoning whether the food was cooked or not.

Food poisoning can be a dangerous to your pet especially if it is allowed to become severe. If you suspect that your dog may have ingested rotten or contaminated food, be sure to call your vet right away.

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!