How long can raw dog food be left out?

I don’t know about your dog, but mine frustratingly leaves her raw food in the bowl for ages. I know she wants it because she’ll growl if the cat goes near it, but she seems to like it better when it’s been exposed to the elements.

But how long can raw dog food be left out before you need to chuck it?

How long can raw dog food be left in the bowl?

Once raw dog food has been defrosted, it should be treated like any other perishable food. A good rule of thumb is 2 hours in normal room temperature, but it does depend on the climate where you live, and whether it’s indoors or outdoors.

Leaving a bowl of raw in the hot Aussie sun for more than 15 minutes probably isn’t the best idea, but in a cool Canadian kitchen away from flies you can relax a bit.

Bacteria can quickly multiply in raw food. Our dogs are super-resilient to most bacteria if they’re in good health, but after 2 hours and you start to risk illness – usually diarrhea or vomiting.

Other gotchas are keeping the bowl clean. I clean my dog’s bowl with hot soapy water every night, but I know lots of people don’t. This can also increase the risk of bacteria growth, so try and get in the habit of keeping it clean (and their water bowl too).

What about defrosting frozen raw?

You’ll always be better off letting frozen raw defrost gradually in the fridge. It’s a good habit to get in to, but if you’re forgetful like me you may end up defrosting in room temperature or (last resort) the microwave.

Defrosting time will vary depending on how much food, the temperature, and the method used.

Here are some guidelines for defrosting raw dog food:

  1. Defrosting in the refrigerator – This is the safest method for defrosting raw dog food. Simply place the food in a container in the refrigerator and allow it to defrost slowly over 24-48 hours. Breaking it up (if possible) will help it defrost more quickly.
  2. Defrosting in cold water – If you need to defrost the food more quickly then you can place it in a sealed plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. You can change the water every 30 minutes or so if the current water gets too cold. This method can take anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on the size of the food.
  3. Defrosting in the microwave – Try not to defrost raw dog food, simply because it’s basically cooking and going against the grain of the whole “raw” thing. It won’t harm your dog though. If you must use the microwave then use the defrost setting and check it frequently to ensure it doesn’t start to cook. Your dog probably won’t mind it being fed a little frozen.

Can you feed raw dog food straight from the fridge?

100% yes. Your dog will likely wolf down raw food whether it’s cold or not. In fact most dogs will eat it frozen! This is totally fine, and also less risk of bacteria or contamination.

If your dog won’t eat raw dog food straight from the fridge then leave it for a while at room temperature until they do.

It’s worth considering dental health or tooth pain if your dog won’t eat cold food. Just like us, cold food can cause shooting pains which put us off.

I’m a huge advocate for raw dog food, but what most dog parents fail to realize is soft raw doesn’t keep teeth clean. You need raw meaty bones for that (or regular brushing). The last thing you want your dog to have is periodontal disease, trust me.

Other frequently asked questions about defrosting raw dog food

Can I refrigerate raw dog food that has been left out?

No, it’s not recommended to refrigerate raw dog food which has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours. Any bacteria which has grown in the food can continue to multiply even in the refrigerator, and you may put your dog at risk when you refeed it.

Can I leave raw dog food out overnight?

Even if the food is frozen, it’s not recommend to leave it out overnight at room temperature. You are better off letting it defrost in the fridge, and even if it’s not fully defrosted in the morning it is likely your dog will still eat it. This puts them at less risk of harmful bacteria. It will also keep your kitchen free from flies and insects.

What should I do if my dog doesn’t finish the raw food within two hours?

If your dog doesn’t finish the raw food within two hours you should discard it. This may seem wasteful, but some persistence and knowing when your dog is hungry should help you and your dog get in to a safe feeding routine.

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