Can dogs eat food left out overnight?

Many dog owners use their pets as a garbage disposal After all, why throw food out when your dog can benefit from the nutrition? However, this raises questions about when the food isn’t ok for your dog to eat. 

Can dogs eat food left out overnight?

I have to admit, I’ve fed my dogs some questionable meals. I’ve pulled things out of the fridge that I had forgotten were in there, and my dogs seemed to find it enticing. I’ve also gave them the remnants of supper the next morning. Generally, dogs can tolerate bacteria that would make us sick. Still, there’s a limit to what you should feed your dog. 

How Can Dogs Eat Things That Would Make Us Sick?

From poop to dead animals, dogs eat some disgusting things that would surely make a human violently ill. Dogs are less susceptible to many bacteria than humans are. 

The most likely cause for this is the amount of stomach acid they have. Your dog has 100 times the stomach acid you do. This is why they can quickly break down protein, and even bones and gristle. It also makes their stomach less hospitable to bacteria. 

They also have a shorter digestive tract. This means that food travels through the system faster, and gives bacteria less time to cause problems before it’s flushed out. 

Dogs have evolved to eat in the wild. They are predators and scavengers, which means they will sometimes eat meat that’s been dead for days, and is likely laden with bacteria. It’s no surprise that this digestive tolerance extends to domesticated dogs, 

However, it’s important to note that spoiled food can make your dog sick. Veterinarians see many canines with digestive problems or illnesses. They also point out that many wild animals die from food poisoning or parasites from spoiled food. Spoiled food that would make you sick is less likely to make your dog sick, but depending on the pathogens present, it is possible for it to make them extremely ill. 

Expired Food

Expired food is usually safe for dogs. If it’s simply past its due date, it isn’t likely to be laden with bacteria. However, the type of food it is also plays a role. Cereal past its due date will be stale, but safe for humans and dogs. 

Meat that’s past its due date poses a higher risk, particularly if you see signs of spoilage. Inspect the meat. Does it have a foul smell? Is it slimy? Is it growing mold? If the answer to all of these questions is no, it should be safe to feed your dog. 

Food Left Out Overnight

Whether your dog can eat food left out overnight depends on a few factors. What type of food it is, how warm the temperature is, and whether it was cooked or raw are key considerations. 

Again, it’s best to trust your own senses. Does the food smell or look off or spoiled? If it looks and smells ok, the odds are your dog can eat it.

However, you’ve probably experienced a bout of food poisoning because you ate something that seemed fine, but was contaminated with bacteria at some point in your life.

Dogs are less susceptible to bacteria than we are. However, experts will say better safe than sorry, and that you should follow the same guidelines for your dog as you do for yourself. This means that food left out overnight, particularly meat, is off the table. 

Knowing Your Dog

When it comes to food, there’s often no set in stone answer. One key aspect of deciding what’s safe to feed your dog is to know them. Some dogs seem impervious to the most disgusting foods. These dogs will raid trash cans and snack on roadkill with impunity.

You should still avoid feeding this type of dog anything that’s clearly spoiled, but you can be a bit less cautious. 

On the other end of the spectrum is the dog with a sensitive stomach. If you feed them table scraps, they get diarrhea. They can’t tolerate a high amount of fat, and may develop pancreatitis if you feed them a high fat meal. This type of dog requires much more caution when making food choices. 

Signs of Food  Poisoning in Dogs

The signs of food poisoning in dogs vary based on the pathogen. It’s also important to note that it’s not just bacteria that pose a danger. Some bacteria create toxins that remain in food. Cooking spoiled food may remove the bacteria, but it will leave behind their toxins, which can also make your pet sick. 

Common signs of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, uncontrolled peeing, dizziness, nervousness or hyper activity. They may also experience  cramping and appear to be in pain. Generally, the symptoms are very similar to the ones humans experience. 

Severe food poisoning can be life threatening. Severe symptoms include seizures, tremors, heart palpitations, and death. If your dog displays severe symptoms, they need immediate veterinary care. 

Dehydration can also cause severe symptoms. In fact, in both people and dogs, dehydration is often the cause of life-threatening illness, instead of the pathogen itself. Food poisoning can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. This forces the body to expel water faster than it can be put in, which can lead to severe dehydration. 

Garbage Gut

Garbage gut is similar to food poisoning, but it’s not strictly related to food. It comes from the term garbage in, garbage out. It can refer literally to garbage, spoiled food, carrion, or anything else that your dog shouldn’t be ingesting, including poop. 

The official definition is the ingestion of food, trash, or waste that is contaminated with bacteria or other toxic substances. 

Symptoms include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and fever. Severe symptoms include tremors or uncontrolled body movements, hypothermia, and shock.  

Treating Food Poisoning

If you suspect your dog has food poisoning, you can call the ASPCA Animal Control Poison center at 888) 426-4435. They are available at all times. You can also call your vet for advice. 

You may be advised to monitor your dog, induce vomiting, or bring your dog in for treatment. This will depend on what your dog ate and their symptoms. 

In the case of botchulism, an antitoxin can be given before symptoms develop, so prompt treatment is essential. 

Can dogs eat meat that has been left out?

It really depends on how long it’s been left out, the type of meat, and whether it’s cooked or raw. We’ll take a look at the basic rules for meat safety. 

Combine this with your own instincts, observations, and knowledge of your dog. If you want to be safe, follow these recommendations exactly. If it looks and smells ok, and you are comfortable with a bit of risk, you can give the rules some leniency. 

In the Fridge

Raw chicken, seafood, ground beef, and ground pork can be left in the fridge for 1-2 days. 

Large cuts of meat like roasts, steak, and pork chops can last up to 1 week in the fridge. 

Cooked meat is also safe for 1 week in the fridge. 

Processed meats like bacon, hotdogs, luncheon meats, and sausage can last up to 1 month in the fridge. Preservatives are added to these meats to keep them fresh and safe to eat longer. 

At Room Temperature

Raw meat shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours. After 2 hours, the meat will begin to spoil. This is the rule for humans, but is it the same for your dog?

It’s best to inspect the meat closely if it’s been left out. If it’s been out for 3 or 4 hours, it may be ok for your dog to eat after it is cooked. If it smells foul, is slimy, tacky, or off color, don’t feed it to your dog. 

Never feed your dog raw meat that has been left out. Raw meat is much more likely to carry bacteria than cooked meat, so it requires extra care. 

Processed meats like lunch meat or bacon will last longer at room temperature just as they do in the fridge. There’s no hard and fast rule here, so you’ll need to use your observations when deciding if it’s safe for your dog. 

You’ll also need to consider the temperature of the room. If your grilling out and ground beef has been in 90 degree heat for 4 hours, it’s much more likely to be spoiled than ground beef sitting on a counter at 70 degrees. 

How long can dog food stay out?

You should consider food safety when feeding your dog human foods, but many pet owners forget that this also applies to dog food. 

Dry Dog Food

Dry dog food is good for 12 to 18 months from the date it was manufactured when it’s unopened. You can check the best by date on your dog’s food for a guideline. 

Dry dog food is unlikely to develop bacteria. Instead, the food begins to break down over time. It degrades and loses some of its nutritional value. It may also taste and smell less appealing as it degrades. 

Once it’s been opened, it should be used within 30 days, especially if it’s not in a sealed container. Again, the concern is degradation instead of bacteria. 

If you choose to use a dog food bin, it can keep the food fresher for longer. However, you’ll need to leave the food in the bag. Place the bag in the container. This will protect the food from plastic as well as air exposure. 

It’s best to toss food after 24 hours of being in your dog’s bowl. Once it is exposed to the air, it begins to oxidize. When it’s in a food bowl, greater air exposure also means faster oxidation. Plastic can also speed up the degradation process. When you toss the leftover food, rinse the bowl as well. 

Wet Dog Food

Wet dog food has a shelf life of 2 years. Wet dog food can stay in your dog’s bowl for up to 4 hours. After that, you should throw it out. Opened cans of wet dog food can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

Cover the can with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. You can also purchase plastic lids designed for wet dog food cans. Covering the can will help it maintain its freshness. After 3 days, dispose of any leftover food. 

Can dogs eat raw meat left out overnight?

Raw meat should be thrown out if left out overnight. As the meat warms to room temperature, bacteria is able to grow. This bacteria can make your dog sick. 


Botchulism is a rare but very serious condition. It occurs when your dog eats the botchulism toxin produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. It is usually found in raw meat or dead animals. Cooking kills the botchulism toxin. 

When ingested, it enters the intestines and is then absorbed into the bloodstream. It binds to the nerve cells and causes paralysis. You may be familiar with the toxin because of its use in Botox injections. 

Botchulism symptoms can occur within a few hours to 6 days after eating contaminated meat. It typically starts with weakness in the rear legs. The weakness spreads to the front legs and face. This can progress to paralysis. 

Severe cases can cause death  because the diaphragm can become paralyzed. 




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