“Huh?” you’re asking. “What’s there to know about storing dog food? It comes in a bag, you take the bag aboard and scoop some out each day.”
We adopted/rescued our dog, Paz, when she was just 4 weeks old. And as you can see from the photo of her a few days later, she loved her kibble. Not knowing any better, I just kept it in its bag under the nav station.
Within a couple of weeks, though, Paz turned up her nose at her own food bowl but would devour the exact same food aboard a friend’s boat (luckily, their dog Sophie didn’t mind sharing). And then a few days later I discovered ants in our bag of kibble. That bag went in the trash and I went over to Amazing Grace to talk to Sophie’s mom about the problem.
Over the next few weeks, Tonya taught me about being a dog mom, and Sophie taught Paz about being a dog since Paz’s “birth mother” hadn’t been able to.
Tonya’s first question to me was how did I store our cereal. Did I just roll down the top of the bag and stick it under the nav station?
Well, no. If I did that, the cereal would quickly get stale from the humidity and full of bugs from being left open. And so it hit me: Paz’s food had gotten stale (why she had turned up her nose at it) and then full of ants. I later learned from other friends that dog food is also susceptible to weevils.
The next bag I stored just as I did Dave’s Cheerios.
1. Just like cereal, kibble needs to go in a plastic bin with an airtight lid. Look at something such as the Rubbermaid Lock-It 2-1/2 gallon (40 cup) container that is airtight—available on Amazon US. There is also a 50-cup Lock & Lock bin that’s more of a “bin” design which seems very convenient, but several reviews in numerous places state that it does not have a totally airtight seal, and that both moisture and ants will get in.
2. Like many other grain-based foods, adding a couple of bay leaves will discourage the weevils. Of course, don’t give the dog the bay leaves—although our vet says they’re not toxic.
3. And putting a drop of clove oil on the outside of the lid will discourage ants. Note that most dogs don’t like a strong taste of cloves in their food, so don’t put cloves in the dry food. Again, cloves aren’t poisonous to dogs.
NOTE: While bay leaves and cloves aren’t considered to be toxic to dogs, it’s always possible that a particular dog could have an allergy. I know all about weird allergies—Paz is allergic to rawhide!
A couple of other notes on dog food: we could always find some type of dog food in Mexico and Central America. Larger cities typically had better brands of dog food, which were usually sold at vet offices. Further, just as with flour, we soon learned that buying kibble in larger stores—or large vet offices—had far less chance of weevils and other bugs.
And we learned to transfer the food to its plastic container immediately upon taking it on board and getting rid of the bag—and potential bugs—immediately.
UPDATE: About a year ago, we switched to Sojo’s dog food (read my post about why it works well on a boat) and I can store unopened bags just as they come from Amazon, but I still store open bags this way—I just use a smaller canister!
I’d assume that cat food should be stored the same way as dog food, but we’ve never had a cat and thus I don’t really know if there are any differences. If you have any knowledge of cat food, please add a note in the comments!