Can You Use Dented Cat Food Cans? [Is It Safe]

We have all experienced that highly frustrating moment when you are unpacking the groceries, and you come across a can that has been badly dented in the store. If this happens to you, you might be wondering what to do and whether you can still safely feed this can of food to your cat or if it should be discarded.

Feeding your cat food from ented cans be a risk. The reason that canned food keeps so well is it is sterilized with heat and then sealed to prevent any bacteria from getting into the food. However, a dent in the can may result in a broken seal, and then the food is exposed to bacteria and may end up unsafe for a cat to consume.

We all want to save money on our pet products. However, it’s essential to know which foods are safe and which aren’t. So let’s take a closer look at the risks associated with feeding cats food from dented cans.

Should You Feed Your Cat Food From A Dented Can?

This is tricky, as it’s a bit of a judgment call. How dented is the can? One tiny little dink in the top or side is unlikely to have caused a problem with the food, but a significant dent could well mean that the food is no longer safe.

There is no simple “yes or no” answer to this question because the cat food might still be fine, but equally, it might not. So you will have to make a judgment call on whether you will take the risk. 

We will cover some of the dangers and the things that you should be on the lookout for, so you can make an informed decision.

What Are The Dangers Of Food In A Dented Can?

So, what are the risks of feeding your cat food from a dented can?

The biggest risk is botulism, and PreventiveVet says that this is caused by a bacteria called Clostridial. This is an anaerobic bacteria, which is the kind that will grow happily in conditions with no oxygen – such as inside can. This kind of bacteria will thrive in a dented can of cat food. In a sealed can, it cannot access the food.

Unfortunately, it is also an extremely dangerous bacteria, and cannot be seen, tasted, or smelt, so your cat (and you) will be unable to detect it in the food in any way. It could kill your cat, or at least might make it very sick.

That is why you should be very careful about feeding food from a dented can to your cat. Although botulism is very rare now, it can be caused by damage to cans, which may have broken the seal that keeps this kind of bacteria out.

That said, it’s essential to know what the signs are and what to do if you suspect that your cat has botulism.

What Are The Signs Of Botulism?

Signs of botulism appear several hours or days after ingesting contaminated foods. One of the significant signs is weakness in the rear legs, which spreads to the front of the legs, face, and head.

If you suspect your cat has been affected. You’ll want to take her to the vet as soon as possible. Botulism is a severe illness, and left untreated; it can be fatal.

Another sign to look out for is muscle paralysis, which may cause difficulty swallowing or breathing. You might also see excessive salivation, constipation, and eye inflammation.

What Sort Of Dents Should I Look For?

A small, slight dent in the can is nothing to worry about and should not increase the food’s risk. 

The dangerous dents are those that are very deep and could clearly have damaged the seal or those that are close to the can’s seams. These are weak points in the can, so if damage occurs near them, it is likely to have torn the edges of the seal apart, which can result in bacteria getting into the food.

Other things that you should look out for in your cans include bloating or bulging. The food in a can that has been compromised seriously will start to go off quite fast, which may cause the can to warp as the food swells up.

The bacteria inside the food will produce gas, which puts the can under pressure. You might notice that if you gently squeeze the can, it makes a loud popping sound because there is a lot of pressure inside.

The contents might also explode when you open the can because you will suddenly have released the pressure, and therefore the food will come out in a rush. Frequently (although not always), this will be accompanied by a bad smell because the meat will have started to go off.

In extreme cases, you may even find that flies have got into the can and laid eggs in the meat, although this will only happen if the dent is severe.

All of these things are sure signs that the food is no longer safe for your cat to eat, and you should discard it rather than feeding it to the cat.

If none of these issues are present in a can of food, it is more likely to be okay for your cat to consume. However, bear in mind that botulism does not necessarily have any obvious signs, so you should treat even minor dents cautiously.

What Can I Do With Dented Cans?

It depends on how the cans were dented, but you may be able to return damaged cans to the store you bought them from if you don’t think that the damage occurred in your possession. Often, the dented can is in a box, or another container that stops you from seeing it is damaged in the store.

It’s always a good idea to keep the receipt from products like cat food, and if you do this, you will have an easier time returning damaged cans. Instead, take them back and tell the store that they were damaged prior to purchase.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to take cans straight out of the box when you get home. It is hard to return cans that have been sitting in your house for a week or two, even if you just didn’t see the can, so play it safe and check cans shortly after purchasing them if possible.

Unfortunately, if you have dented the cans yourself or you haven’t found dented cans until too late, there is nothing that you can do with them safely. The best option you have is to empty the food into a hot composter (if possible) and then rinse and recycle the can. This at least prevents the waste from the can.

This won’t be practical in every household, but it is the best solution to the issue if you can manage it. Of course, you will then have to buy some more food for your cat, hopefully, dent-free this time.

Does Timing Make A Difference?

You might be wondering if it makes a difference how long the can has been dented for. It does – a can that has just got dented will not have bacteria in immediately because it takes time for this to breed and spread.

If you have dropped a can and dented it, it’s a good idea to open it straight away. You should then give your cat some food and store the rest in the fridge or freezer (not in the can) until you’re ready to use it up.

If you put a dented can back on the shelf, it’s likely to go off before you use it up – so avoid doing this if possible.

Final Word

Dented cans of cat food can be used safely if they have only been recently dented, or if the dent is minor. However, you should not use a dented can of cat food if it has a significant dent in it, has been dented for a long time, or if it is bulging or distorted in some way, as this might mean bacteria is present in the food.

If you’re unsure of how to handle a dented can of cat food, or you are concerned about whether it is safe for your pet to eat, please consult with the packaging instructions on the product.

Remember that these are only guidelines and not hard-and-fast rules. If in doubt over what to do with any bent pet food cans, contact the manufacturer or a veterinarian.

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