Preservation of Pet Foods with Oxygen Absorbers and Silica Gel

Preservation of Pet Foods with Oxygen Absorbers and Silica Gel
Published On:July 30, 2019 Revised On:July 25, 2023

For pet owners, ensuring the health and happiness of their furry companions is of utmost importance. Part of maintaining their well-being involves providing them with nutritious and safe food. However, as with any consumable item, pet foods are susceptible to deterioration over time, decreasing nutritional value and potentially harming microbial growth.

Packaging solutions such as oxygen absorbers and silica gel packets combat this issue and extend the shelf life of pet foods. In this article, we explore how these two solutions can work together to safeguard the quality and longevity of pet foods.

Understanding Oxygen and Moisture

Oxygen and moisture are the two primary elements responsible for the degradation of pet foods. Oxygen fuels oxidation, leading to rancidity in fats and oils and the deterioration of vitamins and other essential nutrients. Moisture, on the other hand, creates an ideal environment for the growth of mould, bacteria, and other microorganisms, posing health risks to pets and reducing the nutritional value of the food.

  1. Prevention of Spoilage and Contamination: Moisture and oxygen create an ideal environment for the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, mould, and yeast. These can lead to spoilage, off-flavours, and unpleasant odours in food products. In the case of pet foods, microbial contamination poses health risks to animals, potentially leading to digestive issues and infections.
  2. Preservation of Nutritional Value: Moisture and oxygen contribute to degrading essential nutrients in food products. Oxidation, which occurs in the presence of oxygen, can lead to the breakdown of vitamins, fats, and proteins, rendering them less nutritious over time. Moisture, on the other hand, can facilitate the loss of water-soluble vitamins and lead to changes in texture and consistency.
  3. Prevention of Rancidity: Oxygen is a primary culprit behind lipid oxidation, leading to rancidity in fats and oils in many pet foods. Rancid fats not only diminish the taste and appeal of the food but may also produce harmful compounds.
  4. Maintaining Texture and Appearance: Moisture can negatively impact the texture and appearance of dehydrated food products like pet kibble. Excess moisture can lead to clumping, sogginess, and a loss of desirable texture, affecting the overall pet eating experience.
  5. Extending Shelf Life: One of the primary objectives of food preservation is to extend the shelf life of products, reducing waste and ensuring that consumers can enjoy fresh and safe foods. Moisture and oxygen are key factors contributing to food degradation, shortening the shelf life of various products, including pet foods.

Introducing Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen absorbers, also known as oxygen scavengers, are small packets containing iron powder and salt. When exposed to oxygen, the iron in the packet undergoes a chemical reaction, forming iron oxide and effectively removing oxygen from the surrounding environment. By doing so, oxygen absorbers reduce the chances of oxidation and, consequently, extend the shelf life of pet foods.

The benefits of oxygen absorbers include the following:

  1. Preservation of Nutritional Value: By minimising the p of oxygen, these absorbers prevent the degradation of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in pet foods. This ensures that pets receive the maximum nutritional benefit from their diet.
  2. Fights Rancidity: The oxidation of fats and oils can develop unpleasant odours and flavours in pet foods. Oxygen absorbers effectively combat this issue, keeping the food fresh and palatable.
  3. Inhibits Mold Growth: Oxygen absorbers create an unfavourable environment for mould and fungal growth, reducing the risk of contamination and extending the product’s shelf life.

Types of Oxygen Absorbers

Different oxygen absorbers cater to specific applications and varying oxygen removal needs. For pet food preservation, the following two types are commonly employed:

  • Iron-Based Oxygen Absorbers: Iron-based oxygen absorbers are the most widely used and effective type. They consist of powdered iron, sodium chloride (salt), and an absorbent material enclosed in a sachet. When the absorber is exposed to oxygen, the iron undergoes a chemical reaction, creating iron oxide and binding with any free oxygen in the package. As a result, the oxygen levels within the sealed environment drop significantly, inhibiting the oxidative processes responsible for food degradation. Iron-based oxygen absorbers are preferred for pet food preservation due to their reliability, cost-effectiveness, and suitability for various packaging sizes.
  • Organic-Based Oxygen Absorbers: Organic-based oxygen absorbers are an alternative to iron-based ones. They combine powdered iron and a blend of organic materials that serve as catalysts for oxygen absorption. These absorbers are especially useful for products sensitive to metallic compounds, as they provide a metal-free solution for oxygen removal. Organic-based oxygen absorbers are employed when avoiding potential reactions with metals is critical, such as specific food products or packaging with metal-sensitive contents.

Introducing Silica Gel Packets

Silica gel is a desiccant composed of silicon dioxide, known for its exceptional moisture-absorbing properties. Silica gel packets can be commonly found in various products, including electronics, medications, and pet food packaging.

The benefits of silica gel packets include the following:

  1. Moisture Control: Silica gel packets absorb moisture from the surrounding environment. By keeping the humidity level low within the packaging, they prevent microbial growth, spoilage, and the formation of clumps in dry pet foods.
  2. Improved Texture: In dry pet foods, moisture can lead to an unappetising texture, making them less appealing to pets. Silica gel packets help preserve the crunch and texture, enhancing the overall eating experience for our furry friends.
  3. Extends Shelf Life: By preventing the harmful effects of moisture, silica gel packets extend the shelf life of pet foods, reducing the frequency of replacing old or spoiled food.

Types of Silica Gel

Different types of silica gel are available, each tailored to specific applications based on factors such as absorption capacity, size, and shape. In the context of preserving pet foods, two common types of silica gel are widely used:

  • Indicating Silica Gel: Indicating silica gel contains a moisture-sensitive compound, typically cobalt chloride, which changes colour upon absorbing moisture. When the gel is active and dry, it appears in its original colour (commonly orange or blue). The gel gradually changes colour as moisture is absorbed, indicating its saturation level. Indicating silica gel is particularly useful in pet food packaging, as it provides a visual cue to monitor the effectiveness of the desiccant. When the silica gel turns fully saturated, it can be easily replaced, ensuring continued protection against moisture.
  • Non-Indicating Silica Gel: Non-indicating silica gel lacks a moisture-sensitive compound, and as a result, it does not change colour upon moisture absorption. This silica gel type is preferred when colour-changing indicators are unnecessary or might interfere with preserving the product. Non-indicating silica gel is often used in environments where the humidity level is carefully controlled, and the focus is solely on moisture absorption without visual feedback on its saturation state.

Best Packaging Practices

  1. Choose the Right Size: Selecting the appropriate size and number of oxygen absorbers and silica gel packets is crucial. It is essential to consider the pet food volume, the packaging type, and the desired shelf life extension.
  2. Airtight Packaging: For these desiccants to work effectively, the packaging must be airtight to prevent the re-entry of oxygen and moisture after the packets are added.
  3. Store in a Cool and Dry Place: Proper storage of pet food, with the addition of oxygen absorbers and silica gel packets, involves keeping it in a cool and dry location away from direct sunlight and heat sources.


Ensuring the freshness and nutritional value of pet foods is vital for the well-being of our beloved companions. Pet owners can significantly extend the shelf life of these products by employing the power of oxygen absorbers and silica gel packets.

Combining these two innovative solutions effectively reduces the risk of oxidation and microbial growth, providing pets with the best possible nourishment and a delightful mealtime experience. With these simple packaging solutions, pet owners can rest assured that their furry friends will enjoy safe, fresh, nutritious food daily.