While you can still buy pet supplies at the grocery or pet store, pet food is increasingly shipped directly to people’s homes. If you need to send pet accessories, either occasionally or regularly, some basic knowledge will keep your packages on track. Here’s how to ship pet food and supplies.
How to ship pet food
When you ship pet food, you must follow the same rules that apply to any foodstuff. USPS has detailed regulations for shipping perishable foods of different types, and any pet food you ship falls into this category, even if it’s canned or dry food or treats with long shelf lives.
There are two distinct types of pet foods with different shipping protocols: dry or canned foods that are shelf-stable at room temperature, and frozen foods that need dry ice and special packaging for shipping.
Shipping shelf-stable pet food
The types of pet food that you can pack and ship without a lot of fuss include:
- Kibble or dry food in bags or boxes
- Canned wet food
- Wet food in pouches
- Pet treats, including chew sticks
Before you throw a bag of kibble in the mail, however, there are a few things to take into consideration:
- Don’t send food that will go bad while in transit. If it’s near its expiration date, save the delivery driver from the smell of rotten cat food and throw it away.
- Never ship an open can or container of pet food. Just don’t do it!
- Make sure the food is packaged well. A can of dog chow is fine to ship if the can stays intact. However, if a can gets punctured or a pop-top lid comes loose, you’ve got an oozy, stinky, dog-chow mess that will breach the box’s integrity. That package is likely to be trashed rather than delivered. Use a box made from heavy corrugated cardboard, particularly for shipping heavy items such as canned foods or large quantities of kibble. Add infill to ensure that the items don’t move around during shipping and to prevent spills and spoilage.
- For items that could come loose and make a mess, such as dried food or birdseed, wrap the bag or box with shrink wrap, and pack it away from other items with hard or sharp edges that could puncture the bag.
- The rules for international shipping aren’t the same as those for how to ship pet food and supplies domestically. Make sure you understand what is and isn’t allowed if you send pet food across borders.
Shipping frozen or refrigerated pet food
Many pets benefit from a raw food diet, and those foods are usually kept frozen before serving. If your pet food needs to be kept cold, remember to:
- Use frozen gel packs or dry ice to keep it from going bad during shipping.
- Don’t ship a long distance via ground. Ensure your package arrives at its destination while it’s still cold.
- Use water-resistant packaging inside your box to seal in condensation or moisture.
Pro tip: A damp cardboard box is a box that won’t make it to its destination intact. Sealing moisture away from the outside of the package is essential if you ship frozen or refrigerated pet food.
Cost to ship pet food
Another thing to consider when shipping pet food is the cost. For example, a big bag of dry dog food can weigh 30 pounds or more. If you send a package weighing more than 50 pounds, UPS will add an Additional Handling surcharge. That surcharge also applies to packages where the longest side is more than 48 inches. Make sure you understand the surcharges that apply to your shipment before you put the label on the box. Pro tip: In some cases, it might be cheaper to break the pet food into multiple parcels to avoid surcharges.
How to ship pet supplies
Pet supplies run the gamut from feather-light cat toys to bulky pet carriers and dense, heavy cat litter. You can ship many pet supplies without special handling: Dog sweaters, collars, harnesses, chew toys, cardboard for scratching posts, etc.
However, watch out for surcharges if you’re shipping something big, like a cage or crate, or dense, like cat litter.
Dimensional weight charges for pet supplies
The billable weight of a package is the greater of the actual weight and the dimensional (or DIM) weight. Actual weight is the weight on the scale: The actual weight of a 5-pound package is 5 pounds. DIM weight is a calculation based on the size of the box, so a large but lightweight package might incur dimensional weight pricing. For example, a bird cage weighing 5 pounds might have a dimensional weight of 15 pounds because of the box size. You’d pay the shipping cost for the dimensional weight in that case. Read on for tips to minimize these charges.
Keeping costs down when shipping pet supplies
Shipping pet products, even bulky and heavy ones, doesn’t have to break the bank. Here’s how to save money when you ship pet food and supplies:
- Use USPS Priority Mail for small but heavy shipments. Anything that fits in a Priority Mail Flat Rate envelope or box ships for a flat price. For shipping small but heavy pet supplies such as metal leashes or canned foods, USPS Priority Mail could save you money. Just make sure the flat rate box or envelope is sturdy enough to protect your items.
- Pack heavy items inside lighter supplies such as crates or cages. You are likely to incur dimensional weight shipping charges if you ship a bird cage or pet carrier. Since you’ll be charged a higher rate, add more stuff to your box. Put a bag of birdseed or a package of toys inside the cage; add a scratching post or a bag of treats inside your pet crate. You may find the increase to your shipping cost is minimal when you consolidate your packages.
- Buy food at your destination instead of shipping it. If you hate to waste perfectly good pet supplies when you’re moving or traveling with a pet, that’s understandable. However, the cost to ship pet supplies might be greater than the price to purchase new supplies at your destination. If you’ve got pet food that will go bad while you’re away, consider donating it to your local shelter instead of shipping it, and you’ll help out the rescues while you save yourself some hassle.
Can I ship my pet?
For most animals, the answer is no, you cannot ship a live pet. You can take many pets on an airplane, but you can’t send them via a delivery company. The only kinds of live animals USPS will transport are bees and birds (mostly day-old chicks).
Alternatives to shipping pet food and supplies
If you have a business selling pet food or pet supplies, you must develop strategies to ship your products to your customers safely and cost-effectively. However, if your friend from college tells you about a problem with their chihuahua and you know the perfect pet product to fix it, don’t buy it and ship it yourself. Many pet supply companies offer home delivery, often with same-day service. Order the product online and have the company ship it to your friend.
How to ship pet food and supplies through a fulfillment partner
ECommerce fulfillment for pet products may require special handling. Perishable items, like pet food, need a warehouse that can rotate inventory to ensure food is shipped before its sell-by date. Some food items may require cold storage. And, if you sell heavy or bulky merchandise, like cat litter or bulk bags of dry food, you need a 3PL that knows how to ship heavy products safely.
We know how to ship pet food and supplies at Red Stag Fulfillment because we have broad expertise in shipping heavy and bulky products. And our fulfillment guarantees mean your orders will reach your customers with no breaks or spills. We’d love to talk with you if you need order fulfillment for pet products.
This is part one of a two-part series. Coming next: Pet Food and Supplies Fulfillment Guide.
More from our How to Ship series: