How long can you keep bully sticks?

Quick Answers

Bully sticks can be kept for 1-2 months at room temperature if stored properly in an airtight container. Refrigerating bully sticks can extend their shelf life to 6 months or longer. Freezing bully sticks allows them to keep for up to a year.

What Are Bully Sticks?

Bully sticks, also known as pizzle sticks, are 100% beef chew treats made from bull penis. They are dried and twisted to create a long-lasting chew for dogs. Bully sticks are low-fat, high-protein natural treats that provide dental benefits by scraping away plaque and tartar as dogs gnaw on them.

The raw ingredient for bully sticks is bull penis harvested from cattle slaughtered for meat production. The penis is cleaned, stretched, twisted, and dried into stick form. This natural drying process maintains the nutritional properties of the raw ingredient. Only minimal processing is involved in order to preserve the pure bull penis texture and flavor that dogs love.

Nutritional Content

The main nutritional contents of bully sticks are:

  • Protein – Bully sticks are high in protein, with around 80% of their caloric content coming from protein. This makes them an excellent meat-based treat for dogs.
  • Fat – Bully sticks are low in fat, with about 2-5% fat content.
  • Calories – A 6 inch bully stick contains approximately 90-100 calories.

This nutritional makeup makes bully sticks a healthy all-natural chew. The high protein content keeps dogs satiated while the low fat prevents excessive calorie intake.

Benefits of Bully Sticks

There are many benefits to giving your dog bully sticks including:

  • Dental Health – Gnawing on bully sticks can help scrape away tartar and plaque buildup on your dog’s teeth. This provides a natural teeth cleaning.
  • Mental Stimulation – Dogs need mental stimulation and bully sticks provide a long-lasting chewing challenge. This can keep your dog entertained and engaged.
  • Satiety – The high protein content in bully sticks helps dogs feel fuller faster. This may help prevent overeating behavior.
  • Natural and Low-Calorie – Since bully sticks are a single-ingredient dried dog chew, they have fewer calories than many other manufactured treats and contain no artificial ingredients.

Bully sticks are a tasty, natural chew that provide both physical and mental enrichment for dogs. The act of chewing releases endorphins and gives dogs an outlet for their natural chewing instincts. Pet owners love bully sticks for being a long-lasting safe chew.

How to Choose Bully Sticks

When selecting bully sticks for your dog, there are a few things to look for:

  • Thickness – Choose an appropriate thickness based on your dog’s chewing capabilities. Senior dogs may need a thinner stick while powerful chewers need a thicker one.
  • Length – Longer bully sticks tend to last longer. Measure your dog’s snout length and add 2-3 inches for ideal sizing.
  • Odor – Bully sticks will have a natural odor. Avoid sticks with an overly gamey or offensive smell.
  • Color – Look for a consistent color without dark or green spots which may indicate mold.
  • Packaging – Bully sticks sold individually should be poly-bagged to maintain freshness.

Seeking out high-quality all-natural bully sticks ensures your dog is getting the full dental and nutritional benefits of this chew treat.

How to Store Bully Sticks

Proper storage is important for maintaining bully sticks in an optimal state. Here are some storage tips:

  • Keep unused bully sticks in their original packaging or an airtight container. Exposure to air can cause drying and growth of mold.
  • Store out of direct sunlight, which can also cause drying.
  • Refrigerate or freeze bully sticks for prolonged storage. Cold temperatures prevent mold growth and staleness.
  • Do not store bully sticks near human food, as the natural odor may transfer.
  • Discard any bully sticks that smell offensive, appear dried out, or have visible mold.

Room Temperature Storage

At room temperature, bully sticks will stay fresh for 1-2 months. Keep unused sticks sealed in a zip top bag or airtight plastic container. Try to keep room temperature below 70°F for best preservation.

Refrigerated Storage

For refrigerated storage, bully sticks can last 6 months or longer before going bad. Keep sticks in an airtight bag or container, squeezed of excess air, in the back of the fridge. Refrigeration at 33-40°F prevents moisture loss and mold growth.

Frozen Storage

Freezing is the best long-term storage method for bully sticks. Kept frozen at 0°F or below, bully sticks can be preserved for up to a year. Vacuum seal sticks in bags with as much air pressed out as possible before freezing. Defrost sticks in the refrigerator before serving.

How to Tell if Bully Sticks Have Gone Bad

Signs that bully sticks have spoiled and should be discarded include:

  • Mold growth – Greenish fuzzy spots indicate mold. Discard sticks at first sign.
  • White crystals – These crystallized bits have a salty taste and indicate staleness.
  • Dry texture – A dried out, brittle, excessively hard stick is past its prime.
  • Grey color – Greying on the stick surface signifies oxidization.
  • Odd smell – Rancid, sour, or very strong odor is a red flag.

A bully stick should have a natural meaty smell and consistent color throughout when snapped. Dispose of any questionable sticks rather than risking giving your dog a spoiled one.

How Long Do Bully Sticks Last Once Opened?

An opened bully stick will maintain quality for:

  • 1-2 weeks at room temperature – Keep refrigerated and discard after 2 weeks.
  • 2-3 months refrigerated – Return to fridge in an airtight bag after each use.
  • 6-12 months frozen – Defrost stick in fridge before giving to your dog.

Bully sticks tend to dry out faster once exposed to air, so limit air contact and refrigerate or freeze sticks after the package is opened. Discard if you notice any signs of spoilage.

Do Bully Sticks Expire?

Yes, bully sticks can expire and go bad, typically for the following reasons:

  • Drying out – This causes the sticks to become overly hard and brittle.
  • Mold growth – Moisture exposure can allow mold to grow, seen as greenish fuzzy spots.
  • Rancidity – The fat content of the sticks can oxidize and become rancid.
  • Bacteria accumulation – Bacteria buildup will cause sticks to rot and putrefy.

Expired bully sticks pose a safety risk to dogs due to bacterial contamination and rancid fats. Be sure to discard any sticks past their prime.

Shelf Life

When stored properly, bully sticks typically have a shelf life of:

  • 1-2 months at room temperature
  • 6-12 months refrigerated
  • 1-2 years frozen

High temperatures, air exposure, sunlight, and humidity will shorten the shelf life of bully sticks. Keep sticks refrigerated or frozen for best quality preservation.

Expiration Dates

Reputable bully stick brands should have a best by date or expiration date printed on the packaging. This is the last date by which the bully sticks should be used for best quality. Expiration dates on bully sticks typically range from 6 months up to 3 years if frozen.

If you purchased bully sticks in bulk without clear expiration date coding, write the purchase date on the bags. Follow general bully stick shelf life guidelines based on your storage method to determine when they should be discarded.

Can Expired Bully Sticks Make Dogs Sick?

Yes, feeding expired bully sticks to dogs can potentially make them sick. Dangers of spoiled bully sticks include:

  • Food poisoning – from bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli breeding in the decomposing sticks.
  • Digestive upset – vomiting, diarrhea, and other GI issues from rancid fats and bacteria ingestion.
  • Mouth injuries – Splintering of dried sticks can cut or puncture the mouth.

At the first sign of any illness including vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, or excessive drooling, contact your veterinarian if you suspect your dog ate a bad bully stick.


Watch for these common symptoms if your dog eats a spoiled bully stick:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, especially with blood or mucus
  • Gas or abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Increased body temperature

Seek prompt veterinary care if you notice any of these gastrointestinal and systemic signs of illness after giving your dog an expired bully stick.

How to Dispose of Expired Bully Sticks

To safely dispose of spoiled bully sticks:

  1. Wear gloves when handling rotted or moldy sticks.
  2. Place the sticks in a plastic bag, seal it, and dispose in your outside garbage bin.
  3. Do not attempt to compost expired bully sticks, as they may still contain pathogens.
  4. Thoroughly wash your hands after disposal.
  5. Clean the container previously used for storage with soap and hot water.

Expired or contaminated bully sticks can pose health risks to dogs and humans. Follow proper precautions when disposing of spoiled sticks.

How to Freshen a Stale Bully Stick

To freshen up a bully stick that has dried out, you can try rehydrating it:

  1. Place the stale stick in an airtight container and add a slice of apple or orange.
  2. Leave overnight in the fridge, shaking occasionally.
  3. The fruit releases moisture and natural enzymes to rehydrate the stick.
  4. Wipe off any excess moisture before giving to your dog.

This technique can rejuvenate a slightly dried out bully stick extending its life a bit longer. However, do not attempt to rehydrate bully sticks with visible mold or other signs of spoilage.

Should You Microwave Bully Sticks?

It is not recommended to microwave bully sticks. Reasons to avoid microwaving include:

  • It will not effectively freshen or disinfect the sticks.
  • Microwaving may partially cook the sticks creating a rubbery texture.
  • The fat content may become dangerously hot and lead to mouth burns.
  • It can increase the risk of bacteria growth in sticks that are already past their prime.

Microwaving will not increase the shelf life or make expired bully sticks safe for consumption again. Stale or moldy sticks should be discarded rather than microwaved.

Do Bully Sticks Need to Be Refrigerated?

Refrigeration is recommended but not required for bully sticks. Benefits of refrigeration include:

  • Slows mold, yeast, and bacteria growth.
  • Minimizes moisture loss so sticks don’t dry out.
  • Keeps away pests like bugs or rodents if stored outdoors.
  • Maintains optimal texture – not too soft or hard.
  • Extends shelf life from months to nearly a year.

If bully sticks will be used within 1-2 months, refrigerator storage is optional. But for any bulk or long-term storage, refrigeration helps preserve freshness and quality.


For bully sticks that were frozen, proper thawing in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours is recommended. Do not thaw at room temperature or microwaving which can cause excess moisture leading to bacteria growth.


With proper storage methods, bully sticks can remain fresh and safe for dogs to enjoy for many months past the purchase date. Keep unused sticks sealed in the refrigerator or freezer to extend shelf life. Discard any bully sticks showing signs of spoilage like mold, dryness, or rancid odors. Following these guidelines will allow you to keep bully sticks on hand for convenient healthy chewing satisfaction for your dog.

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