Those natural dog chews your dog can’t get enough of.
They may not smell all that enticing to us.
But to our dogs.
There is nothing like them.
So we want to stock up on them right. Keep them handy and nearby.
But that poses a potential problem.
Could they go off? Before we get to feed them?
Should we throw them out, even?
Well, that’s exactly what we will be covering here today.
Do Bully Sticks Go Bad?
Bully sticks do, and can go bad. Like any other natural, protein-based product, bully sticks have a shelf life and can become unappetizing or potentially harmful if not stored properly or used after their expiry date.
It’s important to remember that while they’re not as perishable as some items, they do require appropriate preservation to maintain their quality.
When Do Bully Sticks Go Bad?
Bully sticks can go bad when they are improperly stored, namely when they’re exposed to air without being sealed or when kept in overly warm conditions.
When Exposed to Air (Not Sealed)
Oxygen is one of the primary agents that causes food to spoil because it encourages the growth of bacteria and other spoilage organisms.
If bully sticks are left unsealed, they can start to develop off smells, discoloration, or even mold after a while.
When you buy bully sticks, they usually come vacuum-sealed for freshness.
It’s best to keep them in their original packaging until you’re ready to give them to your dog.
If you have opened a pack and have remaining sticks, consider storing them in an airtight container to minimize their exposure to air.
When Kept in Warm Conditions
The second factor that can cause bully sticks to go bad quickly is warm conditions.
Warm, humid environments are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi, which can cause the bully sticks to spoil.
This is especially true in warmer months or in regions with a hotter climate.
When bully sticks are kept in such conditions, they can spoil even faster than when simply exposed to air.
Therefore, avoid storing them in places like a sunny windowsill, near a heating vent, or any other warm area in your home. Ideally, bully sticks should be stored in a cool, dry place to maintain their quality and longevity.
How Long Do Bully Sticks Last?
Generally, bully sticks can last between two to three years when stored correctly. The exact shelf life can vary based on factors like the manufacturing process, the preservatives used, and the storage conditions.
Bully sticks are naturally high in protein and low in moisture, which helps to naturally preserve them.
They undergo a drying process which eliminates much of the moisture content, thus increasing their shelf life.
The preservatives added during the manufacturing process also contribute to this extended shelf life.
However, as with any consumable product, it is crucial to pay attention to the expiration date printed on the package.
This date indicates the manufacturer’s estimate of how long the bully sticks will maintain their optimal quality.
Once this date has passed, the product might still be safe for a while, but the quality is much more likely to begin to degrade.
How Long Are Bully Sticks Good For After Opening?
Once opened, bully sticks should ideally be consumed within 30 to 60 days, depending on their storage conditions. Like most perishable goods, once the bully sticks’ packaging has been opened, they become more vulnerable to factors that can speed up the spoiling process.
It’s important to note that even within this 30 to 60 day window, the quality of the bully sticks can vary.
They may start to lose their freshness and appeal to your dog.
You might notice changes such as a loss of the original smell, which dogs find enticing, or a change in texture.
When Should You Throw Out A Bully Stick?
A bully stick should be discarded if it shows any signs of spoilage, such as mold, a foul odor, or significant discoloration. Additionally, if the bully stick is past its printed expiration date, it’s safer to dispose of it. Moreover, for your dog’s safety, you should also consider discarding the stick when it becomes small enough to pose a choking hazard.
There Are Signs Of Spoilage
First and foremost, let’s address spoilage signs.
If a bully stick has developed mold – visible as white, blue, or green fuzzy patches – it’s time to throw it away.
This is an obvious sign that the stick has been exposed to moisture and has started to spoil.
Similarly, a significant change in color or a foul, rancid smell are strong indicators that the bully stick is no longer good for your dog to consume.
They Are Passed Their Expiration Date
If a bully stick is past its expiration date, it’s best to discard it, even if it shows no visible signs of spoilage.
Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health.
They Have Already Been Chewed
Lastly, one of the often-overlooked reasons to throw out a bully stick has to do with size.
As your dog chews and reduces the size of the stick, it can become small enough to swallow whole and potentially cause a choking hazard.
Once the bully stick gets to be about the size of a thumb, it’s a good idea to remove it and replace it with a fresh, new one.
How To Best Store Bully Sticks To Extend Their Shelf Life
Proper storage of bully sticks can significantly extend their shelf life and ensure they remain fresh and appetizing for your dog.
The key aspects to remember are to keep them in a cool, dry place and to minimize their exposure to air.
Let’s delve into more detail on how to store bully sticks both before and after opening.
Before opening, bully sticks should be kept in their original vacuum-sealed packaging, which is designed to maintain their freshness for as long as possible.
The packaging prevents exposure to air and moisture, both of which can accelerate the spoilage process.
Store the packaged bully sticks in a cool, dry place.
Avoid places with fluctuating temperatures or high humidity, such as a bathroom or kitchen.
A pantry or a dedicated pet supply cabinet would be ideal locations.
Avoid any spots that are exposed to direct sunlight, as this can lead to an increase in temperature and potentially degrade the product.
Once the package has been opened, the storage requirements change a bit.
At this point, the bully sticks have been exposed to air, and thus, more care is needed to maintain their quality.
After opening, any unused bully sticks should be stored in an airtight container to limit their exposure to air and moisture.
Ziplock bags or containers with a tight seal are both excellent choices.
As before, the container should be kept in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
Some people prefer to refrigerate their bully sticks after opening to extend their shelf life further.
While this isn’t necessary for short-term storage, it can be beneficial if you don’t expect your dog to finish the sticks within a month or two.
Bully sticks do go bad.
Like most food items, it’s always best to offer fresh.
Though I do get it.
Buying in bulk is, most of the time, much more affordable.
So just be sure to keep them vacuum sealed, and be sure to check any expiry dates (or ask the retailer) ahead of any bulk purchase.
Sure, bully sticks may be able to be consumed after the expiration date.
But they aren’t going to be the same as those more recently made.
And as with any food item, the risks go up as more time passes.
Do bully sticks dry out?
Bully sticks can dry out and become brittle. They are likely to do so if stored if exposed to air and kept in low-humidity conditions.
Do bully sticks mold?
Yes, bully sticks can develop mold if exposed to moisture or stored in humid conditions. Moldy bully sticks should not be given to dogs and must be discarded.
Do Bully Sticks Expire?
Bully Sticks do expire. They typically have a shelf life of 2 years from the date of manufacturing.
Should bully sticks be refrigerated?
Refrigerating bully sticks is not necessary but it can help extend their freshness, particularly after the packaging has been opened.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.