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Are Bully Sticks Good For Dogs? The Tough Truth


Last Updated: June 12, 2024 | 7 min read | 28 Comments

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beagle chewing on a bully stick

Do you have a champion chewer in your house? Are you always finding your shoes and other items you leave on the floor mauled when you get home? As dog owners, we know our pups love to chew (some much more than others!) They need to keep themselves occupied when they’re not getting attention. It’s tough to find sturdy chew toys for dogs who make it their mission to gnaw on anything they can get their paws on.

There are a lot of chew treats, bones, and rawhide products on the market. But does your dog seem to rip through them and gobble them up quickly? And what’s really in those products, anyway? Bully sticks for dogs are a safer, more nutritional alternative to a lot of the “junk” on the market. But what exactly are bully sticks, and what are they made from? The answer to this might shock you! And are they truly safer for dogs? Keep reading to find answers to these common questions and more.

What Are Bully Sticks Made Of?

What is a bully stick? To put it bluntly, bully sticks come from bull penises, called pizzles (from an old-fashioned word for penis). They are also called beef pizzles, bully bones, bully chews, pizzle sticks, or steer sticks. Pizzles are 100% beef tendon; they are tasty, all-natural, and high in protein and other nutrients. Good quality bully sticks should be chemical-free.

The manufacturers drain and air-dry the pizzles before marketing them for your dog’s enjoyment. Some manufacturers also bake them, and others flavor them. Many of these animal-derived treats also last much longer than similar products on the market, like rawhide or bones. Beef pizzles should be kept in an air-tight container to maintain freshness.

Learn more about whether dogs can eat bones and the safest types to eat.

Are Bully Sticks Safe For Dogs?

There’s conflicting information about the safety of bully sticks for dogs, and many people wonder if beef pizzle is safe for dogs. Most of the buzz on the web from veterinarians and all-natural dog-product websites says these chews are safe and provide high-quality beef protein, which is easy for their stomach to digest. They are also a great source of taurine, an amino acid that contributes to your dog’s heart, muscle, and eyesight health.

They are also effective in keeping your dog’s teeth clean by removing plaque and stimulating healthy gums. But make sure that the bully stick isn’t too hard for your dog’s teeth. Otherwise, it could cause a tooth injury. A good rule of thumb is that it’s not too hard if you can indent the chew with a fingernail.

Are Bully Sticks Bad For Dogs?

No, bully sticks are not bad for dogs, but they are calorific, and dogs should only have one bully stick a day, maximum. Some vets suggest that they are only given a few times a week rather than every day. Unfortunately, some online sources say they are low-fat, but this isn’t true. Treats should make up no more than 10% of their diet, but what does this mean for bully sticks?

A study found that a six-inch bully stick contained approximately 90 calories. For a 50-pound dog, this accounts for 9% of their daily calorie requirements. If you were to give the same six-inch pizzle stick to a 10-pound dog, this would equate to 30% of their daily calorie intake. Considering the “10% treat rule,” this means the right size bully stick is the only treat they are allowed that day. If you offer them a larger stick, they exceed their daily calories and risk becoming overweight very quickly. This is why many nutritionists recommend pizzle sticks should be a bi-weekly indulgence.

Check out our informative guide on how heavy your dog should be, complete with dog weight charts.

Can Puppies Have Bully Sticks?

Puppies are especially prone to chewing, so people often wonder if you can give bully sticks to puppies. I recommend waiting until after their adult teeth come in, as their baby teeth are more brittle and fragile and prone to cracking and breaking. Most puppies lose their baby teeth by six months of age. Learn more about puppy teeth and teething and ways to soothe their discomfort. Plus, bully sticks are rich and calorific, and some vets state that some puppies might find these treats too rich for their stomach and digestive system.

Are Bully Sticks Safe For Puppies?

Bully sticks can pose a choking hazard, especially for smaller dogs and young puppies. As your dog chews the stick down to a few inches wide, it can be small enough that your dog tries to swallow it whole. But at that size and shape, it can become lodged in your dog’s throat or cause a stomach or intestinal blockage. So, it’s essential to keep an eye on your pup when they enjoy one and take it away once it gets too small to prevent choking. This is also true for adult dogs, but there is less of a risk for them.

Best Bully Sticks

Best Bully Sticks

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I recommend Best Bully Sticks as our editor’s number-one choice if you plan to try this product for your dog. These bully sticks are baked and lab-tested in the US, sourced from bulls that are free-range and grass-fed. They are all-natural, chemical-free treats that are odorless, which is great if you can’t stomach the typical dog-treat smell. Plus, they come in a range of sizes catering to different breeds. This brand also offers treats in other shapes to keep your pup interested, including pretzels, spirals, braids, bows, and more. Take a look at this short video on why bully sticks are good for dogs.

Compare this product with our other highly rated options in our best bully stick guide.

Bully Sticks vs Rawhide

There are many horror stories about rawhide, and most vets recommend choosing bully sticks over rawhide. Bully sticks are made from a bull’s pizzle, which is muscle tissue that is easy on their stomachs and high in protein. While rawhide is any animal’s inner soft hide or skin, it is more difficult to digest and poses a choking risk. But bully sticks are popular because they are much cheaper.

Unfortunately, many rawhide products are treated with chemicals, making them potentially unsafe depending on the product you purchase. Learn more about rawhide bones, their dangers, and how to pick the safest options. We also have a guide on the best rawhide alternatives to consider.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know that some of our readers have questions about bully sticks and whether they are safe for dogs to eat. If you don’t see your question below, please ask us in the comments, and we’ll find the answer for you.

Do Vets Recommend Bully Sticks?

Yes, many vets recommend bully sticks as a treat for dogs. Not only are they rich in protein and other nutrients, but these all-natural options are much safer than cheaper alternatives such as rawhide. Plus, they are great for their teeth and gums and for removing plaque. You must choose all-natural bully sticks that contain no chemical additives or preservatives. These can have dangerous side effects and cause allergic reactions in some dogs.

Are Bully Sticks Bad For Dogs?

No, bully sticks are not bad for dogs if you choose an all-natural option made by a reputable brand, like my recommendation above, the Best Bully Sticks. You must also select the right size for your pup to ensure they don’t become a choking hazard. They are also calorific, which means they are not the best option, at least not regularly, for overweight dogs.

Can Bully Sticks Cause A Blockage?

Like with any chew, bully sticks can cause a blockage. As your dog chews the stick down, it can become small enough that your dog tries to swallow it whole. But it can become lodged in your dog’s throat, or if it passes through, it can also cause a blockage in their stomach or intestines. It’s important to monitor your dog when they are chewing a bully stick and to remove them once they become small enough that they might swallow it. This is more of a concern for puppies and small dogs, but it is a risk for all dogs.

How Can Pet Insurance Help?

Our furry friends are susceptible to so many accidents and illnesses throughout their lives. Treatment and surgery for everything from a bully stick intestinal obstruction to a cancer diagnosis can result in thousands of dollars in vet bills. However, a reasonable monthly premium for pet insurance can cover a significant portion of your vet expenses for emergencies, accidents, and unforeseen illnesses.

You never want to face the decision of sacrificing your dog’s health and well-being because you can’t afford treatment. Check out our best pet insurance guide to see if it’s a worthy investment for your family.

Are Bully Sticks Safe For Humans To Handle?

Some pet parents question whether bully sticks are safe for humans to handle. It’s essential to wash your hands after handling pizzle sticks, just like you would after handling raw meat. Humans are much more prone to Salmonella than dogs, so you must be careful when handling them. Dr. Gaylord, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, states that proper handling is particularly important for households with immunocompromised family members.

Other Dog Toys To Entertain Fido

Pet parents rave about bully sticks as a long-lasting, healthy chew alternative for your dog. Sure, not all are safe, but we trust Best Bully Sticks. If you’re looking for other chew alternatives and toys for your dog, check out our guide on the best dog toys. If you have a smart canine, be sure to head over to our review of the best interactive dog toys to stimulate Fido. Alternatively, you can make your own organic dog treats to satisfy your dog’s need to chew.

Do you have any stories about bully sticks or a good or bad experience with them? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Why Trust Canine Journal?

Emma is a dog owner with over 20 years of experience, and she has also worked as a professional dog walker and sitter for many years. She has taken care of countless dog breeds and recommends natural treats for all her dogs. Emma dedicates countless hours researching the latest pet care, health, food, and training developments to keep her two best buddies and other doggy clients as happy and healthy as possible. She works with a professional and experienced team to bring our readers the best, most accurate, and up-to-date information.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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