Bully sticks for dogs are popular treats. It can take even the strongest chewer some time to finish off a bully stick. These are a great (and low cost!) natural babysitter.
Even better, bully sticks come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. You’ll always have something new to keep treat time interesting and fun for your pup.
But are bully sticks truly safe for dogs? For that matter, are they healthy for dogs? Is there anything specific you need to know about these treats before you offer a bully stick to your precious fur baby? Let’s find out!
What Are Bully Sticks, Exactly?
So let’s get this out of the way up front. The awkward question every dog owner is bound to ask; what are bully sticks made out of?
Here is the truth. Bully sticks are made of….wait for it….bull penis. Yum, right?
Yet you know your dog quite well, and so you already know your dog seems to find lots of things delicious that you would never touch even with your hands, let alone put into your mouth.
Bully sticks as a product is truly a great example of how the meat industry has found creative ways to use all parts of the animal in ways that serve people and their pets. You get tasty steaks, and your dog gets bully sticks.
Are Bully Sticks Healthy for Dogs?
This next question is much easier to answer. Bully sticks are pure beef tendon and are actually quite healthy for dogs!
Not only do they make great natural teeth and gum cleaner; but as your dog chews, they also come packed with several valuable minerals and protein that can be a healthy addition to your dog’s daily diet.
As another perk, chewing on bully sticks can be a way to encourage your dog to drink more water. After a good chew session, your dog is likely to be thirsty and will see out water automatically.
Offering bully sticks to a dog that loves to chew can also provide a fun, nourishing and long-lasting alternative to chewing on couch cushions, crown molding, carpet and other things that you specifically don’t want your dog to be chewing on!
Are Bully Sticks Safe for Dogs?
This question is a little tougher to answer because the answer can depend on the source of the bully sticks.
For your dog’s safety and your own, always choose bully sticks that are manufactured in the USA. Look for a label that says the bully sticks are sourced from “100 percent natural” ingredients and that there are no additional ingredients or fillers included.
Also be aware that some bully sticks have tested positive for certain bacteria strains, although the general consensus is that these strains are more concerning for people than for dogs. So just be sure to wash your hands after handling your dog’s bully sticks.
Another important safety concern to keep in mind is the size of your bully stick treats and the age and jaw strength of your dog.
Many veterinarians advise against offering bully sticks to puppies less than 12 months old. This is because their immune systems are still developing and may not be as naturally resistant to any bacteria that may be present on the treats. Also, puppies are still teething, and the bully sticks can be sufficiently tough to chew that there is a risk of tooth breakage in a young puppy.
For older dogs, be sure the size of the bully stick is sufficiently large so that your pup can’t fit the entire treat into their mouth all at once, which may present a choking risk.
Another precaution to take is only to offer bully sticks under supervision, at least until you see how and how fast your dog chews up the treat.
This is because, while bully sticks (at least those made in the USA) are simply pure beef protein, and thus are safe for your dog to ingest and relatively easy to digest, you still don’t want your pup biting off more than he can chew or swallow, so to speak. Keeping a watchful eye will help you decide the right thickness and shape (stick, braid, nugget, ring, et al.) to keep your dog from trying to gulp down the whole thing.
Also, if your dog has recently developed a bit of a spare tire, be aware that bully sticks can be calorie-dense treats. When in doubt, talk with your dog’s veterinarian about choosing the right portion size and treat frequency, so the extra calories don’t inadvertently lead to weight gain.
Finally, if you don’t want to feed your dog rawhide or raw bones, each of which has their own safety concerns to be aware of, then bully sticks can be a great alternative and also a safer one, especially for very small, young or elderly dogs.
When you keep each of these safety recommendations in mind, you can allow your pup to enjoy bully sticks safely.
Shopping for Bully Sticks
First-time bully stick shoppers can get a little confused when searching for these popular treats. If they are so popular, why does it seem like it is so hard to find them?
To further complicate matters, bully sticks for dogs come in all sizes and shapes!
This can mean you spend many minutes scouring the dog treats aisle for bully sticks, when right in front of you is a whole range of bully nuggets, bully rings, bully strips, bully braids, bully barbells…..you get the idea.
How to Choose Your Dog’s Bully Sticks
Bully sticks for dogs come in a variety of sizes, styles, and flavors. You might wonder at this last one. Aren’t bully sticks already beef-flavored?
While bully sticks are made from beef tendon; they do have a natural flavor, as well as a natural odor. A lot of options exist to keep treat time interesting and engaging for your dog.
For example, you might prefer the odor-free bully sticks that don’t fill the room with a scent that only your dog finds appetizing! Of course, many dogs prefer to have the odor as another incentive to chew. If this describes your pup, then offering bully sticks for outdoor play time may be the best option.
If your dog is a picky eater, but absolutely goes nuts for a flavor like peanut butter, offering your dog peanut butter-flavored bully sticks can be a good method for introducing this new treat.
Other popular flavors that bully sticks can come in include smoked, chicken, bacon and duck, among others.
How to Introduce Your Dog to Bully Sticks
Some dogs don’t need any introduction to a new toy or treat. If it looks interesting or has an intriguing smell, they are all over it!
But other dogs may be more hesitant about approaching an unfamiliar treat or toy and will need a little coaching to dig in.
Still, other dogs may have the tendency to guard or protect their food, toys, and treats. For these pups, you may need to do a bit of initial training to keep treat time safe for everyone in the family.
This can be especially true if you live in a multi-dog household. You may want to adopt a policy of making sure each dog has a bully treat. Another option is to separate the dog to enjoy a bully treat from the other dogs for everyone’s safety.
Love & Care
You know your pup better than anyone else, and your best judgment will be invaluable when offering your dog tasty and desirable treats like bully sticks!
The most important thing to remember during treat time is that at some point, your dog may chew down a big bully stick into pieces that pose a choking risk. This is why supervision is so important. Be sure you know for sure how fast your dog will chew the bully stick up.
If your dog doesn’t chew down a full bully stick treat in one sitting, you can store the rest of the stick to offer again later. The best and safest way to do this is to pick up the stick with tongs or gloves (for your own safety) and place it on a clean towel in a cool, dry place. Let it air dry – do not wash it or put it in the refrigerator.
Be sure to place the bully stick in a place your dog can’t reach on her own! Then you can simply retrieve the tasty bully stick from its hiding place. You can offer it to your pup a second time when treat time comes around again!
By following these tips, bully sticks can become a fun, nutritious, tasty and enriching part of your dog’s life!
About the Author:
Olivia Harper is the co-founder of the pet blog DailyDogStuff. She is a reserved and passionate pet parent who loves to spend time with her Sibe, who keeps her active and social. Read more of her guides and tips by visiting the site.