Anyone who owns a dog knows the importance of chewing products. From bones to treats to toys, many products offer a host of benefits, such as improving dental health, preventing destructive behavior, and minimizing anxiety.
As pet owners, we have to ask ourselves about the safety of every item we hand over to our dogs. One such popular product is bully sticks.
These popular dog chews seem to live in the home of almost every dog owner in the world. But the question remains: are bully sticks safe for dogs? We will explore that question and more below.
What Are Bully Sticks?
The precise definition of a bully stick might shock you and make you second guess holding it for your pup as they chew.
This popular dog treat has one single ingredient: bull penis.
While the snack uses just this high-protein beef muscle, it comes in many different shapes and forms. The most popular shape is a thin, straight stick, perfect for light chewers and puppies.
Tougher chewers do well with:
- Braided bully sticks
- Curled bully sticks
- Bully stick rings
Additionally, some variety of bully sticks add flavor by preparing the sticks in different ways. They can be cooked, smoked, or even raw.
Benefits of Bully Sticks for Dogs and Puppies
According to the American Kennel Club, bully sticks are not only safe for your dog, but they come with a wide range of additional benefits that may pique your interest even further.
Unfortunately, some pet owners have had to deal with some pretty uncomfortable and even tragic situations due to products that are difficult to digest. Some treats, including rawhide, can be very hard on some dogs’ stomachs.
Bully sticks, however, are very easily digestible. This property means your dog should have no problem eating them and later expelling them. Their stomach should efficiently break down the substance with no issues. Plus, bully sticks don’t splinter like other products, so there’s no concern for internal wounds.
Nutritional Ingredients in Bully Sticks
Too many dog foods, dog treats, and other edible dog products use a wide range of questionable ingredients and potentially harmful preservatives. Bully sticks only use one product, and it’s all-natural.
Bull penis, as crude as it might sound to our human ears, is a very high-protein beef muscle that offers support to your dog’s muscles, brain, skin, and fur. They do not contain any chemicals or preservatives, so they’re perfect for dogs with sensitive stomachs or allergy problems, too.
Good for Dental Health
Many pet owners often overlook dental health. After all, not many dogs are thrilled when you take a toothbrush to their mouth. While you should still keep up with their dental health, you can use bully sticks as a helpful accessory.
Chewing on a bully stick can help prevent inflamed gums, scrape away unwanted plaque buildup, and keep your dog’s teeth generally clean.
You can read about other ways to maintain your dog’s dental hygiene in How to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth Without Brushing Them.
Bully sticks are long-lasting in more ways than one.
For one, these treats will last a while after you give them to your dog, even if they’re the toughest chewer out there. That gives you a bigger bang for your buck and plenty of enjoyment for your dog.
Additionally, bully sticks will stay fresh for as long as three years. Long shelf life means you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you get the chance to use them.
Dangers of Bully Sticks
While genuine, high-quality bully sticks are generally considered very safe and even beneficial for your dog, there are still a few dangers to look out for.
Potential for Bacteria
Some testing of bully sticks in the past has shown that the product can be at risk for containing various bacteria, including Escherichia coli. In most cases, these bacteria shouldn’t pose any threat to a healthy dog.
However, if you’re handling your dog’s bully stick at all, it’s best to wash your hands thoroughly afterward. Your dog might not suffer from E.coli, but you certainly could.
Not Always 100% Natural
High-quality bully sticks are smoked or cooked and adequately packaged as a safe treat for your pet. However, some brands – especially those imported from abroad – can contain unnatural ingredients and chemicals like bleach.
In these cases, your dog is no longer snacking on an all-natural treat. Most pet owners are not okay with that, as it won’t provide them with as many health benefits and could do them harm.
Be sure to check out the ingredients label on a package before you purchase bully sticks from an unknown brand or store.
You can find bully sticks in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Like with any chew toy or treat, it’s essential to buy the appropriate size for your pup.
Smaller sticks are ideal for smaller dogs, but a big dog may swallow that smaller chew whole. Even thinner versions can snap into smaller pieces, which could pose a choking hazard as well.
Bully sticks are available in enormous sizes, with some as thick as 4 inches, so dog owners with larger breeds should stick to these standards for ultimate safety.
Other Safe Alternatives to Bully Sticks
Whether you keep your dog on a vegetarian diet or you simply can’t stomach the thought of having that body part in your hands or house, there are some excellent alternatives to choose from.
A few good options to consider instead of bully sticks include:
- Carrot sticks
- Himalayan dog chews
- Dental chews
- DIY frozen treats (bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, carrots, etc.)
Some of these, such as carrot sticks, won’t last as long as bully sticks, but they’re still great for your dog as a healthy treat. Others, like antlers, will last much longer without your dog consuming anything.
As pet owners, we all just want the best for our four-legged best friends. Sometimes, that means asking a lot of questions. You’re not alone. Pet owners worldwide have similar concerns, so we’ve worked a few of those out for you below.
Can I give a bully stick to my puppy?
Yes. Bully sticks are safe for puppies as long as someone is present to supervise them while they chew. Never leave your puppy alone with a chew toy or chewing treat in case of choking.
When should I take a bully stick away from my dog?
A good rule of thumb is to take a bully stick away from your dog once they’ve chewed it to a size where they could potentially swallow it whole. At this size, your dog may get it lodged in their throat, and it could quickly become a problematic choking situation.
However, you know your dog best, so monitor them appropriately.
What’s the difference between bully sticks and rawhide?
The main difference between a bully stick and a rawhide is the ingredients. As we mentioned above, a bully stick is made of bull penis, while a rawhide is split from the skin of an animal.
While bully sticks are typically all-natural, many rawhides are treated with dangerous chemical washes. Bully sticks are also highly digestible, while rawhides can swell in your dog’s belly and cause some serious digestive issues like intestinal blockage.
Many people consider bully sticks as a healthier and safer alternative to rawhides. Plus, they generally last longer.