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If you’ve heard about this popular dog chew and decide to head out to buy some, you could be forgiven for not being able to find what you’re looking.
In fact…you may have already seen bully sticks for sale loads of times without ever realizing it, and this is because they are sold under a huge number of names like pizzle sticks, beef sticks, and steer sticks to name just a few.
Three very good reasons these treats are loved by owners of all breeds (once you know what name to look for!) is you can buy them in a wide range of sizes, they’re considered very safe for dogs to chew on and are nutritionally healthy.
But what is a bully stick? What are bully sticks made of? And are they good for even safe for dogs and puppies?
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What is a Bully Stick Made of?
While several manufacturers opt to play it safe and use phrases like “tendons” or “dried muscles”, this is simply because they’re concerned they may offend their customers by being blunt.
The fact is, bully sticks are made from bull penises.
Although this may sound less than appetizing to us, the popularity of this treat is rapidly increasing in the canine world.
Manufacturing doesn’t include much preparation, with the key step being to simply drain any fluid from the bully stick and then shape them and package them for their target audience.
Size is not the only variety of this produce though, as there are also several taste options to consider; some are cooked , some smoked, some raw.
so if you’re thinking of joining this latest chewy trend, you may want to experiment with a few different types to find one that best suits your dog.
Are Bully Sticks Safe for Dogs?
The simple answer is yes, but it’s recommended you pick a brand you trust. There are some key points you may want to consider before buying one for your dog:
- During testing, some bully sticks have been found to contain a wide range of bacteria such as Clostridium difficile, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli. I know these may sound scary, but if your dog is fit and healthy, this is only likely to cause an issue for the owner and won’t harm your dog. Just make sure you wash your hands carefully after handling them.
- Look on the labels to make sure the stick you are buying contains 100% natural ingredients, meaning there will be no chemicals or dyes that could decrease the health benefits for your dog.
- Be careful of any brands that have been imported from abroad, as these are more likely to have been treated with chemicals such as bleach, which mean the health benefits for your dog will not be as high.
- Bully sticks are very good at maintaining good dental health for dogs, and can help prevent tooth decay by stopping the build-up of plaque on the teeth.
- They come in a range of sizes, so for a fully grown lab, it would be safer to buy a wider one (they are readily available up to around 4 inches thick) to help minimize the risk of large chunks coming loose and presenting a choking hazard.
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Are Bully Sticks Safe for Puppies?
Although it’s not recommended that young puppies chew rawhides, bully sticks are seen as a safe alternative from a very young age. They can support your puppy in developing healthy teeth and gums, and distract them from tempting behaviours like chewing sofas, shoes and other precious items.
Supervision is always recommended when you give a puppy a chew or treat to help make sure they are chewing them safely, and the same applies with bully sticks.
In general, the consistency of bully sticks is harder than a lot of dog treats and chew toys, so just keep an eye on your puppy’s teeth to make sure there are no weak ones, and consider removing the bully stick from them once it gets small to limit choking hazards – this is also a good habit to continue with, even when your dog is fully grown.
As your puppy begins to get larger, remember to move to bigger size chews, especially if your dog is an enthusiastic chewer, as you need to make sure they can’t fit the whole chew in their mouth in one go.
While bully sticks are seen as safe for puppies, they aren’t widely recommended as a training incentive, as they take a long time to chew and break down.
They are much more suited to longer term needs for distracting your puppy, and to help maintain good dental health. If you are looking for a treat to hand out when your puppy achieves training goals, you should consider smaller and easy-to-swallow alternatives.
Are Bully Sticks Nutritious?
Bully sticks are a natural source of taurine and protein to help keep your dog’s organs and muscles healthy. As with most things, there is a downside and you will need to be careful of the high-calorie count… so using them as a tasty treat to reward good behaviour too often may lead to your dog putting on a few extra pounds.
This is very varied between brands, so if weight is a concern for your dog, consider speaking to your vet to see if they have any recommendations to best suit your requirements.
To give you a very rough idea, one 6-inch bully stick will contain around 8% of an adult Labrador’s daily calorie requirement.
It is recommended that treats should account for no more than 10% of your dog’s calorie intake each day, so as a guideline, ensure your Labrador doesn’t consume more than 4-8 inches of this treat per day, depending on their weight.
How do Bully Sticks Compare to Rawhide?
- Bully sticks are a longer lasting chew than rawhide, so are great as a distraction for your dog.
- Bully sticks are high in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates, which means they don’t cause tartar build-up on the teeth.
- Rawhide chews can swell in the gut once they are swallowed and cause serious problems with digestion, but because they disintegrate, bully sticks are easier to digest.
- Bully sticks are full of flavour, meaning dogs can’t resist them, whereas rawhide is kind of plain.
- Bully sticks are good for dogs with sensitive stomachs because they are so easy to digest.
Are They Right for My Dog?
The increasing popularity of bully sticks does seem to speak for itself!
As long as you are willing to read the labels and pick a brand you are confident with, you should be happy in the knowledge that a bully stick will provide your dog with a long lasting, natural, healthy and very satisfying chew.