Are Bully Sticks Safe for Dogs? Here’s What You Need to Know

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Everywhere you go, whoever you ask, dog owners are always searching for the best treats to give their pets.

Bully sticks, sometimes known as pizzle sticks, have gained popularity recently as healthy and long-lasting chews for dogs.

But just like any other treat, you need to think about the safety aspect too.

So, are bully sticks safe for dogs? Are there safe bully sticks?

Bully sticks are safe for dogs and offer many benefits to them, such as better oral health and a way to satisfy their chewing habits. They are not without risks though, that is why you should always buy them from reputable sources only.

In this blog post, let’s take a closer look at the concerns that have been raised about their safety and find out how can you give your dog one without causing any harm.

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Dear Dog Owner

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Dogs?

is it safe to give dogs bully sticks

My dogs love their bully sticks.

Me? Not so much initially, and that’s because they kind of stink. Luckily, I have since switched to odor-free ones without them losing their enthusiasm.

I digress.

Bully sticks are widely accepted as safe and healthy treats for almost all dogs.

They are high in protein, last a long time, and are made from a natural meat source.

Due to the way bully sticks are made, they do not splinter easily, unlike some other treats like rawhide and antlers.

This means there isn’t any risk of your dog breaking them up into sharp pieces that could injure them.

Similarly, harmful bacteria such as salmonella are also destroyed during production (high heat is used for drying), reducing the chances of contamination.

One of the main worries is that it can become so small after chewing that it can get swallowed whole, becoming a serious choking hazard.

There are ways to combat this though, which I will share later.

Do you know the difference between bully sticks and collagen sticks?

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Puppies?

If puppies are given the proper size and supervision when chewing on bully sticks, they can be safe.

When feeding bully sticks to puppies, there are a few things to think about:

  • Since puppies have smaller mouths and throats, it’s very important to pick the right size. Some manufacturers have also made softer chews for this purpose.
  • As puppies’ digestive systems are still growing, their tummies are naturally more sensitive. Bully sticks should be introduced gradually and in small amounts to prevent any potential problems
  • Puppies may be more vulnerable to bacterial infections since their immune systems are still developing. Make sure the bully sticks you purchase come from a reliable supplier and avoid giving them to your puppy if they have been lying around for a while

Are Bully Sticks Dangerous?

It’s important to be critical about what we feed our dogs, and with bully sticks, there are a few commonly mentioned concerns.

  • Meat by-product: As you should know by now, a bully stick is made from a bull’s penis, which in some people’s minds is yucks. That is a misconception though. In the wild, dogs will eat all parts of an animal they take down. In fact, many of the by-products are higher in protein and nutrients, and that includes bull penises.
  • Risk of contamination: Probably related to the above point, people might think that since bully sticks are made from a by-product, they will not be treated properly and thus run the risk of bacteria such as E.Coli and Salmonella festering in them. That is not necessarily true though, as reputable companies have in place strict processes and food safety standards that prevent this from happening.
  • Choking and gastrointestinal blockages: Bully sticks are hard. This means it can be challenging for dogs to chew, especially if they are not suitable for the dog’s age and mouth. Because of that, a dog may instead try to swallow it instead, which can result in choking. A piece of the bully stick may become lodged in a dog’s intestines, causing an intestinal blockage. This can be a serious and even life-threatening condition.

With so many real concerns in mind, does it mean that bully sticks are not good for your dog?

Of course not.

Just like anything that you give your dog, there are pros and cons. It’s how you balance and manage them that matters most. 

In this case, selecting the right stick and providing monitoring of your dog can bring the risk to almost zero.

These days, you can even make use of a bully stick holder that ensures it will not become too small to get swallowed!

Experts Say They’re Not Dangerous

are bully sticks dangerous to dogs

Speak to most dog experts (can I consider myself a semi-expert? 🧐) and you will get an almost unanimous answer: Bully sticks are not dangerous for dogs.

If anything, they will mostly point out that bully sticks can provide benefits for dogs, such as being a high-protein, low-fat treat that can help with dental health if chewed properly.

Additionally, bully sticks are a natural, long-lasting chew that can keep dogs entertained and occupied, helping to reduce destructive chewing and other behavioral issues.

Are Bully Sticks Good For Dogs?

are bully sticks good for dogs

When they are manufactured from high-quality ingredients and are purchased from trustworthy producers, bully sticks can be an excellent choice of treats for your dog.

They offer a number of advantages, including:

  • High in protein: Pizzle is a great source of protein, which is crucial for a dog’s diet to remain balanced. Protein supports healthy skin and fur maintenance as well as muscle growth and repair. Growing puppies, pregnant and lactating females, and working dogs all can benefit greatly from a higher amount of protein in their diet.
  • Low in fat: Bully sticks are excellent treats for dogs (but not to replace a meal!) that need to keep a healthy weight as they are very low in fat content (it’s a whole muscle!). Although fat is a crucial component for dogs, eating too much of it can cause weight gain and obesity, which raises the risk of diseases including diabetes, joint issues, and some types of cancer. Bully sticks are also relatively low in calories.
  • Long-lasting chew: Bully sticks give dogs a long-lasting chew that keeps them occupied, which can help to decrease destructive chewing and other behavioral problems. To relieve their pent-up energy, bored or agitated dogs may chew on household items or furniture. You can change this tendency by giving them something to chew on that will last a while.
  • Dental benefits: Bully sticks can make a dog’s teeth become cleaner by removing plaque and tartar, which helps lower the risk of dental issues like tartar buildup, gum disease, and tooth rot. They also help in jaw muscle training, encouraging optimum muscle tone. This can lessen the likelihood of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issues and keep the jaw joint mobile. Chewing a bully stick too long might tire them out though, so stop at ten minutes max.

Are bully sticks good for puppies?

Yes, bully sticks can be a good chew treat for puppies as they are high in protein and low in fat, and can help promote dental health by reducing plaque and tartar buildup.

The thing is, you must closely supervise your puppy while they chew and choose appropriately sized bully sticks to avoid choking hazards.

How to Give Your Dog Bully Sticks the Safe Way?

It’s really not that difficult to give your dog bully sticks in a safe way.

The following are all simple tips that you can follow along. (By the way, you can also learn how to refresh a bully stick if you don’t know what to do with used ones)

  • Supervise your dog: Watch how your dog chews and make sure they are properly chewing the bully stick before swallowing. Take away the bully stick if you realize your dog is having trouble chewing or swallowing it.
  • Choose the appropriate size: A bully stick’s size should be suitable for your dog’s size, age, chewing power, and strength. A general rule of thumb is to discard a bully stick that can fit into a dog’s mouth length-wise.
  • Introduce bully sticks gradually: This is to ensure that they don’t cause any digestive upset like diarrhea or vomiting for your dog. Start with a small portion, limit the time spent chewing to just a couple of minutes, and watch your dog’s reaction. 
  • Use a bully stick holder: The purpose of a bully stick holder is to keep the bully stick steady while your dog chews on it. It can come in a variety of shapes, such as a rubber or plastic ring that goes around the bully stick, a wall-mounted holder, or a holder that can be filled with peanut butter or other spreads to offer another level of excitement. Most importantly, it makes sure that a bully stick never gets too short to be swallowed whole.
  • Rotate the treats: How often to give your dog a bully stick? When given the same treat every day, your dog might easily become bored and may lose interest in it or eat it too quickly. Rotating treats can help to keep your dog interested in and engaged with its rewards.
  • Quality and sourcing: Bully sticks should be made from 100% beef pizzle and free of fillers or chemicals. Anything that is produced using subpar ingredients or that has undergone chemical processing may contain impurities and contaminants that are dangerous to the health of your dog.
  • Store them properly: For unused ones, store them in an area away from heat. If opened, keep them in an airtight container and go ahead to put them in the freezer. This will prevent bully sticks from going bad.

When Should You Take a Bully Stick Away From Your Dog?

First of all, I never let my dogs chew on a bully stick for more than 10 minutes at a time.

I really don’t want them to get sick of it too quickly and excessive chewing on something so hard can lead to teeth and gum problems.

Here are some other situations when you should remove a bully stick from your dog:

  • It’s become worn out
  • Your dog is having difficulty swallowing
  • Your dog becomes too aggressive with it
  • You notice signs of digestive upset
  • Your dog finishes it too fast

What if my dog swallowed a bully stick?

You need to keep an eye on your dog’s behavior and look for any indications of trouble or discomfort if they’ve swallowed a bully stick.

Vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, breathing difficulties, and abdominal pain are signs that there may be a problem.

You should speak with your veterinarian right away if such a situation arises.

Are Bully Sticks Healthy?

are bully sticks healthy

Bully sticks are not only a healthy treat for dogs, but they also give your dog something to chew on and have a number of health advantages.

Unlike some other chews or treats, bully sticks are easily digestible.

For certain dogs, the beef hide in rawhide, for instance, can be challenging to digest.

Bully sticks, on the other hand, are quickly broken down in your dog’s stomach due to their high level of digestion.

Also, unlike other treats, they don’t splinter, so you won’t have to worry about broken-off bits causing any harm to their digestive system.

As a single-ingredient food, it also provides your dog with useful amino acids which are then turned into protein, an essential component of your dog’s diet.

A good quality bully stick doesn’t contain artificial chemicals, additives, and preservatives, which means even if your dog has allergies, they can still chew on them!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will bully sticks hurt my dog?

Bully sticks are digestible, but if your dog swallows a big portion, it could suffer injuries such as suffocation or experience a gastrointestinal problem. You should provide close supervision and remove it when it gets small enough to be swallowed.

Are bully sticks bad for dogs?

The most common reasons why people think bully sticks are bad are the risks of contamination and the chance of choking. 

Can puppies have bully sticks?

Yes, puppies can have bully sticks too. They are a healthy treat and can also help with their dental health. What’s important as a dog owner is to offer one that is the right size and monitor them as they chew away.

In Conclusion: Are Bully Sticks Safe for Dogs?

As you can see, bully sticks are for the most part very safe for your dog. 

A few simple steps to ensure quality and monitoring your dog will turn this into one of your dog’s favorite activities!

Grab the same odor-free bully stick that I use here!

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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