Can Bully Sticks Replace Food? [Verdict]

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.

Sometimes, we have a picky eater on our hands and they seem to obsess over things that we don’t usually give them. Case in point: Bully sticks.

But, can bully sticks replace food?

Although dogs adore them for their taste and texture and they are packed with protein, bully sticks shouldn’t be used to substitute a dog’s normal meals. They do not have sufficient nutrients to meet a dog’s daily needs.

In this post, you will learn more about the nutritional value of bully sticks and if there are indeed treats that can possibly be a meal replacement.

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Are Bully Sticks Treats or a Meal?

Are Bully Sticks Treats or a Meal?

Bully sticks are made from dried bull penises and are high in protein, which is an important component of a dog’s dietary requirements.

However, they lack vital components included in a balanced dog food diet, such as carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Hence, they should not be used as a dog’s only source of nutrition.

In general, bully sticks are safe and should only be given as a treat, or as a dental chew to maintain the health and cleanliness of the dog’s teeth. Alternatively, they can also be used as training aids.

Nutritional Information for Bully Sticks

So, what exactly are you getting from a bully stick? What kind of nutritional value do they possess? Let’s dig a little deeper.


Basically, calories are the measurement of the energy value of a particular food.

When it comes to the amount of calories in bully sticks, a 6-inch stick will typically contain around 60 to 100 calories.

For an active medium-sized dog that weighs around 50 lbs, it requires around 1300 calories per day.

This means that a dog will need to chew an entire stick to reach less than 10% of its daily needs, but is it as simple as that?

Unfortunately, no.

Although you can give your dog a bully stick every day, its diet needs to be balanced with proteins, fats, fiber, and other nutrients.

A bully stick simply cannot provide that.

Feeding Guide

If you are giving your dog a bully stick as a chew treat, I suggest keeping it under 10 minutes each time.

The reason is simple: over chewing on one can damage a dog’s teeth and gums, and certainly make their jaws pretty tired.

You should also keep a close eye on the remaining length as it chews. Too small and it can get swallowed whole, which is a choking hazard!

I tend to use a bully stick holder to prevent this from happening.

Reasons Why Your Dog’s Treats Shouldn’t Replace Its Food

Now, I wanna point out a few reasons why treats should not replace regular dog food. This is applicable to most types of treats, not specifically directed at bully sticks.

Lack of essential nutrients

Treats don’t usually constitute a complete meal and don’t supply all the nutrients a dog needs to stay healthy.

The proper ratio of carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals should be part of a balanced diet.

Most treats are also high in protein and fats, which causes your dog to have an imbalanced diet. This can lead to health issues in the long run.

Filled with unnatural ingredients

I always make sure to read the ingredients list carefully before choosing a treat for my dogs.

Why? The fact is that many manufacturers, in particular those that market themselves as cheap, have to cut costs in order to offer a low price.

How they achieve this is by adding highly processed stuff that does not benefit our dogs.

Not only that, chemicals are often added to achieve a desired look or taste.

I don’t really like that, which is why I recommend choosing natural dog food or going for fresh food like Ollie.

High in fat

Again, I’m not saying all treats fall into this category, but the fact is that lots of them are high in fat.

This means a lot of unnecessary extra calories that can make your dog put on weight faster than you can say obese.

With the increased amounts of fat, it can also cause digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea.

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

Healthy Dog Treats That Can Supplement Meals

Interestingly, I have met a few dog owners who have used treats as a meal replacement, or at least to supplement the regular kibble.

I can see why they want to do that. I mean, if your dog has to eat the same thing every day for the rest of its life, does that sound good?

So instead of sticking to the often recommended ratio of 90% dog food and 10% treats, these guys are ramping it up to almost 50-50.

What kind of treats then? Here are a few options (combine them for best results):

  • Cooked lean meat
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs

In Conclusion: Can Bully Sticks Replace Food?

You should definitely not use bully sticks as a meal replacement for your dog, but consider adding natural treats into their diet which can give them variety and not become bored.

Whichever type of bully stick you choose, always remember that a dog’s diet needs to be well balanced, without which will lead to undesirable consequences.

Check out other articles about bully sticks 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 Daily Dog Drama!

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