bully sticks

The Truth About Bully Sticks – What Owners Should Know

Bully sticks have become a popular treat and chew for dogs in recent years. As the name implies, these cylindrical chews are made from bull or steer parts, specifically the pizzle which is the fleshy part of the male bovine’s penis. While bully sticks are often marketed as a high-value reward or long-lasting chew, there are some important considerations owners should make before offering them.

The ingredient itself – bull pizzle – has some clear advantages. The dried beef muscle is very tough and therefore takes dogs much longer to chew through than many other treats or chews. This makes bully sticks ideal for strong chewers or dogs that tend to gulp treats. The natural flavor and odor also make them enticing to most canines. Additionally, since they are dried rather than cooked, bully sticks retain more of their natural protein and nutritional content.

However, there are also some potential downsides of bully sticks to consider. As a dried animal product, they can still present a contamination risk for things like bacteria including salmonella. Reputable brands should follow protocols for cleaning, processing and packaging to reduce this risk but it cannot be fully eliminated. Owners should supervise their pets with all chews, but especially bully sticks given this potential issue.

The high calorie content of bully sticks is another element owners should factor in. Giving too many or overly large bully sticks can lead to weight gain or gastrointestinal upset if a dog eats them too quickly. Starting with appropriate sizes for your dog and monitoring their consumption is advised. Rotating bully sticks with some lower calorie treats can help prevent overindulgence.

Bully sticks also have an extremely strong odor for many owners. The dried meat and natural odor make for a very pungent smell, stronger than many other chews or treats. This can be unpleasant for some pet parents, especially given that chewing on the treat makes dogs breathe out the smell. Giving bully sticks in well-ventilated areas or outside can help reduce the impact.

Safety concerns have also been occasionally raised about small splinters coming off aggressively chewed bully sticks. These small fragments could present a choking hazard, especially for smaller breed dogs or young puppies. Selecting a thicker, high quality bully stick matched to your dog’s size can reduce this risk. But owners should continue monitoring their dog while chewing as a precaution.

With all of these considerations around nutrition, contamination, odors and safety, bully sticks might not be the right option for all dogs. Owners should evaluate if the benefits outweigh the potential downsides for their individual pet. For dogs that do well with bully sticks, options like limiting use to 30-60 minutes at a time and proper storage of unused sticks can optimize safety. As with any pet product, owners should apply discretion and monitoring when using bully sticks.

Selecting High Quality Bully Sticks

When choosing bully sticks, going with a reputable brand from a pet specialty store or online retailer is advisable. Lower quality bully sticks are more likely to splinter or pose contamination risks. Look for thicker sticks ideally sourced from free-range, grass-fed cattle when possible. Brands like Redbarn, Purina and Best Bully Sticks use various cleaning processes to reduce pathogens on their bully sticks to safer levels. While risks can’t be fully avoided, higher standards lower the chances of problems.

Monitoring For Safe Chewing

As useful as bully sticks are for occupying dogs with long-lasting chewing satisfaction, they do require close monitoring during use. Owners should remain in the same room and periodically check on their dog while they enjoy bully sticks or any consumable chew. For smaller dogs or aggressive chewers, even more diligence is required. Should pieces break off or a choking incident occurs, owners need to be ready to swiftly remove the bully stick and ensure their dog’s airway is clear. Preventing gulping with bully sticks also reduces vomiting or diarrhea risks.

Pair Them With Tooth-Brushing

The chewing motion dogs use on bully sticks naturally scrapes away some plaque and tartar buildup on teeth to help reduce the chances of periodontal disease. For even greater oral health benefits, consider brushing your dog’s teeth after they finish their bully stick or incorporating the two activities simultaneously. The dog chews the stick on one side of their mouth while you brush the teeth on the opposite side. This TWO-for-ONE doubles the dental perks and offsets some of the calorie concerns since chewing time is split between activities.

Try Odor-Free Bully Sticks

For owners struggling with the extreme smell of traditional bully sticks, odor-free options are now available. Brands use various processing methods like charcoal filtering or vanilla infusions to significantly reduce or eliminate the pungent aroma while retaining the chewing appeal. Odor control does come at a higher price point, but can be worth it for owners wanting to give bully sticks without the lasting stench. Testing odor-free sticks is recommended when smell is a limiting factor on bully stick usage in your home.

Watch Out for Heavy Metals

Recent testing of some popular bully stick brands unfortunately found higher than recommended levels of heavy metals like lead or arsenic according to independent lab reports. These naturally occurring contaminants likely come from factors like the cattle’s diet and environmental exposures. While brands aim to limit heavy metals, some risk remains without updated regulations and standards for bully sticks specifically. Owners can reference independent testing to compare brands if concerned or limit bully stick usage to further reduce any risks to their pets.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Bully sticks are popular treats but have some risks like bacteria and choking hazards to consider
  2. Their high calorie content can lead to weight gain if overused
  3. The dried meat makes bully sticks extremely smelly for many owners
  4. Supervision, appropriate sizing and storage are important when using bully sticks
  5. They may not be suitable for all dogs based on health conditions or chewing habits
  6. Owners should limit bully stick chewing sessions and rotate with lower calorie treats
  7. Reputable manufacturing reduces risks but does not eliminate them entirely

Are bully sticks safe for my dog?

In general, bully sticks are considered safe for dogs when used properly, though like any chew there are some risks. Choosing thicker, high quality bully sticks from reputable pet brands that follow safety protocols can help minimize risks like choking, vomiting or contamination. Owners should also supervise their dogs when chewing bully sticks, limit individual chewing sessions to 30-60 minutes, properly store unused sticks, and watch for signs of stomach upset or loose stool. With reasonable care and precautions, bully sticks pose low risks and provide great dental and mental stimulation benefits for dogs.

How do I reduce the smell of bully sticks?

The dried meat ingredient that makes bully sticks enticing to dogs also gives them a very strong, pungent odor many owners find unpleasant. To reduce the smell, opt for odor-free bully stick options where charcoal filtering or spice infusions help neutralize odors. You can also have your dog chew bully sticks outdoors or in well-ventilated areas of your home. Storing unused sticks in sealed bags or containers locks in some excess smell as well. Limiting the amount of time your dog chews the sticks will also cut down on how much bully stick odor permeates your home over time.

Are bully sticks fattening for my dog?

Bully sticks are relatively high in calories, especially compared to vegetable or synthetic chews. Feeding too many or overly large bully sticks can contribute excess calories that lead to weight gain in dogs. To reduce calorie impact, pay attention to proper bully stick sizing for your dog and limit chewing sessions to 30-60 minutes. You can also rotate bully sticks with lower calorie treats or dental chews. Brushing your dog’s teeth while they enjoy half a stick lets them reap dental benefits with less caloric intake. As with any treat, bully stick frequency and portion should align with your dog’s overall diet.

Can puppies have bully sticks?

Bully sticks are fine for puppies over 6 months old in most cases. Younger pups may struggle chewing on the tough texture and should be closely monitored the entire time to avoid choking. For small breed puppies, a thin bully stick size equivalent to their mouth and jaw size is safest. Aggressive puppy chewers should use bully sticks under supervision as well to reduce swallowing sizable chunks. Assessing your individual puppy’s chewing habits and abilities allows you to determine if bully sticks are appropriate or if you should wait until they mature more.

How can I make bully sticks last longer?

Given their high price and appeal, owners naturally want bully sticks to last for adequate chewing time. Avoiding thick ends which are easier to break off preserves length. Tiny bully stick holders also prevent dogs from finishing the last couple inches that are hard to grip. Monitoring dogs during chewing lets you remove bully sticks once they get too small to safely enjoy. Freezing unused bully sticks also extends their shelf life so less go to waste. Finally, incorporating tooth brushing while your dog chews lets them reap chewing satisfaction faster with less bully stick consumption compared to only chewing.