The Ultimate Guide to Bully Sticks
Chewy and oh so delicious, bully sticks for dogs is no doubt one of the more popular edible dog chews currently on the market. Often considered the filet mignon of dog chews (not really but you get the idea), bully sticks are among are most certainly enjoyed by dogs of all shapes and sizes.
But what really is a bully stick? How is made? Is it healthy for my dog to chew on?
We'll answer all of these questions and more in our bully stick guide.
- What are bully sticks and how are they made?
- Are bully sticks good for dogs?
- How often should I feed my dog bully sticks?
- Why do bully sticks smell?
- Are bully sticks good for puppies?
- Bully Sticks vs Rawhide: Which is better?
- Is it okay for my dog to swallow the small ends of a bully stick?
- How long should a bully stick last?
- Where is your bully stick made?
What are bully sticks?
Unbeknown to most, bully sticks (aka bull pizzles) are a chewable dog treat that is made from the penis of a bull. Yes, you read that correctly.
How are they made?
The process of preparing and producing a bully stick is not as difficult as one may think. It is a lot similar to how we create beef jerky!
- A pet food factory will receive frozen raw materials that may be shipped directly from a slaughterhouse.
- Upon arriving at the manufacturing plant, the raw material will be defrosted and washed.
- Each puzzle is then stretched and hung on racks in preparation to entering the dryer approximately 36" long.
- The dehydration process lasts for several hours at various temperatures depending on the manufacturer.
- The bully sticks are then cut to various measurements which contribute to the length and thickness of each stick.
- A sample is then lab tested for Salmonella and other pathogens and Certified by a Veterinary authority.
Similar to the initial steps above, some manufacturers opt to sun-dry their products. The process is in fact, just that, allowing the bully stick to dry in the outdoors under the sun. These manufacturers are prominent in the India & Bangladesh regions.
We do not recommend purchasing from any vendor that purchases products from these regions.
Since bully sticks are 100% raw-based dog treats, there are two methods used to decrease contamination of the product:
Companies that choose to sun-dry their pizzles may also scrape of any visceral fat from the pizzle. However, sun drying allows bacteria a better opportunity to survive the drying process.
Some companies, however, may take an extra step in the cleansing process by exposing the bull pizzles to radiation. The method of exposing food to radiation is known as irradiation, and it is commonly used to eradicate bacteria and microorganisms.
What is irradiation?
As we mentioned above, many pet treat companies implement two methods of decontamination—washing, and irradiation.
Food irradiation is a process whereby organic products, such as bully sticks, will be exposed to radiation to destroy and combat bacterial growth.
In other words, radiation is used to kill pathogenic bacteria and microorganisms, that can cause food-borne illnesses in pets and people.
According to the FDA, using radiation to destroy pathogens in food is completely safe. The radiation only kills the pathogens and does not affect or compromise the integrity of the food.
So, don’t worry! You’re not feeding your dog radioactive bull penis!
Although the FDA has deemed irradiation safe, our bully sticks are not irradiated. This is due to the higher quality of grass fed beef in South America where we source our products.Food Irradiation: What You Need to Know
Now, many different companies offer bully sticks for dogs. And for the most part, each company will have a unique method for preserving and making bully sticks.
Some companies choose to naturally dry out their bully sticks for over 24 hours, while others may prefer to dry and oven-bake their bully sticks.
It is important to remember, that bully sticks are an all natural treat for dogs. There is no added colors or flavors! And so, once a bully stick is dried and baked, they will merely be packaged off for sale.
Are Bully Sticks Good For Dogs?
Apart from the possibility of containing high levels of pathogenic bacteria, bully sticks for dogs can be a pretty healthy dog treat! Since bully pizzles are made from 100% pure beef penis, they are digestible and palatable.
And as a bonus to this, bully sticks are low in fat and high in protein! So, they are a great source of energy for hardworking dogs.
Nutrition aside, bully sticks provide mental stimulation to dogs. Our canine companions are natural born chewers. Years of evolution have betokened that canines use chewing behavior to combat boredom. So, by providing your dog with a bully stick, you not only feed this innate behavior, but you are also offering a source of entertainment for your furry-friend.
Now, if you’ve got a pooch that's a little on the heavier side or a pooch that needs to lose some weight, then a bull pizzle might not be the best choice for them.
As tasty as these treats are, the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Medicine does state that bully sticks are quite high in calories. To put this into perspective, a 6-inch bully stick can contain up to 88 calories!
In other words, that’s already 9% of medium-sized dogs daily recommended caloric intake. Feed bully sticks as a supplement to a healthy diet.
Wondering how often you should feed your dog bully sticks? The average medium-sized dog should have no more than 1 bully stick a day. Now, if you do have an overweight pooch, then you can also feed them 1 bully stick each day. However, you will need to adjust their daily caloric intake accordingly by reducing the amount of food they consume throughout the day.
Why do bully sticks smell?
Perhaps you've already tried bully pizzles for your pooch, and maybe you found it a bit too smelly for your home.
There's no question about it, any dog owner who has the privilege of feeding their pooch a bully stick will know how incredibly stinky they can get! The odor emitted by bully sticks is often enough to deter pet owners from purchasing these delicious treats for their dogs. Nevertheless, there is one way we can combat this problem, the answer, odor-free bully sticks!
Yes, you heard it right! There is such a thing!
In most pet stores, you can usually expect to find two types of bully sticks for dogs - a smelly one (natural scent) or an odor-free stick.
Now, you might be wondering, can they be free from odor? Well, the good news is, yes they can!
Odor-free bully sticks are the same as a regular bully stick. The only main difference is that an odor-free bully stick will be dried for a longer period of time. Because of the extended drying process, odor-free bully sticks will naturally have a lower moisture content, and so they will emit less odor when chewed by Fido!
Summary: Bully sticks smell because of the retained moisture from not being dried long enough.
Are Bully Sticks Good for Puppies?
No doubt, one of the biggest questions us dog lovers have is whether or not they can feed their puppy a bully stick!
As a general rule of thumb, we do not recommend feeding puppies under 8 weeks old products such as bully sticks. Mainly because, puppies are immuno-naive animals, this means that their immune system is not as well-developed as an adult dog.
Older puppies that are teething hwoever can benefit from chewing on a bully stick.
So, before you do decide to feed your puppy any natural products or any raw treat, consult your veterinarian.
Bully Sticks vs Rawhide: Which is Better?
When it comes to competing for the best chew treat for dogs, rawhide and bully sticks have gone head to head in the competition. Most people might think that there isn’t a big difference between these two pet products, but in reality, these two dog chews are as different as night and day.
The first significant difference between these two products is their composition. Rawhide is a by-product of the meat industry, it is in fact, the inner layer of the epidermis of a beef cattle. As it is part of the epidermis (skin), rawhide tends to have a high collagen composition, and this is what gives it its structure.
On the other side of the spectrum, bully sticks are too a by-product of the meat industry; however, they are composed of muscle and tendon fibers. So, they will naturally contain higher levels of protein! And so bully sticks are a lot more easily digestible compared to rawhide.
While both dog treats serve their purpose of being great dog chews, it comes without saying that each of these treats will have a few downfalls. So, what's the big problem?
Rawhide for Dogs:
- Rawhide is chemically treated with sodium sulphide, sodium benzoate, and other chemicals. And so it is considered very carcinogenic!
- Due to their lack of digestibility and tensile strength, rawhide can pose to be a choking hazard.
- To enhance the palatiably and appearance of the product, rawhide is often treated with artificial colors and flavours. Much of the chemicals used to enhance the flavour are considered toxic to pets.
Bully Sticks for Dogs:
Now, you might be asking yourself, are there cons to feeding your pooch a bully stick? Well, yes there are! But there aren’t as much compared to rawhide.
- Firstly, the biggest concern with bully sticks is bacterial contamination. On March of 2018, Redbarn bully sticks were recalled due to contamination with Salmonella. It was concluded that their products resulted in a Salmonella outbreak within the human population. It is crucial to remember, that raw based products will undeniably contain bacteria that is harmful to both pets and people.
- Because of the high-calorie and high-protein composition bully sticks will not be suitable for dogs with obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease.
Summary: Bully sticks win here since they are 100% natural, 100% digestible are safer to chew.
Is it Okay for my Dog to Swallow the Small Ends of a Bully Stick?
Due to their high protein content, bully sticks for dogs are easily digestible. Most dogs will not have a problem if they accidentally swallow a small piece of bully stick. That being said, it is imperative never to leave your dog unattended when feeding them a bully stick or any other chew treats. This is because dogs get excited when eating a treat they love! And so, they may have a natural tendency to eat their treats fast! Which can be dangerous a choking hazard.
How Long Should a Bully Stick Last?
If you’ve got a dog, who loves to chew then the bully stick might be the treat you’ve been searching for! After the drying and baking process is completed, bully sticks become incredibly tender. So, this means an average medium-sized dog can take up to 1 to 2 hours to thoroughly chew up a bully stick. Nevertheless, there are a few factors to consider when determining how long a bully stick will last.
- Your dog’s size: Firstly, your dog’s size will determine how fast a bully stick will last with them. In general, the smaller the dog, then the longer the bully stick will last.
- Does your pup go crazy with chewing? Now, some dogs have a natural inclination to chew fast! Dobermans, Golden Retrievers, and Labradors are just a few dog breeds that are known for their chewing behavior. So, if you’ve got a dog who loves to bite and chew a lot, then chances are a bully stick might last no more than 45 minutes with them
- The size and type of bully stick: Bully sticks often come in various sizes and types. They can range anywhere from 6 inches to 12 inches in length, and some bully sticks can also come braided. So, in general, long and braided bully sticks tend to last longer.
Where is your bully stick made?
Providing the best treats for your dogs is of utmost importance. Today, a lot of dog treats may have ingredients sourced from China, India, South America, New Zealand, and even the USA. But, deciding which sourced ingredients are good can be quite a daunting task!
When selecting bully sticks for dogs, it is highly recommended that pet owners choose bully sticks that are sourced from South America and the United States. Ideally, pet owners should choose bully sticks sourced from South America, as South America raises cattle on pasture, and all cattle are generally free from growth hormones and steroids.
Bully sticks from the USA can also be quite a good choice. This is because ingredients sourced in the USA will be regulated by the government. In the USA, all pet foods will be regulated under the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and AAFCO ( American Feed Control Officials).
Now, a lot of the meat ingredients present in dog treats may also be sourced in countries from South America. It is important to note that even meat products sourced from South America can be of high-quality. Bully sticks often produced in South America—for consumption by US pets— is of high quality as the manufacturers and factories will be regulated by the FDA. Since these factory mills are overlooked by the US government, we can assure you that they will be healthy for your pets.
Ingredients sourced from India and South East Asia, may not be of the best quality. Although, many farmers choose to raise their cattle on pasture. The Indian government has banned the slaughter and exportation of beef from India. Therefore, it becomes highly plausible to that beef chews from India may lack in quality due to lack of government quality assurance.
South America (Free-range - Highest Quality)
Despite what one might think, meat ingredients sourced from South America are 100% safe for pet consumption. Many South American farmers and ranchers still believe in raising beef cattle on pasture. So, due to the agricultural economy and climate of South America, all beef products are free-range, grass-fed, and free from antibiotics and growth promotants.
When sourcing beef products from the USA, there are two problems that arise. The first is that not all cattle have the opportunity to live a free-range life and the second issue is the use of growth promotants and antibiotics. Hormonal growth promotants are quite commonly used in the North American Industry.
Depending on the region, products from these areas tend to be good quality however laws, preparation methods, certifications, etc.. may vary.
India/Bangladesh (Free-range - Lowest Quality)
India is another country that supports their free-range agricultural industry. In India cattle is seen as a holy deity, therefore, there’s no question about it that beef cattle are given the utmost respect. In fact, India is perhaps the only country that ensures their cows are well fed and cared for. Additionally, India's agricultural economy is not as advanced as that of North Americas. The country still does rely heavily on farmers to produce not just the meat for products, but also the product itself. Therefore, the biggest concern we need to consider when purchasing bully sticks made India is whether or not the products are overlooked by government food and safety laws.