What Are Bully Sticks Made Of?

If you own a dog, chances are that you’ve spent a fair amount of money on bully sticks. After all, pups love them, and they’re supposedly a healthy alternative to rawhide chews. But have you ever wondered what they’re made of?

As it turns out, bully sticks are made from bull penises.

Don’t let that put you off from giving them to your pooch, though. As we’ll soon see, bully sticks are indeed a fairly healthy snack for your dog.Divider 1

Wait, Bull Penises? Really?

That’s right, bully sticks are made from bull penises. Some bully stick companies will try to disguise this fact by listing the primary ingredient as “beef muscle,” which manages to be technically correct if not an odd choice of wording.

Many people also call them “pizzle sticks.”

Bully-pizzle-pile_Dmitriev-Mikhail_shutterstock
Credit: Dmitriev Mikhail, Shutterstock

Bull penises are technically an animal by-product, which means that when you see the word “beef” on an ingredients label, the penis isn’t included in that. However, many manufacturers will take all the less-desirable parts of the animal and mush them into a slurry that they label as an animal by-product.

The difference between bully sticks and other animal by-products is that a bully stick is a single-ingredient food. You know exactly what’s in it, whereas most animal by-products are a mishmash of low-grade meat.

There’s usually nothing wrong with the bull penises, either. They’re just not something that most people would want to feed their dogs, so they have to get marketed differently.Divider 4

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Dogs to Eat?

You may be fine with the idea of feeding beef penis to your dog, but does that mean that bully sticks are safe for dogs to eat?

There’s actually not much evidence on this topic one way or the other. One study of bully sticks found that many of them were filled with dangerous bacteria, like E. coli and C. difficile, so there’s at least a possibility that your dog could get sick from eating them.

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Credit: Marcus Gier, Shutterstock

On the other hand, they’re extremely popular treats, and millions of dogs eat them every year with no issue. It’s probably a better idea to make sure any bully stick that you give your dog is fully cooked.

One of the biggest reasons that people feed their dogs bully sticks is the fact that they’re supposedly safer than rawhide chews. Rawhides can be difficult for dogs to chew and digest, and that can lead to potentially lethal blockages in their digestive tract. Bully sticks, on the other hand, are easy for dogs to break down in their guts.

Many rawhides are chemically treated as well, whereas most bully sticks are natural and organic.

Are Bully Sticks Healthy for Dogs?

This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on what exactly is meant by “healthy.”

Bully sticks are meant to be treats for dogs, meaning that they’re something that should be given sparingly, such as once a week or so. That said, they’re definitely healthy compared to other treats that your dog could get, such as processed biscuits or the aforementioned rawhides.

That doesn’t mean they’re good for your dog, though. Bully sticks tend to be high in calories, so if you offer them to your pup too often, your dog will most likely start to pack on the pounds, and being overweight is terrible for a dog’s health.

While bully sticks tend to be much safer for dogs to gnaw on than rawhides, there’s still the chance that your pup could choke on one, so it’s important to monitor them closely while they snack.

Are There Any Health Benefits to Feeding Your Dog a Bully Stick?

Yes, bully sticks certainly aren’t without their benefits. Given that they’re made of pure meat, they’re high in protein, so they should give your dog tons of long-lasting energy while also helping them build muscle.

Not only that, but bully sticks are full of taurine, which is essential for heart health. They’re also low in carbohydrates, which only give short bursts of energy while adding empty calories to your pup’s diet.

The coarse nature of a bully stick helps clean your dog’s teeth and gums as well, which could help prevent periodontal disease down the line. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that’s all the dental care that your dog needs, however, as a bully stick is no substitute for regular brushing.

Bully sticks are extremely easy for dogs to digest, as they break down quickly inside the gut. This isn’t a health benefit per se, but it is an advantage that these snacks have over others.Divider 5

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Puppies?

Yes, bully sticks are gentle enough on the digestive tract that even puppies can eat them.

Be careful, though, as they can pose choking hazards once they’ve been gnawed to a nub. You’ll want to take them away from your pup at that point.

Also, some bully sticks are too hard for puppies to chew, so make sure that any bully stick you offer your dog is something that their teeth can handle.

How Do I Feed My Dog a Bully Stick?

There’s no real trick to it: You can just offer your dog the stick and wait for them to take it. They’ll figure it out from there.

Some dogs take forever to work through a bully stick, whereas others will destroy one in a few minutes. If you want to slow your pup down a bit, you can buy a bully stick holder that will make it harder for them to chew.

Generally speaking, larger dogs tear through bully sticks faster than smaller breeds will. However, bully sticks are sold in all shapes and sizes, so you can buy one that’s appropriate for your pup if you’re worried about them gnawing on it for too long.

Some dogs fail to finish their bully sticks in a single sitting, preferring to hide them to eat at a later date. You may need to pick the unfinished parts up and dispose of them, as they can grow mold from all the slobber. Usually, though, you’ll want to get rid of them just to do something about the lingering odor.Divider 8

Will Bully Sticks Be on the Menu for Your Dog?

If you’re looking for a relatively healthy, high-protein snack for your dog, bully sticks are an excellent choice. Not only do dogs love them, but they also have a variety of benefits, including the ability to clean your dog’s teeth and gums.

You do have to get over the knowledge of what bully sticks are made of. But don’t let that stop you from treating your dog — after all, they’ll be the ones eating it, not you.


Featured image credit: Iryna Imago, Shutterstock