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What Is a Bully Stick?

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Pizzle sticks. Beef pizzle. Beef sticks. Steer sticks. Bull pizzle.

Bull pizzle and the rest of those terms are all used to refer to the same, super popular treat for canines: Bully sticks . If you’re a dog parent who’s still unfamiliar with them, read on for the answer to “What is a bully stick?” and more need-to-know info on beef pizzle from Tampa, Florida-based pet expert Kristen Levine.

What Are Bully Sticks Made Of?

It’s a single ingredient chew treat for dogs. That lone ingredient? “Steer or bull penis. Yes, you read that right. They are sold raw, dried or cooked and in various shapes and sizes,” explains Levine. And dogs almost always go crazy over them.

Why Are Bully Sticks So Popular?

Dog parents have noticed the benefits bully sticks offer dogs—aside from making them so darn happy. “They’re easily digestible, plus they have a hard consistency which makes them a long-lasting chew,” Levine says. Also, they won’t splinter like some chews tend to, so you don’t have to worry about injuries that can come from swallowing sharp splinters.

Bully sticks are a natural source of protein and taurine, which help keep your pup’s organs and muscles healthy. They also come in handy for keeping your dog’s teeth clean; all that chewing and gnawing scrapes away plaque.

What makes bully sticks an appropriate choice for so many sizes and breeds of dogs are the various shapes and thicknesses available. Does your fur baby destroy a pig’s ear in three minutes flat? Try a braided, curled or—especially for a large dog—a ring bully stick. If your dog’s a more dainty chewer, traditional straight sticks are a fine choice.

One thing to be aware of: “If they’re not fully dried, bullys can stink,” Levine says. Even well-dried bully sticks can still have a slight smell. While that will likely only increase its appeal to your pup, if you’re particularly sensitive to the smell, you might want to try an odor-free type, like Prairie Dog Odor Free Bully Sticks.

Are Bully Sticks Bad for Dogs?

Some pet parents ask, “Are bully sticks bad for dogs?” The answer is no. Bully sticks are a healthy, safe chew. Still, it’s worth keeping a few considerations in mind.

“If bully sticks are poorly cooked or dried, bacteria becomes a concern,” Levine says. “I make sure to buy the ones that are cooked when I give my dog bully sticks about once a month as a special treat.”

And treat is the operative word. Bully sticks are not exactly a slimming snack. Calorie counts vary between brands, but researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found that there are 88 calories in the average 6-inch bully stick. While that may not be much of an issue for large breed dogs, small breed dogs should consume bully sticks sparingly. Speak with your veterinarian if you have questions about what treats and chews might be best if you have concerns about your pet’s weight. Barkworthies Bully Bites are dog treats that are a snack-size version of a traditional bully stick, perfect for when you want to give your pet a little nibble rather than a whole stick.

As with any chew treat, be sure to discard a bully stick once it’s gotten small enough to be a choking hazard.

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Puppies?

Bully sticks are safe for puppies who are able to chew hard food and treats. If your little one has no problem with that, he’s old enough to start enjoying bully sticks. Choose the smaller, thinner bully sticks at first, moving up to larger types as your puppy gets bigger. Bully sticks can be a great distraction during the puppy teething stage, saving your shoes from an untimely demise. But they’re not appropriate as a puppy training treat, as they take too long to consume.



Christina Vercelletto is a pet, travel and lifestyle content specialist and a former editor of Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her Chiweenie, Pickles, and 20-pound Calico, Chub-Chub.