While new dog treats and toys regularly capture the attention of eager dog owners, none have made quite as big of a splash as the bully stick.
Bully sticks have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Since their introduction to the canine treat market, they have quickly become the go-to option for dog owners wanting to get their furry friends something delicious, healthy, and safe.
If you have yet to jump on the bandwagon, you may be asking yourself, "What exactly is a bully stick?"
image credit - Jimmy and his bully stick.
What's a Bully Stick?
You have probably seen these delectable canine treats at your local pet market. They go by many names, including bull pizzle, steer sticks, and much more.
Regardless of what they're called, these treats are chewable sticks that come in a range of sizes. You can find bully sticks as small as 3 inches in length or as long as 22 inches.
Some manufacturers also make curly varieties and braided products to give dogs an even greater chewing challenge.
Like rawhides, these treats are designed to be chewed on for prolonged periods of time. They're hard enough to give your pup a good workout as they chew. During the chewing process, the bully stick will soften. Pieces can break off, allowing your dog to consume the stick and experience its taste.
What Are Bully Sticks Made of?
At first glance, you might mistake these treats as standard rawhides. However, they're much different. For one, they don't splinter like traditional rawhides, making them a much safer alternative.
Not only that, but bully sticks are made out of an all-natural ingredient. They're made from a bull or steer penis.
One common misconception about bully sticks is that they're made from muscle or meat. Technically speaking, bull penis is an animal byproduct. Typically, it's advisable to steer clear of animal byproducts in anything you give your dog.
However, because the only ingredient in the bully stick is a beneficial byproduct, these treats are an exception.
Bully sticks come in a few different forms. The most common is dehydrated. The dehydration process removes moisture, hardens the ingredient, and preserves all of its beneficial nutrients. This results in a healthy treat that your dog will love.
Bully Stick Benefits
While the ingredient used to make a bully stick may come as a bit of surprise, these treats are a great option for any dog. They have a number of benefits that have made many dog owners choose them over traditional bones, rawhides, pig ears, and other chewable treats.
High Protein Content
Bully sticks are made up of mostly protein, so they're considered to be a very healthy alternative to commercially available treats. Protein is an essential nutrient that can keep your dog's body in good shape throughout their life.
Bully sticks also have a lot of taurine, which is an amino acid that benefits the muscles.
These days, more and more dog owners are opting for all-natural treats. Many of those treats you'll find lining your pet store's shelves are filled with a wide range of ingredients.
They may have binders to create an appealing shape, preservatives for long-lasting freshness, and artificial flavors for taste. With a bully stick, what you see is what you get.
These treats are natural, so you don't have to worry about potential stomach issues. The slow-dry manufacturing process preserves all of the flavors as well, so your dog will have no problem chewing these treats up.
Safety and Versatility
Generally, bully sticks are considered to be a much safer option for dogs than bones or rawhides.
It's still recommended that you keep an eye on your pooch as they enjoy one to ensure that small pieces that break off don't become a choking hazard.
However, these treats don't splinter like the alternatives. This eliminates the worry about cuts and injuries in your dog's mouth.
Bully sticks can also be used to take care of other tasks as well. Because they're easy to serve, they're a popular option for owners who want to keep their dog distracted for hours at a time.
The hard surface of the stick can also provide some dental benefits. The chewing action can naturally remove plaque and grime on your pup's teeth without them even knowing.
Are There Any Downsides to Providing Your Dog with Bully Sticks?
Despite all of the praise that bully sticks get, there are some things you need to be aware of. Keep the following points in mind to ensure that your dog stays healthy and happy.
High Calorie Count
The last thing you want your dog to do is to gain weight, so you need to be extra careful when giving your dog a bully stick. These treats are not meant to be something you give to your dog every single day. They're very calorie-dense.
A single 6-inch piece has about 90 calories in it. For a small or medium-sized dog, this is a significant chunk of their daily calorie requirements. It's recommended that you stick with sizes that are appropriate for your dog and practice moderation to avoid weight gain.
These treats are made out of a rather unpleasant ingredient, so they're going to have a pretty bad smell as well. Some sticks can be downright pungent. The drying process removes most of the odor, so stick with well-dried products.
Even if you do get a bully stick that doesn't have a super strong smell at first, you may have to deal with it later on. As the bully stick is softened by your dog's saliva, the smell may become more noticeable.
Storing Bully Sticks
While the dehydration process does eliminate the need for artificial preservatives, you do need to be extra cautious when you're storing these natural treats.
Most bully sticks come in resealable bags. You can keep the sticks in the bag and place the entire thing in a cool dry place for maximum freshness. It's important that they're stored in an airtight bag or container.
You should never leave a stick outdoors. The odor will only attract bugs and pests while humidity will make them a breeding ground for bacteria.
If your dog has partially chewed a stick, you need to store it away so that mold and bacteria don't develop. You can keep partially chewed sticks in the freezer. The cold environment will harden them right back up, making them ready for another chew session tomorrow.
How Long Do Bully Sticks Last?
When they're properly stored in an airtight container or bag, bully sticks can last over two years. They'll remain fresh as long as they're not exposed to moisture and pests.
If you want to prolong their shelf life even further, pop them in the freezer. They can last for years in there without any problem.
All in all, bully sticks are an excellent way to treat your dog. The long-lasting treat will keep your dog occupied safely while giving them the opportunity to experience new flavors that will have them salivating.