Bully sticks are one of the most popular dog treats on the market and for good reason. They are all natural, 100% digestible, and have excellent health benefits.
Bully sticks promote good dental hygiene and are durable enough to keep your dog entertained for long periods of time, which helps relieve stress for your dog (and for you). And most importantly, dogs absolutely love to chomp on them. But as with any pet treat, many dog owners want to know: Are bully sticks safe?
The answer is a resounding “yes,” but there are important steps owners should take to maximize safety and enjoyment.
Choose the Right Size Bully Stick for Your Pup
Bully sticks come in a wide range of sizes. Generally, you will find two lengths – 5”/6” and 11”/12” with the thickness ranging from skinny (10 mm - 15 mm) all the way up to jumbo (23+ mm). It’s important to choose the stick that best suits the size of your dog.
You shouldn’t give a 15-pound Chihuahua an 11”/12” jumbo. The stick would be too big for the dog to handle, and it would take your pup way too long to consume the stick. Conversely, owners of large dogs want to stay away from sticks that are too small. Bigger dogs would eat the smaller stick too quickly, which minimizes some of the health benefits, and the dogs could accidentally swallow the stick whole and increase the choking hazard – more on that below.
Avoid “No Odor” Sticks
Being an all-natural product, bully sticks have an inherent odor. How strong the aroma depends largely on how fresh bully sticks are and how they are stored (in a bin or box without a lid vs. a sealed box or jar). Don’t worry, smelly sticks are a good thing for two reasons.
First, your dog is more likely to go bonkers over them.
Second, the odor means there’s a good chance your sticks have not gone through any treatment process.
Some bully stick suppliers (responding to complaints about smelly sticks) treat the bully sticks with chemicals to remove the odor. It doesn’t take an expert to understand that chemically treated bully sticks aren’t the best thing for your pups. Do what we do here at Bow Wow Labs. Avoid the chemicals. Embrace the odor.
Adjust Treats or Exercise on Bully Sticks Days
Bully sticks are essentially dried beef muscle, which means they are a significant source of calories – between nine and 20 calories per inch depending on the thickness. As the owner, it’s up to you how often you treat your dog with a bully stick. Experts don’t recommend daily consumption--and we don’t either-- two to three times per week is good. And to help your pup keep his/her nice fit figure, simply adjust the amount of treats you give them on bully stick days, or better yet, give your pup an extra walk. You could also save bully sticks as a special treat on high energy expenditure days after trips to the dog park, a hike or an outing at the beach.
Use a Safety Device
Bully sticks are seriously hard. Hard enough that you’ll need to pull out the bolt cutters to cut them. This durability keeps your dog busy for long stretches of time while promoting healthy teeth and gums as your pup chews. But the hardness of these bully sticks also comes with a warning label.
Caution, bully sticks can be a choking hazard.
As your dog chews down the bully stick, and no longer has the tactile ability to hold the stick with her paws, the tail end can be swallowed whole. This increases choking risk and also the potential for intestinal obstruction.
That’s why we recommend using a safety device to keep your dog safe and increase your peace of mind. That’s why the geniuses at Bow Wow Labs invented the Bully Buddy. This simple to use device is specifically designed to hold bully sticks nice and tight to keep dogs from being able to swallow the last little bit of the stick.