blond labrador retriever puppy with dog bowl in the background

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Puppies?

Johnna Devereaux C.P.N.

Last updated on January 9, 2021

Whether you’re new to puppy parenting or know what to expect, you’re probably aware of how much puppies love to chew. Shoes, clothes, hand bags, furniture—you name it—in those first few months of teething, nothing seems to be off-limits. During this time, setting chewing boundaries for your pup can be a near-constant battle.

Despite testing your patience, you probably also know that a puppy’s need to chew is perfectly natural and instinctual. In addition to relieving the pain and discomfort of teething, chewing helps support a healthy mental state by releasing two important neurotransmitters; dopamine and serotonin, aids in combating boredom, and strengthens their jaw muscles.

Bully sticks are one of the best chew treats you can give your puppy to help satisfy their need to munch, crunch and gnaw on things to death!

Here’s why:

Bully sticks promote healthy puppy growth

Bully sticks* are a healthy, highly-digestible chew treat that breaks down easily in your puppy’s stomach. Bully sticks are actually beef muscle and are extremely high in protein and low in fat—offering a natural chew that supports the needs of your puppy’s growing body. Chewing on bully sticks will not only occupy and delight your puppy for extended time spans, but because they also provide all of the essential amino acids a dog needs, it will support the growth of her muscles, skin, coat and brain, too.

Bully sticks are also good for your puppy’s oral health. Chewing on bully sticks provides a natural way to remove the biofilm that appears in the mouth and eventually turns to plaque if not removed. By keeping plaque at bay, you are proactively preventing gum disease too! Finally, chewing encourages saliva that is rich in lysozyme and keeps oral pathogens (bad bacteria) in check.

What size of bully stick should I feed my puppy?

Bully sticks are great for puppies because they are long-lasting. Bully sticks last a bit longer than normal dog chews because they are baked at high temperatures after they are hung to dry, making them nice and hard. Bully sticks also come in a variety of sizes so you can feed different-sized bully sticks to your pup as he grows into adulthood.

Bully sticks typically come in 6-inch or 12-inch lengths, with thicknesses ranging from a thin 10 millimeters (mm) all the way up to extra-thick sizes of 23 mm or more.

Be careful to choose sticks that fit your dog’s weight. A stick that is too big for your puppy to handle is also likely too much stick for him to consume in one sitting. Remember, overfeeding can cause mild stomach distress for dogs.

Conversely, giving too small of a stick to a larger puppy not only lessens the amount of time he will be occupied by the stick thus minimizing its benefits, but also increases the chances of him breaking off a small piece and choking on it. Swallowing a small, unchewed piece of bully stick can also cause intestinal obstruction.

Here is a simple sizing chart you can use as a guideline for feeding your puppy bully sticks based on his or her weight. We recommend starting with the smaller and thinner sticks, and then introducing the 12-inch sticks once your dog is at least 45 pounds.

 Dog Weight 6" Thin
6" Reg
6" Thick
12" Reg
12" Thick
12" Extra Thick
< 15 lbs
15 - 30 lbs
30 - 45 lbs
45 - 60 lbs
60 - 75 lbs
75 - 90+ lbs

Also consider your puppy’s chew strength and chewing preferences. If you’ve got a power chewer, you may need to consider a size up in bully stick.

Watch your puppy’s calorie intake

Keep track of your puppy’s calorie intake to keep her at a healthy weight. Since bully sticks are dense chews, they are high in calories. You will want to adjust any additional treats you are giving your dog on days they have bully sticks to account for the extra calories, while keeping their food intact to ensure a complete and balanced diet.

As a rule of thumb, one 6-inch medium bully stick is, on average, nine calories per inch, or about 54 calories per stick. We recommend giving your dog bully sticks no more than two to three times a week—unless you are removing the bully stick before it is completely consumed. There’s no reason you can’t make a bully stick last through several chew sessions.

Not all bully sticks are created equal

Learn how to tell a quality bully stick from one that is not. Be on the lookout for sticks that are marked as “No Odor.” While that may be the ultimate dream as the dog parent, sticks that are marked as “No Odor” are often treated with chemicals during their drying process to mask or remove the natural smell of bully sticks. On the other hand, sticks that are marked as “Low Odor” are good to go — it just means that they have been baked or smoked during the drying process to help reduce the bully stick’s natural odor.

High-quality, premium bully sticks, like the ones Bow Wow Labs offers, are baked at high temperatures after they are hung to dry, eliminating harmful bacteria that can make your puppy’s tummy upset.

Give your puppy bully sticks the safe way

Be sure to use a safety device, like our Bow Wow Buddy™, when giving your dog bully sticks. Puppies are excited chewers and can chew quickly. When bully sticks get down to the last one to two inches they can become a choking hazard if swallowed without being chewed.

Even though bully sticks are 100% digestible, the potential for a choking hazard or intestinal obstruction is real. A safe bully stick holder will allow your puppy to reap the benefits of these healthy and delicious treats, while also giving you peace of mind.

*Bully sticks are a great longer-term chew that brings lots of joy to your pup, supports a healthy mental state, and satisfies their instinctual desire to chew. We always recommend pairing your bully sticks with the right size Bow Wow Buddy to make your pup safer and to help prevent a choking hazard or intestinal obstruction once they’ve chewed down to the last 1 to 1.5 inches of the bully stick.

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Photos by Berkay Gumustekin, Jametlene Reskp, Kayla Farmer, April Walker and Mike West.


Johnna Devereaux is a Clinical Pet Nutritionist, Chief Nutrition Officer for Bow Wow Labs and a canine wellness expert. 

The points of view expressed above are those of our clinical nutritionist and supported by science, her education and experience. However, we recognize there may be different points of view or opinions on some aspect or even the premise of this article. Our goal at Bow Wow Labs is to provide the best, clearest, and most helpful information possible to help keep your dog happy, healthy, and safe.