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Over the last few years, bully sticks have become one of the most popular chew treats on the dog treat scene, and for good reason. Bully sticks are a single ingredient, all-natural, high-protein chew treat, and dogs seem to love them. They are also a much safer alternative to rawhide, which, despite its popularity and decades-long domination of the dog treat market, creates many health and safety problems for dogs.
First, let’s talk about why rawhide is so dangerous.
- Rawhide (the tough inner layer of cow, horse, or buffalo hide) is manufactured using caustic chemicals that include lye, bleach, arsenic, and formaldehyde. The residue of these chemicals linger on rawhide treats until they are ultimately ingested by your dog.
- When rawhide gets wet, it expands. Pieces of rawhide that are swallowed can swell up to several times their original size in a dog’s esophagus, stomach, or intestines, causing choking, stomach torsion (twisting), or gastrointestinal tract blockages – all life-threatening emergencies.
- Rawhide is not considered a food item in the United States, and is therefore not regulated by the FDA for ingredients, processing methods, or labeling.
- Other dangerous contaminants have been found in rawhide, including mercury, lead, insecticides, and antibiotics.
- Rawhide chews have been linked to pancreatitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas.
You can read more about the numerous problems associated with rawhide in my previous post Rawhide and Your Dog: Why You Might Be Playing Russian Roulette.
So What Is A Bully Stick?
A bully stick, also known as a bull pizzle, is simply the dried penis of a bull or steer. Although that thought may be somewhat off-putting at first, keep in mind that many dog treats are made from parts of an animal that are left over once the meat for human consumption has been removed, including ears, tails, hooves, stomachs, lungs, tracheas, and intestines.
Bully sticks are first cleaned, then dried to remove moisture. The longer they’re dried, the less odor the finished product will have. Most people prefer bully sticks from the United States or South America because of the safety and cooking standards used. (Bully sticks from other countries may be of inferior quality and not prepared properly to remove bacteria or other contaminants). After drying, the sticks are cut and sorted according to size and thickness. The thicker the bully stick, the longer-lasting it will be.
Here’s what makes bully sticks so beneficial in comparison to other dog chews:
- Bully sticks are an all-natural, single-ingredient food, which makes them highly digestible – so unlike rawhide, they can be more safely consumed in larger pieces.
- They are high in protein and low in fat.
- Bully sticks are excellent for helping keep dogs’ teeth clean.
- They can last from a half hour up to several days, based on the size of the bully stick, the size of the dog, and the dog’s chew appetite.
- Bully sticks are extremely palatable, so most dogs really enjoy them.
My Introduction To Best Bully Sticks
Several weeks ago I was approached by Best Bully Sticks about the possibility of working with them as an affiliate partner, and I was excited – not only for the opportunity to learn more about their products, but also to share information with pet parents about safer alternatives to rawhide. Since I’m a research fanatic, I really did my homework… and here’s what I learned (and loved) about Best Bully Sticks:
- Their bully sticks are sourced from free-range, grass-fed Brazilian cattle. They also offer Made in the USA bully sticks.
- Products are of the highest quality and free of hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, chemicals, artificial colors, and additives.
- Products are inspected, approved and certified by the USDA/FDA.
- All bully sticks are cleaned and sorted in a refrigerated facility, then hung vertically from racks and cooked in an oven to ensure that bacteria are killed and maximum moisture is removed (which reduces the odor of the finished product).
- All bully sticks are hand-sorted and inspected for defects and sizing.
- They offer a lowest-price guarantee on their website, as well as an autoship program.
Additionally, Best Bully Sticks is a family-owned, U.S business that is eco-friendly and supports animal rescue organizations nationwide through dollar-matching donation programs. Needless to say, I was impressed and couldn’t wait to try out their products.
Putting Best Bully Sticks To The Test
As part of our introduction to Best Bully Sticks, we received 3 different products to sample: a 12-inch bully stick, 2 large gullet lollipops, and trachea chews. My sweet and oh-so-handsome “god-dog”, Chiver (an 80-pound Lab-Husky mix who lives with his mom, my dear friend Denise), was more than happy to be our taste tester!
First up was a trachea chew. These are exactly what they sound like – bull trachea (which is high in glucosamine and chondroitin, which promotes joint health), cut into pieces. The trachea itself is hollow, so it can also be stuffed with peanut butter or spray cheese and frozen for a longer-lasting treat.
Chiver was very intrigued by the trachea chew, although it took him awhile to get the hang of holding onto it. Once he figured it out, however, it didn’t take him long to polish it off… he finished it in about 10 minutes. It seemed to be quite savory, since he kept alternating between licking and chewing it.
Next was an 18-inch “Lollipop Stick”, which consisted of a gullet stick with a circular ring at the end. This one was definitely Chiver’s favorite. In about 20 seconds, he figured out how to anchor it by holding down the stick end and chewing on the ring like a giant lollipop. What we really liked about the Lollipop Stick was that it actually shredded as he chewed it instead of breaking off in large pieces, which made it much easier for him to swallow.
Chiver literally went after this treat like it was his job, finishing it in about 15 minutes. Once it was gone, he actually got up from his bed to lick up all the crumbs that had dropped onto the floor!
Since we didn’t want to overload him with too many treats at once, we saved the 12-inch bully stick and Denise gave it to him a few days later. She reported that Chiver loved it. It lasted for about 30 minutes of constant chewing (it was of medium thickness, so a thicker bully stick would have lasted longer). What Denise liked about it was that it seemed lighter and flakier than other bully sticks he’s had in the past, so instead of him chewing a hard, solid stick until there was about 4 inches left that he tried to swallow whole, he was able to break off and chew pieces of this one until he got it down to more manageable size before he swallowed it.
Best of all, Chiver has a sensitive stomach, and in the past other bully sticks he’s eaten have given him soft stool several days later… but he had no issues with the treats from Best Bully Sticks.
All in all, these treats were a huge hit… after finishing them, he went straight over to the kitchen counter and asked for more!
Bully Sticks: A Great Alternative To Rawhide
Bully sticks are not only a safe and nutritious alternative to rawhide, dogs also love the taste. Here are a few additional things to keep in mind when giving your dog bully sticks:
- Even though bully sticks are highly digestible, dogs should still be supervised while enjoying them. Some dogs eat very quickly, and may try to swallow the treat without chewing it properly, which can lead to a choking hazard.
- Bully sticks (even the lower calorie ones) tend to have more calories than some other dog chew treats, so be sure to pay attention to how many you’re giving, and how often.
- Storing your bully sticks in the refrigerator or freezer will keep them fresh, prolong their shelf life, and keep bacterial growth to a minimum.
Be sure to check out all the other great treats available (as well as fun toys and supplies for both dogs and cats) on the Best Bully Sticks website!
Do you give your dog bully sticks? What do you think of them? Please tell us about it in the comments below!