What Are Bully Sticks Made Of? What To Know Before You Buy

Three Minutes
Aug 11, 2022

Puppy owners like you know that your furry friends love chewing: on your shoes, on your furniture, and even on your fingers. This is as frustrating as it is cute. Your wallet may be feeling the pressure as you struggle to buy chew toys that hold up to their jaws.

If this is you, bully sticks may be a good investment. Bully sticks — beef byproducts that are dried and twisted before being sold — are a safe, high protein, and long-lasting treat for dogs of all ages to chew on. We’ve put together some information about bully sticks and what types may be best for your dog.

What Is a Bully Stick?

Bully sticks are made from bull pizzle, a fancy name for a male cow’s reproductive parts. You may see these marketed as “steer sticks,” “beef pizzle,” or “beef sticks.”

These sticks' tough exteriors keep dogs happily chewing for days and rarely splinter like chew toys made of plastic or bone. Pet parents can trust that these products are made of a single ingredient: beef.

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Dogs?

Beef contains complex amino acids that can support your dog’s muscles, coat, and brain but they shouldn’t be an everyday thing.³ Keep in mind that beef products are high in calories so monitor what your dog eats — introducing too many calories will pack on the pounds! Luckily, these dense sticks can take a day or more to break down so it’s easy to limit how much they eat.³

These treats also provide complex proteins while cleaning your dogs’ teeth! Bully sticks are great dental treats for helping dogs get plaque and tartar off their teeth, sort of like a big beefy toothbrush. Given that 80% of dogs over the age of three will experience some form of dental disease, anything good they can chew on is a huge plus.⁴

Companies offer different knot styles, thicknesses, and quality so shop around to find the one your pal cannot get enough of.

A man’s hands organizing a bundle of bully sticks.

Bully stick safety concerns

Beware that bully sticks that are unwashed and improperly dried can carry harmful bacteria, like E. coli.⁵ Double check where the meat was sourced and if it's been recalled by the U.S. FDA. Lastly, your small kids shouldn’t handle bully sticks that your dog had in their mouth. Make sure to wash all hands after handling bully sticks to protect yourself.

Can puppies have bully sticks?

Puppies can eat bully sticks when they are old enough to eat independently.⁶ Sometimes, puppies overestimate how much food they can handle so you should monitor them (and smaller dogs) closely when they’re eating bully sticks until you’re confident they won’t try to swallow them whole. Some professionals recommend restricting their chewing time to 10 minutes.⁶ If this upsets your pal, trade it with something yummy like sweet potatoes or chicken so they’ll easily forgive you.

Alternative Dog Chew Treats

There are other options to consider for folks who are wigged out by bull genitals or can't afford to keep up the habit. Check out locally owned and operated pet shops for freeze-dried meats from neighborhood butcher shops, like tendon chews, shoulder cuts, or pig ears.⁷ These human-grade cuts of meat may save you money while ensuring your dog isn’t exposed to unsafe products.

Protect Your Dog’s Teeth With Insurance

Whether it’s bully sticks or tendon cuts, your dog will love your choices. Give your dog’s teeth some extra love by letting them chew to their heart’s content. Make sure to watch their teeth for decay, cavities, or plaque to avoid future broken teeth and costly vet bills.

Veterinary teeth cleanings can get very expensive. MetLife’s dog insurance can offset the cost of dental cleanings and periodontal diseases.¹,² Consider getting a free quote while your dog enjoys their new beefy treat.

Protect your Dog

Coverage in 3 Easy Steps

¹Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

² Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

³ “Why Bully Sticks Are Great Dog Treats,” American Kennel Club

⁴ “Dental Disease in Dogs,” VCA Hospitals

“Bully Sticks: Healthy Dog Treats or Dangerous Byproducts?,” PetHelpful

“Can Puppies Have Bully Sticks? Everything Owners Should Know,” ThePuppyMag

⁷ “Bully Stick Alternatives Dogs and Humans Absolutely Love!,” Great Dog Co.

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