Benefits of Bully Sticks: Pros and Cons

What is a bully stick?

Bully sticks have long held a soft spot in canine hearts with most pooches happy to spend hours chewing away at them, and given the excitement with which dogs react to bull pizzle treats, dog owners are only too happy to indulge their furry friends. Yet, a shocking number of pet parents and even veterinarians don’t know what goes into the making of these treats and just how healthy they are.

To add to the confusion, these products have been receiving a bit of bad press lately which is making dog owners sit up and take notice and rummage around for information on these chewy treats. So, here is everything you wanted to know about bull pizzle dog treats and if it is safe to get these for your pets.

The brouhaha over bully sticks

Manufacturers are not really trying to throw conscientious shoppers off their trail by listing bull pizzle as the ingredient of these chewy toys. The word “pizzle” finds its roots in low German in which pesel means penis. So, a bull’s pizzle is, you guessed it right, the privates of a bull or a steer. That long, thick brown stick is just the dried penis of a male bovine.

There was a time when the fibrous, fleshy part of the organ was only used to coat whips and in some cultures, it is still normal to consume the penis of an animal, which is alleged to bring sexual vigor to the person devouring the organ. As you may have guessed, there is not a shred of scientific evidence to support the aphrodisiac theory. But, what is absolutely undeniable is that dogs simply cannot get enough of these smelly treats.

I have been feeding my dog bull’s penis?

Was that a collective and resounding “yuck” that echoed out? Before you get ready to puke at the thought of having handled a dried bull’s penis when playing with your dog, let us clarify one thing here- most chewy toys are made from the left over bits of body parts and internal organs after meat suitable for human consumption is removed.

It is normal for manufacturers to make dog treats from tripe, cattle tail, ears, intestines, shin bones, knees and more. So, it does not come as a shocker when they also put the animal’s privates to use, and why not? Most pooch owners would attest to the fact that the smellier the treat the more their dogs love it, and bull pizzle chews do get the stench and a lot more to the table.

Typically, the makers of dog chews are quick and forthright about stating that their products contain trachea, lungs, other discarded meaty morsels and bones but the squirm factor linked to the use of a bovine’s manhood is what makes most manufacturers go for the more pleasant sounding version-bull pizzle or even bull meat.

Talk about ignorance being bliss! But, you can take heart in the fact that not only the average pooch parent but also a whopping 44% of the veterinarian interviewed in a survey conducted by Tuft University were surprised to find what bull pizzle really was.

The history of the use of bull pizzle in dog treats!

About 100 years ago, butchers realized that the bits of meat and several parts of the skeleton left over after processing for human consumption need not be thrown away and found a ready market for these in pet owners. However, back then it was still about supplying a mince of the innards and other organs to people who wanted to pamper their furry friends.

With the advent of refrigeration technology, these leftover bits were given a longer shelf life as pet parents were willing to pay a premium for frozen bone and raw meat. Raw hide chews were among the first to make an appearance once manufacturers got their hands on industrial drying units.

As pet owners became increasing conscious of what they were feeding their pooches, these companies started experimenting with innovative ways of serving different bovine and pork parts, mixed together and even as single ingredients products. That is when they stumbled upon bull pizzle and its possible use as a chew treat and there has been no looking back for these treats ever since. Today, bull pizzle dog treats are among the most popular recreational canine products.

What are bully sticks made of? The transformation of the prized pizzle!

Also known as beef stick, steer stick, bull pizzle, bully pizzle and beef pizzle, by any odd name, it is still 100% bull penis. This is the only ingredient in bully sticks. These treats are natural and safe and a rich source of both protein and taurine.

Bull pizzle along with other parts of the cattle that become dog treats are gathered from slaughterhouses all over the country and even overseas. Once brought to the manufacturing plant, the organ is removed and cleaned before it is hanged upside down, so that any traces of urine and semen flow out of it. Without these body fluids, the pizzle is an odorless piece of fibrous meat.

Before processing, the pizzle measures about 25 inches but it is stretched to allow for better drying. It is then dried through the use of industrial fans or smoked in commercial ovens. The result is a hard, almost bony stick which is actually just 100% natural meat. At this point, the pizzle is about 30-40 inches long and can be 2 to 4 inches in thickness. The hard brown stick is then cut into pieces of various sizes to suit different dog species.

As far as the braided versions go, for these, the bull pizzle is stretched more than normal and then the comparatively thinner sticks are braided together before they are dried or smoked.

It’s options galore when picking bull pizzle dog treats!

The fact that dogs inevitably reach for bully pizzle treats is the prime impetus for pet owners to prefer these toys over others. However, another reason is the sheer number of options available when buying bully sticks. You can take your pick from small 4 inch pieces that are meant for smaller dog breeds to the massive 36 to 48 inch sticks which will even keep large dogs engrossed. For the more ardent chewers, you can choose curly bull pizzle toys or the braided bully sticks.

Buy Only The Best Bully Sticks For Your Friend!

Your dog depends on you to make sure that their meals are safe, nutritious, and as natural as possible. This is why we recommend Best Bully Sticks. They’re all natural, safe, and packed with protein and other vital nutrients.

Both you and your dog can now be satisfied with this decision.

When you purchase through this link, we get a small commission that helps pay for the maintenance of our site and so we can bring you more great ideas, tips, and tricks to help you with your pets.

The nutritional value of bull pizzle!

Although bull pizzle treats are available from several brands, the typical nutritional value of these products is about the same. In terms of energy, this sticks are incredibly dense offering 9- 29 calories for every inch of meat. Yet, the good part is that almost 80% of the calorific intake comes from protein. This is what the figures look like:

• Protein crude: 80-85%
• Fat: 1-2%
• Fiber crude: 1% (max)
• Crude Ash: 2% max
• Calcium: 0.8%
• Phosphorous: 0.4%
• Moisture: 15%

This is undoubtedly a high protein and low fat treat; nonetheless, like with all goodies, moderation is the key to avoid the issues linked with over consumption such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Where Do They Get Bully Sticks?

As a concerned pet parent, you are surely wondering from where they get the raw material. After all, the quality of the cattle and where and how they are raised impacts the hormone levels in the meat derived from the animal and the scope of contamination.

Although bully sticks are 100% natural, which means there are no artificial additives used for flavoring or color, pizzles from feedlot bovine would contain significant levels of artificial antibiotics, steroids and hormones which are fed to commercially raised cattle. Hundreds of thousands of bull pizzles are used each year to manufacture bully sticks and these are usually procured from American slaughterhouses or from cattle raised in South America or Oceania.

If the product packaging reads “US- Only”, you can be sure that most of the bovines were raised in feedlots. A lot of reputable manufacturers offer both a “Made in USA” line as well as their regular bull pizzle products which contain meat from cattle raised on free ranges in South America. Some of the pizzles are also sourced from India and Bangladesh but this is water buffalo pizzle and not steer or bull pizzle.

Bully sticks: The good!

All natural: One of the prime advantages of buying bull pizzle treats for your dog is that you know you are feeding your pet a 100% natural product. It contains no dyes, chemicals or pesticides like raw hide chews which are made from the discards of the tanning industry.

Easy on the tummy: Because these chews are made from natural meat and do not contain bone, there is a lower risk of sharp fragments finding their way into the gut of the canine. Also, the pure meat content of the product means that these treats are easier to digest.

Tough on dental problems: After a good round of chewing, the pizzle becomes soft and stretchy but still cannot be chewed off easily, which means that you pooch has to try harder and in the process, his/her teeth get cleaned thoroughly. So, bully sticks are a great way to keep periodontal diseases at bay and to tackle plaque and tartar which harbor life threatening bacteria. Also, the soft meat massages the gums, helping to prevent inflammation, bleeding and tooth decay and loosening.

Better than most other chew toys: There is certainly no dearth of options when it comes to canine chew toys. From hard rubber to bones and from raw hide to bull pizzle, it’s all out there. But, bully sticks do beat most other toys hand down because they contain many trace minerals along with taurine which is an essential amino acid that will keep your pet healthy. Plus, you don’t have to bother filling out the center with a homemade treat like with some rubber toys. All, you have to do is open the packaging and let your dog have a go at his/her favorite treat.

Your dog will find it hard to resist this treat: Although you may squirm at the idea of feeding bull pizzle to your pet, rest assured your dog will love the treat. In fact, this is one product that works even with the choosiest of pooches and the best part is that if you pick the right size, the treat does last a very long time.

Bully sticks: The bad!

Often manufacturers go overboard with their claims of offering a low calorie and high protein snack. But, let’s get real; protein accounts for 4 kcal/per gram and this is 80-85% protein, so that is a massive 22-29 calories per inch of the bully stick.

Of course, your dog is not going to get through a thick bully stick in one day, but if you do have a voracious chewer on your hands and have not been meticulous about getting a bully stick of the right thickness, the calories can quickly add up to the point where the treats may cause obesity.

Consider this example, an average bull pizzle treat of 6 inches, regardless of the thickness would have about 90 calories. So, if you have a 50 lb dog that is nearly 10% of his daily calorie requirement and a massive 30% of the energy quota of a smaller dog of 10 lbs. With pet obesity turning into an epidemic, you may want to consider this before you simply fish out the treat to entertain a sprightly pooch.

In the opinion of experts as long as you practice moderation, you should have no problem with bully treats. However, it would be prudent to factor the calories provided by bully sticks into the overall dietary intake of the animal. So, cut down on 100 calories during meals if your dog has spent hours chewing and gobbling up his bull pizzle treat.

Bully sticks: The ugly!

These products are natural, so they do not contain artificial and chemical additives but natural does not mean free from biological contaminants. In 2012, bull pizzle treats from Kasel Associated Industries, a company from Denver were recalled after the Colorado Department of Agriculture found Salmonella contamination in the packs of Boots & Barkley American Beef Bully Sticks.

Although there were no reports of animals getting sick after consuming these products, it did highlight the very real risk of dangerous bacteria in dog chews. Unfortunately, some users and reviewers chose to single out bully sticks as the only high risk product, when this is far from true.

Raw meat in general and any product that contains raw meat can have bacterial contamination. So, you could pick lamb ears, cattle tail, tendons, trachea, lungs or any other treat for your dog and it can be harmful if not handled properly. To add to the issue, a recent study conducted to analyze the dangerous pathogens in bully sticks did reveal some startling facts.

Researchers tested 26 products from different manufacturers and found that 4% of the treats had Clostridium difficile contamination while another 4% contained strains of staph bacteria that were resistant to antibiotics and an alarming 27% tested positive for E-coli. The sampling was undoubtedly done on a very small scale but it does bring out the importance of only buying pet treats from reputable manufacturers.

Furthermore, you have to exercise the same degree of caution when handling bull pizzle treats, raw hide chew toys and any other form of recreational products for canines that are made from uncooked offal or organs as you would with raw meat.

Wash your hands after touching these chew treats and people who have compromised immune systems should not be handling them. So, children, seniors and pregnant women should not touch bully sticks or any other chew toy that is made from animal product.

The by-product debate!

An astonishing 70% of the pet owners who bought bull pizzle treats for their dogs were against using any toy or food that contains animal by products. Here is the truth- bully stick is all animal by product. So, if you have a problem about feeding your pooch bits of flesh and bones that are not suitable for human consumption, then this would not be the right product for you.

• Bull pizzle toys are available in two versions: smoked and dried. The smoking is more to mask the stench of the product than to induce a flavor that will meet your dog’s approval. So, if smell is a problem, smoke dried products would be the best.
• Also, pick bully sticks that have been manufactured in a USDA approved/inspected facility. This way you can be sure about their quality and safety.
• Check the product label to get information on the source of the raw material. Reputable manufacturers will have no qualms about admitting the country from which the pizzle is bought. New Zealand, Brazil and Australia remain top choices for their free ranch raised cattle. If not on the pack, the manufacturer should offer clarification pertaining to this on their website.
• Make sure that no artificial preservatives, color or flavoring has been used.
• Choose bull pizzle which is thicker and denser than steer pizzle.

For how long can you expect bull pizzle treats to last?

You should buy the thick 4 inch bully stick for larger breeds but even then a 50 lb dog would go through a 12 inch bully stick in about an hour or two. If you have a very powerful and aggressive chewer it can all be gone in under half an hour. But, if you are talking about a tiny pooch like the Yorkshire Terrier, it will be at least one week before the canine gets done chewing a 6 inch stick.

How do bully sticks compare with other chew treats including raw hide chews?

Generally, dog chews can be divided into 5 categories:

  • Synthetic
  • Bully sticks
  • Raw hide chews
  • Treats made from other parts of the animal besides pizzle
  • bones

Synthetics: These are never a good option; we all know nothing good can come from feeding your dog plastic and rubber. Although these toys are quite resilient but you simply do not want to risk your pet biting off a piece and swallowing it.

Depending on how big this piece is and what it is made of, it can cause internal organ damage, choking and intestinal block. In contrast, pizzle meat is easily digestible and even nutritious. So, there would be no problems even if your pooch were to chew down and eat the whole stick.

Raw hide chews: Raw hide is a misnomer of sorts because there is nothing raw about the skin used to make these chews. In fact, it is a byproduct of the tanning industry that is dried and twisted to make the chews. These are often flavored with liver or chicken and bleached or colored. Also, the chemicals that are used to separate the outer skin of the animal from the tough, thick hide on the inside remain in the tissue.

Even if you were to discount toxicity, these toys pose other health hazards. There are scores of horror stories relating to the use of these products. At best, the pooch gets away with a mild diarrhea but there have even been cases when dogs have died. Some of the risks associated with raw hide chews include:

• Choking
• Diarrhea
• Seizures
• Vomiting
• Incontinence
• Gum bleeding
• Heavy panting
• Swollen cecum
• Foaming
• Pacing
• Intestinal obstruction
• Stomach bloating due to stomach twisting
• Mouth warts

With bully sticks you don’t have to worry about your pet inevitably ingesting chemical contaminants. Also, the risk of choking is lower as the fibrous meat is hard to cut into pieces that would be large enough to cause choking.

Bony treats: Bones make for good chews along with antlers and they last a long time. Cattle tail and spine are also a crunchy option that your canine friends will appreciate. But, as stated above, the risk here is of sharp pieces of the bones getting lodged in the stomach and causing internal bleeding.

With bull pizzle dog treats, there are no bone shards to worry about. However, if a small piece of the meat is swallowed whole, your pet might vomit. Also, frozen bones can start harboring bacteria very quickly which can pose further health hazard.

Raw meat treats: From lungs and tripe to intestines and ears, all are used to manufacture these treats. Although they are safe, like bully sticks, they are calorie dense and they turn into soft mush with just a few minutes of chewing. So, these are not enough to keep an aggressive chewer engrossed for a long time.

Also, too many of these and your pet will definitely pack in a few extra pounds and there is the risk of bacterial contamination. Moreover, pig and cattle ears are the spot of hormone implant injections and these chemicals will make their way into your dog’s system through these treats.

Bully sticks, which also qualify as raw meat treats, have several of the same risks associated with them. However, they do tend to last longer; hence, the calorific takeaway is lower than that of other raw meat treats.

Fully edible treats: These are safe and generally made from milk,  compressed vegetables and even a peanut butter made specifically for dogs. However, they are more appropriate for dogs with dental problems. A regular canine will get through these chews at an alarming rate of one per minute. So, these are certainly not a good choice if you want a toy that holds your dog’s interest.

Ensuring that your pet has a safe and good time with bully sticks!

• Regardless of the chew treats you are using, never allow an unsupervised chewing session, not even with bull pizzle dog treats. If you cannot be around, take the toy away.
• Like other raw meat treats, bully stick will get soft as your pooch chews away at it. If you want the stick to last or are not sure if the dog will try to swallow the whole thing down, just take it away and let it dry or discard.
• If less than 2 inches of the bull pizzle is sticking out of the dog’s mouth on each side, the piece is too small and can result in choking, take it away.
• Even if you have an extremely obedient and well-behaved dog on your hands, never underestimate how the animal may react to your attempts at stopping the chew-fest. You certainly do not want young children to handle these bully sticks or take them away from your pet.
• Never allow two dogs to enjoy their bull pizzle chew treats too close to each other; the stealing and growling sessions may quickly take a turn for the worse.
• Finally, dogs do salivate a lot when enjoying their chewy treats, including bully sticks. So, your new carpet is certainly not the area where you should be indulging your pooch with these toys.

The bottom line is that bully sticks do make for good chews if you can get past the psychological barrier of feeding them to your dogs. As with all other products, it is best to buy your bull pizzle dog treats from a reputable manufacturer and check the expiry dates and the turnover time to ensure you are not buying a product that has been left on the shelves for too long.

Yes, the smell can be revolting but most pet owners are willing to put up with the inconvenience just to make their pooches happy. These products are fairly safe and natural and have one of the lowest levels of risk associated with recreational canine products.