Best Bully Sticks: What are Bully Sticks made From?

23 Minute Read
 | Amy Dyck
Updated March 17, 2021

Bully sticks are a popular natural treatment for dogs, but what are the best bully sticks made of, really? Are bully sticks safe for dogs? Should you be feeding your dog bully sticks? Could they be potentially harmful to your dog (and you, too)? Read on to find out what best bully sticks are and what benefits or harm they may cause for your dog.

What are Bully Sticks Made Of?

bully sticks for dogs

We're going to address the elephant in the room right off the bat: bully sticks are made from bull penises. What!?!?! Yep, you read correctly. Because of this, bully sticks are a single-ingredient product that are made 100% natural and are a safer alternative to rawhide chews. In terms of size, there are small 4-6” bull sticks from steers all the way up to 12-18" bully chews from much larger bulls.

What's in a name? Would a Bully sticks by any other name still... well, you get the idea. There are many names for best bully sticks, so you may have been giving your dog this healthy, grass-fed cattle treat without even realizing it. Here are some other popular names for best bully sticks for dogs:

    • bull sticks
    • bully bites
    • bull pizzle sticks
    • pizzles
    • bull pizzle
    • steer sticks

Best Bully Sticks Keep your Dog Busy

Being that they are longer-lasting natural chews, similar to rawhide, the best bully sticks can come in handy for nearly any dog owner. Since they take a long time to naturally chews down, sticks are probably not very good for dog treat training, which works best when they are small and quick to consume.

But they are excellent as distraction treats and favourable for heavy chewers. Additionally, you want to do your research if you are a puppy owner, working to find the best bully sticks for dogs of all ages.

If you have a dog that acts out in destructive behaviour caused by boredom or anxiety, you should try giving him a stick. Avoid rewarding bad behaviour by offering the sticks after the negative behaviour is displayed. Instead, act preventatively.

If your dog gets destructive when you are leaving them home alone, then offer the best bully sticks while you are preparing to leave.

This will give them something to focus on while you go through your normal routine for departure. If you are not comfortable leaving the chew with your dog unsupervised, then it's best to remove the natural chews before you leave the house single ingredient. 

An almost universally appealing chew, the best bully sticks are distracting enough for any dog and provide a positive outlet for your dog while you are busy with something else. No more chewed furniture, no more whining - at least for a little while! 


How are Bully Sticks Made?

what are bully sticks made of

How Are Dog Pizzle Sticks Processed?

Though manufacturing processes differ, best bully sticks are generally drained of any fluids and then cooked in various ways, and then air-dried. As with most things, manufacturers all have different treatment methods and standards. While they can be prepared in a number of different ways, bully sticks are most commonly smoked or baked with single ingredients.

Bully sticks for dogs are available in a variety of different shapes and sizes to suit different types of dogs.  Switch up the shapes and styles that you offer to keep the experience engaging and fun. Are bully sticks ok for dogs?

Like most natural dog chews, they have a bully bites distinct odour, and while your dog may adore it, it can be a little too pungent for our delicate nostrils. To help us tolerate the chew better, an odour-reduced alternative is available.

Odour-reduced best bully sticks are created through careful handling of the raw materials. Their exposure to the heat and moisture in their raw state impacts their level of odour when they are dried. 

Beef Free Bully Sticks

Need a beef-free bully stick for your dog with beef allergies or sensitivities? Dog treats like bully sticks also come in bison. Due to frequent supply shortages, especially in Canada, these can be a lot more expensive than beef bully sticks and difficult to find.

Also, while a delicious chew for dogs, bison bully sticks can have a stronger natural odour than beef bully sticks do. You might be better off with a different kind of natural chew, like a Kangaroo Tail or a Pig Ear, to avoid your dog's known allergies.


Are Bully Sticks Better Than Rawhides?

better then rawhide

There are definite advantages to choosing bully sticks over rawhide, especially in terms of safety. The Best Bully Sticks are:

    • All-natural, long-lasting dog treats.
    • Completely edible - They can be consumed or chewed up, and they break down quickly in the stomach rather than causing swelling in the gut (as rawhide sometimes can).
    • Easier to digest than rawhide - Rawhide and other high-fat natural chews can be difficult to digest or cause stomach upset.
    • Very good for the dog dental health - In the chewing process, bully sticks cause abrasion of the teeth, which aids in removing plaque and tartar build-up on the tooth surface.
    • Very low in carbohydrates - They are single-ingredient and primarily protein, so they do not cause contribute to oral or gut bacteria growth and don't contain simple sugars that can lead to unwanted weight gain.
    • Low in fat - Combined with the high protein content, this makes them an ideal treat for overweight dogs.
    • The most popular and safest dog treats available on the market.
    • Safe for puppies - Even young puppies, which are advised not to chew rawhides, can chew bully sticks. They can help puppies through the teething stage and reduce destructive chewing behaviours.* 
*Always monitor your puppy when chewing. Puppies have a tendency to gulp their food, and any natural chew can be a choking risk. 

Check out Rawhide Alternatives for even more natural chews that are safer than rawhides. 


Are Bully Sticks a Good Chew for Dogs?

Are Bully Sticks a Good Chew for Dog?

Bully Sticks or bull pizzle are a good chew for your dog if:

    • Your dog is underweight or overweight or wants to maintain its current healthy weight. High in protein, bull sticks support muscle development and maintenance, as well as healthy weight loss.
    • You are looking for a quality chew, not just the cheapest chew you can buy.
    • Your dog has no beef bully stick sensitivities or allergies. (see Beef-free Bully Sticks)
    • You are looking for more ways to improve your dog’s dental health easily.
    • You are concerned about the safety of rawhide for puppies and dogs of all ages.
    • Your dog has no serious dental health issues that might make chewing painful.
    • Your dog loves to chew!

How Long Do Bully Sticks Last?

How long do bully sticks last?

Wondering how long a bully stick will last your dog? Well, we can't really tell you that. 

No Dog is the Same. All dogs have different eating habits. Determining how long it will take for any one dog to chew through a bully stick depends on many factors:

Bully Stick Size Matters

Buy Your Dog’s Bully Stick According to Size

Size isn't the only factor to consider, but it is a very important one. Dogs with more powerful jaws will have less trouble breaking down a bull stick - some need less than an hour. The key is to buy the size and shape of the chewy bully sticks that are made appropriate to the size and strength of your dog's jaw.

A large or giant breed dog, or an especially powerful chewer, should be grass-fed beef bully stick to ensure that the stick will last a longer period of time. A small, medium breed or senior pet might only require a thin stick to occupy them for several hours or even days.

The shape of the stick will also affect how fast it’s eaten. Standard straight bully sticks are the most popular, but dogs can learn how to break them down quickly over time. If the dog can’t get its jaw completely around the stick because of the shape, then it will take them longer to break it down.

Extra thick, braided, or curly bull pizzle sticks are examples of single ingredients with more difficult shapes. 

Bully Stick Holders to Make it Last

Many dogs will still chomp their way through a stick rather quickly, no matter the size or shape. For such avid chewers, it can be helpful to use a stick holder to slow them down so that they can enjoy the bully stick for longer.

Using a stick holder can also prevent your dog will love from swallowing the last few inches of the chew whole, which can lead to choking or other dangers. 

Here are a few of our top picks for stick holders:

1. Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Guru Ball

First up, the Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Guru Ball is durable, interactive, and great for mental stimulation. It's designed with four slots to securely hold a stick to make for a fun, entertaining playtime as your natural dog chews, squeezes, and rolls the ball around trying to get it.  

Shop Planet Dog Toys

2. Benebone Pawplexer

Another great option is the Benebone Pawplexer! While your pet can enjoy the Benebone Pawplexer as a stand-alone chew toy, it also makes for an excellent bully stick holder. Made with remarkably strong nylon material and 100% natural bacon, your any-size dogs love the tantalizing flavours while enjoying a little mental stimulation and entertainment 100 beef

3. West Paw Design Qwizl Toy

West Paw Design’s Quizl treat toy is another one of our favourites when it comes to choosing a durable and engaging bully stick holder single ingredient. This Qwizl treat toy is made from Zogoflex, which is a 100% recyclable material that is 100% Guaranteed Tough – in other words, if your dog destroys this holder, the company will replace it with a new one!

Bully stick holders come in different shapes, sizes, and materials. Learn more about choosing the right holder in Best Bully Stick Holders for Dogs That Love to Chew.


Are Bully Sticks Safe?

stick safe for puppies

Bully sticks are a safe and natural chew for puppies and dogs of all ages and sizes. Here are just some of the benefits of chewy bully sticks for dogs:

    • Bully sticks are flavourful, making them irresistible to dogs who will love them.
    • Bully sticks for dogs are high in protein and low in fat.
    • Their composition makes them easy to digest for even the most sensitive stomachs.
    • Bully sticks for dogs are one of the safest natural dog chews for all puppies, topping popular rawhide chews. Although rawhides are all-natural, they are much harder for dogs to digest. Swallowing a large chunk of rawhide could result in blockages, whereas sticks will break apart and pass through the digestive tract more smoothly and highly digestible.
    • Bully sticks for dogs are great for dental health maintenance. The constant contact and abrasion against their teeth promote healthy gums and even scrapes some plaque and tartar off their teeth.
    • Chewy bully sticks for dogs can aid the transition between juvenile and adult teeth, known as teething.

Bully Sticks


Are Bully Sticks Harmful?

You may have heard some unsettling things about bully sticks for dogs in the news or on the internet. While chewy bully sticks for dogs have been the target of some concern with pet owners, many of these concerns can be remedied with appropriate use and additional information. 

It's important to note that any natural dog treat (or toy, for that matter) can be a choking hazard if you are feeding the incorrect size of the treat. Always monitor your pets to ensure that they are chewing properly and safely and not trying to swallow large pieces of the treat. 

Are Bully Sticks Fattening?

Best bully sticks for dogs are actually low in fat, particularly when compared with other natural dog chews, such as pig ears. Generally, they average at around 10% fat content, with about 75-85% protein, though this can vary a lot between brands (pig ears have around 30% fat). This makes them a good choice for pets who need to watch their fat intake single ingredient. However, it is still recommended that you watch your pet's consumption, star rating as bully sticks for dogs love are not low in calories and are irresistible for most dogs!

Bully sticks for dogs can have a lot of calories.  A study of 26 bully sticks found the average 6" bully stick to be about 88 caloric intake, which would be a lot for a small dog or even medium-sized dog to consume in a day. If you aren't cutting back any of your dog's food and just adding on 88 additional calories, it's probably going to start showing excess weight.

However, with a little education, you can give your dog will love the right size bully stick so that he's not overdoing it on dog treats and packing on pounds.

Dog treats should account for no more than 10% of your dog's daily calories. All rights reserved Use this table to find out how big (approximately) of a bully stick your dog will love can eat in a day without going over that 10%.

What Size Bully Stick Should I Feed My Dog?

An odour-free bully stick is moderately dense in calories, but the quality of those calories is high. Best bully sticks for dogs are predominantly protein, which dogs use as a primary source of energy.

Bully sticks for dogs, all rights reserved, while low in fat, do have between 9-22 calories per inch. So if your dog is eating more than a single ingredient he should per day, as with any treat or even his food, he will likely gain weight.

We've created a table for some of the most popular breeds and which bull stick we would recommend as a daily treat. In the study of 26 bully sticks, they were found to range from 9-22kcal/inch.

We've averaged that to a mean of 15.5kcal/inch, but if you know the calorie content of your specific treat (use with any treat), you can simply divide your dog's daily treat calorie allowance by the number of calories in the treat you are feeding, and you get the number of treats you can feed your dog per day.

Remember: This accounts for ALL dog treats that your dog eats in a day. Not just bully sticks.

Recommended Treat Calories and Bully Stick Portion Per Day

Yorkshire Terrier, Chihuahua >7 17.5 1"/day
Miniature Dachshund <11 16-22 1-1.5"/day

Miniature Poodle, Shih Tzu, Pug

9-18 23-38 1-2.5"/day
Standard Dachshund, Beagle 16-32 34-60 2-4"/day
Bulldog 40-50 50-75 3-5"/day
Labrador Retriever, Boxer 50-80 60-120 4-8"/day
German Shepherd 75-95 130-165 8-10.5"/day
Rottweiler 85-135 108-302+ 9-15"/day
Mastiff 120-180 156-305+ 10-20"/day

* These are estimates based on the average thickness of bully sticks (sometimes called a regular or medium bully stick). If thicker bully sticks are offered, like a large or jumbo bully stick, then portions should be reduced. 

Other Factors That Influence Calorie Needs

This table is just an estimate of your adult dog's approximate treat calorie needs. There are many other factors that influence how much your dog needs to eat every day:

      • Pregnancy/Lactation: Bitches who are pregnant, all rights reserved, particularly those after 4 weeks of pregnancy, and those who are nursing puppies can require between 2 and 8 times the resting energy requirements (RER) of average dogs. 
      • Puppies: Puppies, particularly those in the first 4 months of life, require between 2 and 3 the RER of average adult dogs.
      • Neutered/Intact: Neutered dogs require less energy than intact dogs.
      • Sick/Injured/Recovering: Dogs that are sick, injured, recovering from illness, or those who have certain medical conditions often require more calories than healthy dogs for proper health restoration pig ears.
      • Seasonal:  Nutritional needs change with the seasons, particularly for dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors. Not as many calories are needed in the summer as opposed to the colder winter months. 
      • Working: Working dogs require anywhere from 2 to 5 times the RER of typical adult dogs, depending on their activity level. 
      • Weight Loss/Gain: Overweight and obese dogs love to need fewer calories if they want to lose weight. If you want your dog to lose weight, all rights reserved portion his calories based on what his ideal weight would be. Obese pets may need to set a target less than their current weight rather than their ideal weight and decrease portions slowly to maintain good health. Similarly, pets who are underweight should set their calorie needs based on the weight they want to reach, not their current weight pig ears. 

If you look at the big picture of your dog's health, as long as he is staying within his calorie requirements for the week, his weight maintenance should stay on track. For example, if your beagle eats a whole bully stick in one day, it should not be a single ingredient major disruptor to his nutrition or weight maintenance if he's cutting back on other days in that week.

Rotate dog treats throughout the week to help balance the calories. Feeding a stick can be balanced by feeding a lower-calorie dog treat the next, such as whole, fresh veggies. Make healthy choices and practice moderation for your dog's best nutrition. The variation in his diet is worth it!

Are Bully Sticks Contaminated with Bacteria?


Like any natural treatment, the risk of bacterial contamination is there. A scientific study with a small sampling of 26 different bull pizzle products has confirmed the presence of bacteria (according to this press release) such as Clostridium difficile, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli in a minority of the chewy sticks sampled.

However, your dog's intestinal tract, being much shorter and of a different composition than ours, can handle a lot more bacteria than ours can. Unless really ill, consuming these bacteria is unlikely to affect your dog. 

Should you be concerned about getting infected with these bacteria yourself? Truthfully, not all of these bacterial strains infect people (as stated by scientists conducting the study), and most do not pose a threat to healthy people.

Many of the surfaces we use every day, including our sinks, kitchen counters, sponges, cell phones, and even our skin, are contaminated with the same bacteria, often to a greater extent. 

However, it is always recommended to follow the proper sanitary practices to avoid infection. Always wash your hands before and after giving your dog a natural treat (or dog food, for that matter). Wash well, using friction between your hands, soap, and at least 20 seconds under running water for your best protection against bacteria. 

If you are immuno-compromised, including pregnant women, people on antibiotics, very young children or sick, elderly people, or those with immune-system-compromising illnesses or conditions, get someone else to handle the bull sticks in your house and have your dog enjoy his treat at a reasonable distance.

Do Bully Sticks Contain Animal By-Products?

Best bully sticks for dogs do not contain animal by-products, being a whole food source, but they are technically classified as animal by-products themselves.

Many pet owners avoid buying foods with animal by-products in them for their dogs and cats, but many do not know the nutritional reasoning behind this choice. 

Animal by-products are not all bad. Many include healthful, rich sources of vitamins, minerals, lean protein, and other nutrition. Animal by-products can be some of the healthiest things you can feed your pet, but you need to know what they are and how they are processed.

Animal by-products are any part of an animal that is unfit for human consumption. Things like organ meats, which are highly nutritious for dogs, are animal by-products. While we may not eat them, they are perfectly healthy for dogs and cats to eat. 

The problem with animal by-products as an ingredient in pet food is that they are usually heavily processed or come from questionable sources, making them nearly impossible to judge the quality or nutrition in the final product. 

Bully sticks are a whole, single-ingredient by-products that come from high-quality beef. Other than the cooking process, bully sticks go through minimal processing and don't contain any other ingredients that could affect quality or digestibility. The best bully stick brands will be transparent about where and how their products are sourced. 

Are Bully Sticks Safe to Chew?

bully sticksIf you have a dog that is a very powerful chewer or who likes to quickly rip off pieces of natural dog chews, then you might have some concerns about the safety of this chew.

For the average chewer, the risk of any damage being done is low. Even if your dog does manage to break off a piece and swallow it, he will most likely digest it with no difficulty. 

That being said, it is always recommended to watch your dog with any chew to prevent choking risks. Remove the chew when it becomes too small to reduce the chances that your dog will try to swallow a large chunk.

If you do want to give your dog only a bit of his stick at a time, it's best to give him the entire chew and simply take it away when he's consumed his daily amount.


Best Bully Sticks Canada

As one of the most popular natural dog chew, sticks are not hard to find, but finding the best price and the best quality isn't quite as simple. If you are looking for a long-lasting chew, then you need a more substantial and robust bully stick. 

Look for sticks labelled as large or jumbo, and try to avoid the cheap stuff. The best bully sticks should be mostly solid in the center, meaning they will last longer. Bully sticks that are hollow will be easier for your dog to chew up quickly.

If you are looking for both high-quality, durable, and affordable bully sticks in Canada, then we have just what you need. Here are some of our favourite bully sticks:

Eldon's Free Range Odourless Bully Sticks

Our signature brand, Eldon's, offers a huge variety of healthy, natural, and unique dog chews, including our most popular product, Eldon's Free Range Odourless Bully Sticks. These Brazilian-sourced bully sticks are made from free-range, grass-fed cows. The cows are hormone and antibiotic-free, and the chews are free from preservatives or smoke, making them the most natural dog chew. 

The chews are available in many sizes to suit your dog's chew style. Eldon's Bully Sticks are available in small, regular, large and jumbo sizes. The more you buy, the more you save, so go ahead and stock up on your dog's favourite natural chew!

Red Barn Bully Ring

Choosing the right bully stick isn't just about size. A unique shape can add an additional level of challenge to the chew. Red Barn Bully Rings are a popular choice for small to medium breeds and moderate chewers. Red Barn bully chews are made from free-range, grass-fed cows from Paraguay. 

Puppy Love Beef Cane Junior

We love a good Canadian product! Puppy Love Beef Cane Junior uses Canadian-sourced beef that is free from additives, preservatives, and chemicals. This bully chew is 8-11" in length, but is on the thinner side, making it an ideal chew for less powerful chewers. This is just one of the many shapes you can try. Try the Puppy Love Beef Curly or Beef Twisty Jr, all available in singles or in five packs.

Great Jack's Bully Sticks

Great Jack's is another top Canadian brand that offer high-quality, affordable bully sticks. Great Jack's 5-7" Bully Sticks are odourless and made from grass-fed beef that is never treated with antibiotics, additives, hormones, or preservatives. 

Shop All Bully Sticks


Does your dog love bully sticks? Share a story about how you use bully sticks to keep your dog healthy and engaged. Or tag @homesalivepets in a candid photo of your dog enjoying their favourite natural dog chew! 

Written by

Amy Dyck


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