In today’s “big box” pet stores, there are thousands of dog treats you can choose from. Some are designed for chewing while others are easily ingested “snack foods.” While pet parents comb the aisles for that perfect treat, many wonder “what are these made of?”
This is especially true in the wake of contaminated chews making dogs sick and with owners wanting their furry kids to eat the same quality food that they do.
One of the most popular chew treats on the market is the Bully Stick. Bully sticks have been used as dog treats for many decades. Bully sticks are also known as “pizzles” or “pizzle sticks”. The word “pizzle” is an old English word for “penis” and that is exactly what bully sticks are made of!
Most bully sticks are made from the penis of beef bulls. Once the penis is harvested, the fibrous muscles are stretched, woven or twisted and then cooked. Drying and smoking are the most popular ways to prepare pizzle sticks.
Before you think “ew, gross!” pizzles have been eaten by humans for thousands of years. They are high in protein, vitamins and minerals. In Asia, pizzles are dried and then ground into medicinal powders. Others are cooked fresh into soups.
The Chinese Olympic Team even used dried Scottish deer pizzles as stamina-boosting snacks during the 2008 summer games!
Bully sticks come in a variety of sizes- from thin (10/16th of an inch in diameter) to jumbo (>1.5 inch in diameter). Owners should select bully sticks based on the diameter and length that is most appropriate for the size of their dog. Most are about 40 inches long before they are cut into dog chew-appropriate sizes.
The majority on the market in North America are sourced from US or South American cattle. Water buffalo pizzles from India and China are also available. There has been some concern in recent years about bacterial contamination in improperly prepared bully sticks imported from Asia.
Most dog lovers prefer US-grown and processed bully sticks because they think that they are more likely to be prepared properly and of better quality.
Most bully sticks are delicious treats for dogs, but not for everyone. The shape and hardness of the sticks can be a choking or impalement hazard for certain dogs – especially puppies. Bully sticks are ideal for dogs that like to take their time chewing treats into tiny bits.
Dogs that tend to “gulp” their food or treats may be more likely to choke or experience an intestinal blockage. Consumption of too many bully sticks can cause stomach upset and pancreatitis. Veterinary dental experts report that bully sticks don’t adequately clean dogs’ teeth and some can be too hard – potentially leading to broken teeth.
However, when properly selected bully sticks can really satisfy your dog’s natural need to chew. Always remember to supervise your dog when he is enjoying any toy or chew – regardless of the type.