The Truth About Bully Sticks for Dogs (by Jo the Vet)

Can dogs digest bully sticks

Bully sticks for dogs seem to be all the rage, but did you know what they really are? Beef or steer pizzle (penis)! So many people have no idea, and while it might be something that grosses you out, your dog certainly won’t complain. So maybe you’re thinking, why would you want to buy something like this? What are the benefits for your dog? And are there any risks?

In this article, we will explore both the benefits and the controversies of this unusual treat, so you can make an informed decision whether it’s a good choice for your dog.

Table of Contents

What are Bully Sticks?

Bully sticks are made from beef or steer penis which has been stretched and twisted, before being dried. The drying process is usually through dehydration, however sometimes they are baked or smoked instead.

Some will also have been treated with chemicals or irradiated to kill off harmful bacteria.

Once fully dry, they are cut into 6-, 12- or 30-inch pieces and packaged, ready to feed your dog as a treat.

Benefits of Bully Sticks for Dogs

Oral Health Benefits of Bull Pizzles

One of the main benefits that attract pet parents to bully sticks are the oral health benefits. Bully sticks are pretty tough, and will give even strong chewing dogs a good 30 minutes of chewing time. Smaller dogs may even get a few hours or days out of a bully stick. All that chewing is great for teeth, due to the mechanical abrasion which helps remove tartar.

Mental Health Benefits of Pizzle Sticks

In addition to that, chewing and licking stimulates a release of endorphins, which reduce anxiety and provide loads of mental stimulation. So if you have a dog with phobias or separation anxiety, bully sticks (or any long lasting chew for that matter) could help them.

Nutritional Information for Bully Sticks

Bully sticks are pretty nutritious. They are primarily made up of protein (around 80-90%, and are low in fat (approximately 3%) and low in cholesterol.


Feeding Guide

Pizzles should only be given as part of a balanced diet. And since they make up a large percentage of daily calories, are not suitable as a daily treat. You might therefore wish to just give bully sticks on special occasions, or alternatively give a maximum of one or two a week. But remember, those calories need to be taken from somewhere, so on the days your dog gets a bully stick, give him less food in his bowl.

Are Bully Sticks Safe for Dogs?

Bacterial contamination

Dogs have much stronger stomach than humans, and can tolerate bacterial contamination to some degree. However, sometimes it can cause stomach upsets, and symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. This can be avoided by buying bully sticks from reputable companies, who put them through some form of processing and manufacture dog treats in a hygienic establishment.

As well as being highly calorific, bully sticks have gained some bad press for being contaminated with bacteria. Naturally, any product which is ‘all-natural’ will have had minimal processing, which means harmful bacteria can still remain on it. The more processed it is (for example, irradiation, baking at a high heat, or using chemicals to sanitise it), the safer it is from contamination. But those processes take away from the fact that one of the most common reasons why people like bully sticks is that they are natural.

So if you’re going to be giving your dog bully sticks, remember to wash your hands afterwards, and sanitise where they ate, as these bacteria can cause serious illness in young, old and immune-compromised individuals.


When a pizzle stick becomes small enough to swallow whole, it becomes a hazard. If it reaches the stomach, it shouldn’t cause a problem, as they are fully digestible. However, prior to the stomach it can become lodged in the throat, which can cause serious choking incidents. Therefore, when it becomes small, take the last bit away.

Beef Allergies

Bully sticks are made up mainly of protein, so if your dog suffers with beef allergies, it will certainly cause adverse effects.

Avoid If…

In addition to these risks, since bully sticks are very high in calories, they should not be given to dogs who are overweight.

Are Bully Sticks Unpleasant to Have in the House?

Most bully sticks for dogs stink! The very natural, unprocessed ones have an extremely strong odour to them, and you will most certainly want your dog to eat it outside only. However, some bully stick producers claim they have no odour. These ones will have been more processed, and once chewed will still smell, although to a lesser degree. However, they will be significantly more tolerable than the most natural ones.

Read more  Anxious Pup? Here’s How to Calm Dogs With Anxiety

Alternatives to Bully Sticks

Thinking about buying your dog bully sticks, but not fully sold on the idea? Here are some alternatives which you might want to think about:

  • Deer antlers: These are great for chewing on to improve dental health, relieve boredom and reduce anxiety. Since they aren’t ingested, they are a wonderful fat-free option to bully sticks.

  • Ostrich tendons: If you’re looking for a consumable chew, ostrich tendons are long in size, like bully sticks, and help improve dental health. They last a similar amount of time as bully sticks, and are also packed full of protein.

  • Raw Meaty Bones (RMBs): A study at Rutgers University showed that raw meaty bones reduced oral bacteria by 79%, which is excellent compared to the respectable 60.2% which bully sticks reduced bacteria. Therefore will significantly improve your dog’s dental health. Bones pose a risk of intestinal damage and obstructions though. This risk is less if they are raw, but still there is a risk.

  • Yakers: Originally from the Himalayas, these milk sticks are compressed blocks of yak milk which have been smoke-dried for about a month. They are completely natural, incredibly durable and excellent for dental health. Nevertheless, much like bully sticks, they are not suitable for overweight dogs due to their fat content


— Update: 28-02-2023 — found an additional article What if My Dog Swallowed a Bully Stick? from the website for the keyword can dogs digest bully sticks.

Dogs always rub their tongue on their lips when they see bully sticks around them. To dogs, it is not only a delicious meal but also healthy since the nubs  are easy to digest and prepared naturally. Usually dogs eat food like bully sticks by chewing it down. But the tendency of swallowing a full bully stick is also found in some dogs’ eating habits.

Therefore,   ‘what if my dog swallowed  bully sticks without chewing it?  Will it die choking?   Bully sticks contain high levels of protein so they are not hard to digest for many dogs. But not all dogs are capable of handling the hazard while swallowing a full bully stick. It can result in serious breathing issues, intestinal complexity, sore or swollen throat and many more. In fact, if it becomes extreme the risk of losing your buddy mightn’t be an exception.

The rest of the content will let you know more facts regarding bully sticks and how you can save your dog if it swallows bully sticks.

What are Bully Sticks?

Bully also known as pizzles, steer sticks or pizzle sticks  are single ingredient treats which are meant for dogs. Many people aren’t aware that a bully treat is indeed a Steer pizzle (Penis).

Can dogs digest bully sticks

However, this beef has been twisted, stretched and finally dried before being sold. When drying the bully stick, it undergoes dehydration, however some bully stick makers bake and smoke theirs.

For those transporting to far places, they usually treat their bully sticks with chemicals for preservation and killing harmful bacteria.

Bully Sticks are also excellent treats which keep your dogs nibbling for the whole day. Infact, if you have an aggressive dog with anger issues, you should buy one for him and watch him sweat himself out trying to eat the meal.

Bully Sticks limit dental caries in your dogs due to its nutrients. Once the bully stick is ready, they are usually cut into 5,10 or 20 inch pieces which makes it ready for your dog.

Are Bully Sticks Digestible If Swallowed?

Many dog owners are concerned if bully sticks are easily Digestible when swallowed. Yes, Bully Sticks are easily Digestible when swallowed.

For complete explanation, bully sticks are protein treats which are easily Digestible and consumed by dogs in big quantities. Though bully sticks can be easily digested, it is vital for dog owners to supervise their dog properly because  dogs react differently.

Can dogs digest bully sticks

Specifically,  whether swallowing large bully sticks is an issue for your dogs or not depends on your dog eating style . For instance, if you owned a dog having a blurry past; grown in the street, abused, suffered food scarcity might have a tendency of devouring food hastily until you train it to fix the eating style. Devouring food, like bully sticks, therefore might be an issue for your dog in this case. Apart from this, a well trained dog used to take their meal steadily and enjoy chewing to swallow. So, swallowing food, even a large bully stick is safe for them with  some exceptions.

Benefits of Giving Your Dog Bully Sticks

Bully stick have many advantages for dogs especially when compared to other close substitutes :

Can dogs digest bully sticks

Bully Sticks are natural and Last long

Bully Sticks are natural beef with many important nutrients which your dog can enjoy. It is also a good treat for dogs who want a meal that doesn’t finish quickly.

Bully Sticks can be consumed anyhow

Your dog can eat, chew or break bully sticks anyhow they like. It breaks down easily in the dog stomach and doesn’t cause upset in the guts unlike rawhide. Even dogs with dental issues can consume the bully sticks as meals.

Easy digestion processes

Bully Sticks can be digested easily unlike rawhide and other alternative dog chews like Pig ears. Although they look strong, they are easy to digest.

Health benefits for your teeth

They are good canine meals for your teeth. When chewing bully sticks, they cause some friction in the teeth which helps in removing plaque and tartar which are known to affect dog dental structure.

Good protein source

Bully Sticks are an excellent source for protein which dogs need to be active. This low-fat dog treat is an ideal choice for overweight dogs who want to keep their shape.

Safe food meals in the market

Bully Sticks are regarded as the most populous and healthiest beef for dogs in the world. They don’t have chemicals and bacteria which might cause problems for your dogs. Young puppies with good dental who can’t chew rawhide can consume bully sticks.

How Are Bully Sticks Processed?

There isn’t a single manufacturing process for bully sticks because they are different, however, they are drained from beef fluids and dried before cooking. There are many methods used to treat them and reach the standards they wish.

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Can dogs digest bully sticks

Bully Sticks are prepared in several ways, however the common ones are smoked and baked. These bully sticks can be gotten in several shapes and sizes according to your dog preferences.

Like many natural beefs, they have a unique odor which appeals to your dog, however, it might be pungent for our nose. Bully Sticks are exposed to heat and water to make their Odor more pleasant when dried.

What To Do If Your Dog Swallowed A Bully Stick?

When your dog eventually swallows a bully stick, here is the step-by-step process to follow.

Step 1: Check your puppy’s mouth and airway

The first thing to do if your dog swallows a bully stick is to swiftly check the canine mouth to make sure the beef isn’t wedged between its throat and oral cavity.

Some dogs are smart and will cheek a goodie because they don’t want to share the beef, ensuring you check the mouth thoroughly.

Step 2: Pull the tongues and scan the whole oral cavity

Get rid of debris and perform a doggie Heimich. If there is a bully stick stuck in its mouth, try and use your fingers to remove it. Please be careful not to push it further inside and avoid bites from the dog.

If your help fails, change to the canine Heimich method by moving behind the dog and wrapping your fingers behind it’s abdomen and squeeze tightly. Luckily, the pressure might help remove the stuck bully stick.

Step 3: Cleaning the area

If you are successful with the dog Heimich, try to get rid of all uneaten bully sticks to avoid further consumption. It won’t be ideal to aggravate the issue by allowing injection of more bully hides in the stomach.

Step 4: Contact your Vet

After cleaning the area, immediately place a call to your Vet especially if the bully stick swallowed is a big one. This is vital especially if your dog has some preexisting health challenges.

The Vet will be able to diagnose and monitor your dog’s health issues to prevent further problems in the future.

Step 5: Monitor your Mutt

When your Veterinary doctor suggests a ‘wait and see’ health procedure, keep calm and watch your pup to ensure he will act normally. You should note if there are any noticeable changes in his eating and drinking habits.

Step 6: Be ready for anything

If peradventure there are complications in eating or behavioral moods, then it’s time you visit the vet clinic immediately to take care of the emergency.

Step 7: Be watchful for the next few days

This might be arduous and unpleasant, but it’s absolutely necessary to ensure all bully stick dislodge has been removed successfully.

You will begin to notice that your dog might excrete small bits of the bully stick or large portions depending on the medication given to him by the Vet. When stooling if there are traces of blood or mucor in the feces, call your Vet immediately.

Also, if your dog doesn’t excrete but is constipating, this means there is a bowel disturbance, call your Vet right away.

How to  Give Your Dog a Bully Stick Safely?

To give your dog bully stick safely, you can use the right bully stick holders. They come in various styles and types.

Firstly, you can use the Rubbery Quizel bully stick holder because it is flexible and shaped like a bone. This bully stick holder can keep your bully stick in place.

Can dogs digest bully sticks

Furthermore, consider the Animal Swizzler. This is also another great stick holder because it offers a good grip for all bully sticks.

Another good option is the Bully Buddy. It helps the dog take a firm grip and avoid swallowing the leftover. Also the Bone head can suffice. This isn’t a bully stick holder but a pet toy which screws around the bully meal tight areas.

Using a Everchew which is a good meat holder which has a pin which can hold the pin in place and helps prevent the dog from swallowing the bully stick.

Finally, consider using Hacks If your budget is tight and you don’t want to spend money on beef holders, get hacks. You can place pliers on the edges of the bully stick to prevent it from being swallowed.


When enquiries are made from pet owners who ask : What if my dog swallowed a bully stick? Getting the right solution to help them is important.

Bully Sticks are treats which provide good nutrients for dogs. They aren’t easy to eat but they can easily digest, especially for mature dogs.

Puppies might have some difficulties swallowing the bully sticks. When your dog swallows a bully stick, there are some step by step processes you should immediately take, to forestall any problems it might cause for your pets.

These steps include examining the dog mouth and performing the dog heimlich procedure to get rid of the remove the dog treat if stuck.

Giving your dog the bully stick can be done using a beef holder and hacks to prevent dogs swallowing the bully stick.

— Update: 18-03-2023 — found an additional article Will Bully Sticks Digest Safely in Your Dog’s Stomach? from the website for the keyword can dogs digest bully sticks.

Bully sticks are a favorite treat among dogs, but they can also be a source of worry for some pet owners. What if your dog swallowed a bully stick? Will it cause choking?

Will bully sticks digest?

Yes, bully sticks will digest easily if swallowed by your dog. They are created from bull muscles, specifically bull penis, a type of protein that dogs can easily absorb. In order to give it safely, you need to be mindful of the size and keep an eye on them while they are chewing to prevent them from swallowing.

In this post, you will learn more about the potential dangers and what you can do if your dog does swallow one.

Do Bully Sticks Digest if Swallowed?

Can dogs digest bully sticks

Bully sticks are very safe, and are highly digestible if swallowed. I can’t promise you it won’t have any bad effects on your doggo though.

I understand bully sticks can be too irresistible to your four-legged friends and there might be instances when they are accidentally ingested.

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If your pup doesn’t show any signs of a stomach problem, swallowing bully sticks won’t cause any digestive issues.

The proteins in bully sticks make them easily digestible.

On the other hand, if it is showing signs of distress, further action will be required from you (I’ll discuss more on this later).

So although bully sticks DO digest when swallowed, you still gotta be careful to avoid serious troubles such as choking or intestinal blockages with your dog.

Can Bully Sticks Get Stuck In A Dog’s Stomach?

A bully stick can be digested, but when swallowed accidentally, it CAN get stuck in a dog’s stomach.

This happens when the treat is still large enough to cause blockage.

Dogs with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues might struggle more so than a regular dog in this case.

This is why you need to remember the advice given earlier: Supervision.

How Long Does It Take For Bully Sticks To Digest?

Both the size of the dog and the size of the bully stick can affect how long it takes for a dog to digest a bully stick.

However, as a very rough guide, it normally takes dogs of all sizes 3 hours to completely digest a bully stick.

In order to prevent your dog from ingesting huge chunks of bully sticks that might take longer to digest, it’s necessary to keep an eye on them while they are chewing and to be careful about the size of bully sticks you offer them.

What Can Happen If My Dog Swallows A Bully Stick?

Can dogs digest bully sticks

A lot OR nothing can happen if your dog swallows a bully stick.

Yes, bully sticks can be digested by your doggies, but they might experience problems if they did so.

If your dog swallowed a bully stick, it might result in difficulty breathing.

Well, what would you expect with a chunk of dog chews lodged in your throat, right?

Your dog may also suffer from a swollen throat if the bully stick gets lodged in its airway. Choking will follow until your dog can barely breathe.

And if I’m being completely honest, it can also lead to your fur buddy’s death.

I KNOW! That’s how dangerous swallowing bully sticks can be.

But this is hardly always the case.

Most times, dogs swallow a bully stick and nothing bad happens.

They tend to happen when the bully stick is already too small to cause any trouble.

Nonetheless, better be safe than sorry so keep your eyes on your doggies.

What To Do If My Dog Swallowed A Bully Stick?

On the occasion that your dog has managed to swallow a bully stick, follow these steps on what to do:

Examine the Doggy’s Mouth

Is the bully stick lodged in the dog’s throat? If yes, it will block its airway.

Do not try to remove it with your fingers or a tool like a tweezer as you might accidentally worsen the situation.

You should send your dog to an emergency vet in this case.

Perform the Heimlich Method

Assuming that your dog is choking violently, time is of the essence.

Before sending it to the vet, you may have to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your dog.

The way to do it is similar to how you would use it on a human.

I suggest getting yourself acquainted with the method through this video:

Keep More Bully Sticks Away From Your Dog

It won’t help if your dog has easy access to the bully sticks.

Always store them in containers and out of reach of your dog, and small children if I may add.

Ring Up the Vet

Calling your vet won’t be necessary if the bully stick was small. 

But if your dog has swallowed a bigger size, you gotta ring your vet up and tell them what happened. 

This is to avoid complications that you definitely won’t want your dog to go through.

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Swallowing A Bully Stick?

I think the most basic thing you can do to prevent your dog from swallowing a bully stick is to remain watchful.

You have to supervise your dog when it’s enjoying a bully stick.

This way, you can easily jump into action if your dog is about to swallow the bully stick.

So owners give their dogs a bully stick every day, which naturally increases the risks (easily mitigated as long as you keep an eye out).

Plus, you gotta remember to replace the bully stick with a new one if it becomes a choking hazard.

Personally, I use a bully stick holder that can hold the bully stick away from your dog’s mouth when it gets too small too.

How Long Should I Let My Dog Chew On A Bully Stick?

Let your doggy enjoy chewing on a bully stick for ten minutes max.

This is enough time for him or her to relish its favorite dog chew.

You should follow this ten-minute rule to avoid unfavorable consequences to your furbaby’s health.

Chewing on a bully stick for too long will make your pup suffer from stomach aches thanks to the high amounts of protein that a bully stick has.

It might also damage your dog’s teeth and gums when taken too far.

What Can I Give My Dog Instead Of Bully Sticks?

Keep your doggies occupied with something healthy yet irresistible aside from bully sticks. 

Here are a few good ideas:

  • Buffalo ears: You can buy these crunchy dog chews from your favorite pet store
  • Carrots: It’s a staple in many homes and it doubles up as a wonderful treat for your doggies to enjoy something crunchy, and delicious!
  • Dental chews: These are specially designed chews that can help clean teeth and freshen breath

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In Conclusion: Will Bully Sticks Digest?

There’s quite a lot of information in this post, but the bottom line is, bully sticks digest very easily and generally will not cause any problems for your dog if ingested.

Unless it shows signs of discomfort or other symptoms like vomiting or choking, your dog will be fine.

Here are a few more articles about bully sticks that you might like:

  • Can too much bully stick cause diarrhea?
  • What to do with the end of a bully stick?
  • Are bully sticks low fat?
  • Can bully sticks go bad?
  • Can Bully Sticks Replace Food?


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About the Author: Tung Chi