Bully sticks are dog-safe chews that are endorsed by the AKC. They are said to help keep your dog’s teeth clean while offering endless hours of chewing enjoyment. As they are made from highly digestible beef and nothing else, they are tolerated well by most canines.
When we compare them to other chews and sticks on the market, they are preferred by many owners due to the fact that they rarely splinter. This means they’re less likely to cause damage to the mouth, food pipe, and intestines. However, there are some risks involved with bully sticks that owners must know.
Yes, puppies can have bully sticks, but it’s recommended to wait until they are competent at chewing at around 3-4 months old. Young puppies should be supervised when given a bully stick.
Are Bully Sticks Safe For Puppies?
As a general rule of thumb, older puppies who are confident eaters and who chew well can manage bully sticks. However, they must be eaten under supervision, to ensure you can see that the pup is eating it sensibly and does not get into trouble or start choking.
Rarely, a young pup may attempt to swallow the bully stick whole, which can cause a life-threatening gut obstruction. So, if you see your pup putting the whole stick in its mouth, they may be too young for the chew.
Once the stick is small enough that it can easily fit inside your pup’s mouth, it is time to remove it. Try to do this by offering a higher value item; perhaps their favorite toy or some chicken. This way, they are happy to make the swap and do not feel ‘duped’.
Some owners are concerned their young pup may chip a tooth on the hard bully stick. This can potentially occur and is something that owners should be aware of. Those with periodontal disease or dental overcrowding are at the highest risk.
When Can Puppies Have Bully Sticks?
At what stage in your puppy’s life can they start to have bully sticks? This is a very common question and will depend on their individual eating capability as well as their size.
Larger dogs can start eating bully sticks earlier, especially those breeds with strong teeth, including Siberian Huskies and German Shepherds. For Toy breeds such as the Shih Tzu and Maltese, we have to wait a little longer.
Many experienced dog owners start to offer bully sticks when their pups are just 3 or 4 months old. This is when they are teething badly and really enjoy the distraction from their discomfort.
You know your pup best and should be able to judge when they are ready for this meaty chew. Watch very closely the first time they have one, ensuring they are eating it sensibly.
If unsure about when to offer the first bully stick, have a chat with your vet who will be happy to guide you. Their advice will be based on your dog’s size, mouth shape, and your vet’s own personal experiences.
How Many Bully Sticks Can You Give?
One thing to know right away is that bully sticks are very calorie-dense. They are so high in calories that over-feeding just one every now and then could result in weight gain. Obesity in young dogs can seriously impact their long-term health in a negative way.
This alone should not be a reason to avoid bully sticks. If fed sensibly, they will not make your dog put on weight. Be sure to stick to your pup’s daily calorie allowance.
How many bully sticks to give will depend on your pup’s size, age, and activity level. Of course, the size of the bully stick is also a factor. Remember, treats should not make up more than 10% of your puppy’s diet.
As these sticks last such a long time, most pups will chew on them over the course of several days. So, giving an average-sized bully stick once or twice a week is usually sufficient.
Can Bully Sticks Make Puppies Sick?
Rarely, bully sticks have been associated with food poisoning outbreaks. Bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can live on the chews, causing serious gastrointestinal upset in your little bundle of fur. Worryingly, this could even make the people in your household unwell.
To minimize the risk of food poisoning, buy from a reputable brand. Ideally, this would be a brand that tests their products for bacteria before they are sold to the public.
In a small number of dogs, the beef in the bully stick may be something they are sensitive or even allergic to. However, if your pup tolerates beef in their regular diet, the beef in the bully stick should be safe for them.
What are the Best Bully Sticks?
Bully sticks should, by definition, contain nothing but beef. Steer clear of sticks that contain unnecessary additives and fillers.
Opt for sticks that come from a USDA human-grade and inspected facility. This way, you know you’re giving your dog a high-quality product. For a little luxury and to ensure you’re making the most ethical choice, choose a stick made from free-range, grass-fed, organic cattle.
You may find your pup has a preference for a certain texture or type, such as a braided chew or one with ridges. Bully sticks even come in a variety of shapes and it can be fun to offer different ones to your four-legged friend.
You’ll find that these sticks come in a variety of strengths from ‘light’ to ‘hard’ or ‘small mouths’ to ‘power chewers’. Slim canes will be used for light chewers, while power chewers will be given extra-long and .thick chews. Be sure to stick to the right type for your dog.
What are the Benefits of Bully Sticks?
There are a wide range of reasons owners will give their dogs chews:
- Large bully sticks can help to remove plaque films and prevent calculus build up on teeth, minimising dental disease.
- They ease the discomfort associated with teething and may reduce the likelihood of your puppy chewing your furniture or shoes.
- Chews like bully sticks prevent boredom and give your dog something to do while you’re busy or trying to wind down in the evening.
- They can enhance your dog’s quality of life; they love the taste and get great satisfaction out of chewing their bully stick.
- A good chew is a form of environmental enrichment and provides a small amount of both physical and mental stimulation.
- Bully sticks are a good way to put weight on skinny dogs who aren’t food driven.
Should You Give Bully Sticks or Something Else?
As discussed, bully sticks make an excellent choice of chew for dogs of all ages. However, there are other options out there.
Bully sticks are calorific and aren’t a good idea if your dog is overweight or prone to stomach upsets or pancreatitis. Instead, stick to low-calorie chews such as raw carrots or broccoli stems.
Dogs enjoy variety and may get bored of the same treat time and time again. Spice it up by offering other options such as Greenies or Dentastix.
Small breeds and those with snub noses such as the Pug and Boxer may not be able to eat bully sticks, at least in their first few months of life. Offer them softer treats that are easier to manage.
What is a Bully Stick Holder?
While researching bully sticks, you may have come across a bully stick holder. This device is designed to hold the chew for your dog, ensuring it cannot be swallowed whole. This is useful for preventing choking and gut obstructions.
Many owners swear by them and find they provide good peace of mind. However, there is no comparison between these holders and real-life human supervision. Even when using a holder, ensure your dog is being monitored by someone at all times.
A small number of dogs will be able to remove the bully stick from the holder, especially after it has been chewed on. You may choose to remove the stick from your dog at this stage.
The Bottom Line
Though there are some risks associated with bully sticks, many owners will choose to feed them. They feel that the benefits outweigh the risks and enjoy giving their puppies something that they can really get their teeth in to.
It is essential to supervise your puppy at all times while eating a chew. If they show any signs of distress or if you’ve concerned they may have swallowed the entire chew, contact your vet immediately.
Always stick to the size and type of Bully Stick that best suits your puppy. As long as we are mindful with the treats we give, any risk is relatively low.