Health Care

The Danger of Bully sticks dog treats! Not.

Hear ye, hear ye!   Gather round, and hear the tale of the big dog food manufacturers.

While anyone with a dog that needs to be occupied, and with something natural that can provide real nutrition will attest, all of the fire and brimstone by commercial dog food makers about bully sticks is as close to unfounded, as any propaganda campaign could be.

Firstly, dog bones were demonised. It is true that the wrong bone, or wrong application of a dog bone can cause serious damage to a dog.  But dogs even die from bloat (often by eating kibble too fast).

The reality is that there are some concerns you might want to be aware about. But the vast majority of these are erased, when purchasing from a trustworthy source.

Bully sticks or bully pizzle are natural dog treats (100% single ingredient) made from the dried, uncooked penis of beef bulls or any other animal, big enough.

Because this is a highly sort after natural product, high demand means high cost from the abattoirs. And that means high cost for a high value treat to the dog owner.

Reasons for beef pizzle dog chews high demand are many. In fact many customers rare bully sticks as their number one preferred purchase for their dog – that is ALL they buy! But let’s entertain the converse argument for a while.  If it was truly such a non ideal treat, then surely there would be LOW demand.  Everyone would be in agreeance.  But the opposite is true.  We have difficulty keeping up with demand.

The main controversy seems to come from the billion-dollar companies that make grain-based treats that they can trademark.  Things they can brand that cant be easily copied and so they can inflate prices.  If they were to sell bully sticks, they would be competing for a moderately generic commodity product that would be a lot more price sensitive.

They would also find that they probably couldn’t get sufficient numbers of the product to stay in stock, so would lose money from there too.  You can make as many treats as you want out of grain, but you can only make as many beef bully sticks out of cows that have been farmed.

Here are the ill-founded main bully sticks safety concerns

The four main ones seem to be :  sourcing, contamination, choking hazards, and digestive issues.

  • Sourcing issues

Because of the high demand and low supply, many retail companies are happy to bring in large quantities of imported bully sticks.  These are often from countries with very few quality control standards, and very little policing to ensure that the sticks are healthy.

  • Antibiotics and Hormones

Because this product is from beef mostly, and cows are farmed animals they will have as many antibiotics and growth hormones as any of the other farmed animals.

There are very few organic beef farms that supply the dog treat market, and organic for many just means pesticide and herbicide free.  It doesn’t necessarily mean no health inoculations for animals.

Growth hormones are made to bring animals to market age quicker.  If a cow took twice as long to reach market size, the beef pizzle might cost twice as much, and nobody wants that.

Unless you buy wild animals like some fish, or kangaroos you will typically find that most of them have some chemicals that are said to be added for the animals wellbeing.  Humans eat these animals so being worried about antibiotic and hormones in bully sticks for your dog, truly is being over precious.

Bully stick Contaminants concerns

These are really pathogen issues, related to ANY food.  

Pigs and fish grown in undeveloped countries also run the risk of having worms such as tape worms.  These can do a great deal of damage to any host unlucky enough to ingest them.  Fortunately, worms are not a big issue in most developed countries, and most dogs take a monthly flea and worm treatment too.

The main pathogen concern really is over bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli.  AND THAT , is really the concern that anyone has over any meat food source, whether for humans or for dogs.

As you might be aware, if fast food is not kept at an elevated temperature while on display in cafes, it can have a big population of bad bacteria and cause very bad food poisoning.  And likewise at home, if your refrigerator isn’t at the right temperature, or you leave food outside of it at room temperature for too long, you can also get food poisoning.

So what is the real concerns around bully stick pathogen safety?

Well, it seems that its because bully sticks like any other 100% single ingredient meat dog treat don’t have preservatives.  And that is because it is plant and grain based dog treats that need to have preservatives because they tend to spoil much faster than meat products (that don’t have preservatives).

So you might ask, how do they do this dark magic and keep the dogs safe?  Its called sufficient heating while cooking.  We always recommend over-cooked meat dog treats. Because oven cooking not only dries the meat treat fast, it also kills any pests that may have attached themselves to the meat and ALL BACTERIA.  Not most, not 99.9% bacteria, but 100% of regular bacteria found in food.

USDA food standards say to Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F to kill bacteria.

165 F kills all salmonella.  Most dog treat companies set their ovens to 180 – 200 F.

But you might ask, does that mean ALL bacteria will be killed.  If human food only needs to be cooked at internal temperatures of 165F  then wont 180 F kill pathogens in dog treat meat?

Well almost.

It turns out that “spores of any spore-forming bacteria” can NOT be killed by cooking.  If you are eating meat infected by Anthrax, Clostridium tetani or Clostridium botulinum then you probably have more problems than worrying about if your bully sticks are safe.


Bully sticks don’t have any preservatives added to them.  They are cooked at a sufficient temperature to kill regular bacteria found in developed country farms food.

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