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Bully sticks are popular chews made from the penis of a bull or steer. Also known as bully bones or pizzles, these chews are typically 100 percent beef. Bully sticks can be safe as long as you give them in moderation and supervise your pet when they chew on them, says veterinarian Erin Katribe, medical director of Best Friends Animal Society.
"Bully sticks are high in fat, so as with any treat item, if a large amount of a rich food item is ingested or if your dog has a very sensitive stomach, then some gastrointestinal upset can occur,” Katribe says. She adds that it's best to give your dog bully sticks in moderation. "If you notice stomach or intestinal upset (usually diarrhea) after a bully stick with your dog, it may be too rich." If that happens, give your dog only smaller portions or not at all.
We researched the market to find the best bully sticks available.
Best Overall: Natural Farm Odor-Free Standard Bully Sticks
Food Form: Beef sticks | Amount: 1.2 pounds | Breed Size: Varies | Life Stage: All life stages
Made from grass-fed, free-range cattle
No hormones, additives, or chemicals
Some inconsistent sizing
There is so much to like about these bully sticks and the company that makes them. The pizzles themselves are made from grass-fed, free-range cattle in Brazil and have no hormones, additives, or chemicals. They’re single-ingredient and cleaned with water then slowly oven-baked to preserve the nutrients.
Natural Farm bullies come in traditional sticks, as well as springs, rings, braids, and bites. Depending on the size and chewing style of your dog, you can choose from standard, select, jumbo, pixie, and extra thin sticks.
On the sustainability front, the company donates a portion of proceeds from every sale to organizations that help animals in need worldwide and the packaging is made with 51 percent recyclable sugar cane.
Best Braided: Nature Gnaws Natural Dog Chews
Food Form: Beef sticks | Amount: 5 count | Breed Size: Varies | Life Stage: All life stages
Human-grade food testing
No additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients
Grass-fed, free-range cattle
Some inconsistent sizing
Can be smelly
Braided bully sticks are made of three strips of pizzle that are tightly braided together, then baked to form a treat.
Nature Gnaws’ bullies are 100 percent beef from grass-fed, free-range cattle. There are no additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients. The bullies are cleaned with water, then baked in the oven. The company relies on human-grade foot testing to make sure the chews aren’t contaminated with bacteria. In addition to braids, this company sells extra-thin, small, large, and spring-shaped bullies.
Best Odor-Free: Barkworthies Odor-Free Bully Sticks
Food Form: Sticks | Amount: 5 count | Breed Size: Varies | Life Stage: All life stages
No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors
Lots of shapes and sizes
Some inconsistent sizing
Some have odor
Barkworthies are single-ingredient chews with no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. The beef is sourced from South America; they also have a line of sticks that are baked in the U.S. There are so many different styles for light, medium, hard, and even power chewers ranging from standard, braided, and curly sticks to jumbo, double cut, and monster sticks. For light and medium chewers, there are also long and skinny cane sticks which can be cut into smaller pieces.
"The rescue I foster for sent some of these bully sticks to keep my puppies occupied and they are great. I particularly like the double cut sticks because they take a lot of work and keep the little ones occupied. I know they won’t be able to gnaw off much, but it makes them happy as they’re teething and keeps my fingers safe from sharp puppy teeth."-Mary Jo Dilonardo, The Spruce Pets Writer
Best for Teeth: Jack & Pup 6-Inch Premium-Grade Odor-Free Bully Sticks
Food Form: Sticks | Amount: 1.17 pounds | Breed Size: Varies | Life Stage: All life stages
From grass-fed beef
USDA certified and inspected facility
No additives or chemicals
Can be stinky when chewed
Some inconsistent sizing
These bully bones are made from grass-fed beef that is processed in a USDA human grade-certified and inspected facility. They are boiled, roasted, smoked, and slow-dried without any additives or chemicals. The process keeps the treats fresh longer without preservatives and helps keep them odor-free. However once pups start chewing, these sticks develop a very gamey smell.
The premium sticks are especially good for dogs to gnaw on to keep their teeth and gums healthy. The company makes bullies in standard, thick, and jumbo of varying thicknesses and they are available in 6-inch or 12-inch lengths. Jack & Pup also has bites, braids, and curls. Bites should only be given to the tiniest of dogs, because their small size could be choking hazards for larger pets.
Best in Bulk: Sancho & Lola's Bully Sticks
Food Form: Sticks | Amount: 24-30 count | Breed Size: Small | Life Stage: Not listed
No growth hormones, toxic chemicals, or antibiotics
Farmed in the U.S.
Some have strong odor
Sizes may vary in bag
If you have several dogs or you just feed your pup a lot of treats, it can be convenient and save money to buy in bulk. Sancho & Lola offers that option for all its many forms of bully sticks. They’re all made with no growth hormones, toxic chemicals, or antibiotics. The charcuterie-style sticks are made from beef farmed in the United States. Other bully products are from free-range, grass-fed cattle farmed in North and South America. All of Sancho & Lola's products are processed, inspected, and packed in facilities in Texas and Nebraska.
You can choose from traditional, thick, or crunchy in several different lengths. You can also opt for a range of smells from no odor to moderate odor. However, the moderate odor treats are actually really stinky, which your dog will love more than you will. A portion of all proceeds goes to dog rescues.
Best Deal: Pawstruck Bully Sticks
Food Form: Sticks | Amount: 8 ounces | Breed Size: All | Life Stage: Not listed
From grass-fed, free-range cattle
Sold by weight
No artificial chemicals or additives
One of the main complaints about bully sticks is that they aren’t the same size. You can open a bag and some will be much bigger than others and you feel like you didn’t get a fair deal. That’s why Pawstruck sells their bags by weight. So if sticks are smaller, you get more sticks per bag. (That can be a negative if you need a certain size for your dog.)
Pawstruck bullies are sourced from grass-fed, free-range cattle in South America. They have no additives or artificial chemicals and are available in traditional sticks, as well as bites, rings, and braids.
Best Bully Stick Alternative: Himalayan Pet Supply Himalayan Dog Chew The Original Dog Chew
Food Form: Sticks | Amount: 1 count | Breed Size: Large | Life Stage: Adult
Can last a long time
Nothing is wasted
If dropped, pieces can break off easily
Aggressive chewers might chip teeth
These hard treats are made from 100 percent yak and cow’s milk with a little salt and lime juice for added taste. The chews are gluten-free, grain-free, and have no soy, lactose, or corn. There are no artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, or additives. Dogs just chew and scrape until they can get little pieces off.
When the stick gets too small, you can soak it in water, microwave it, let it cool and feed it to your pup as a special cheese puff treat. That way nothing is wasted.
The treats come from the Himalayas where they support a network of more than 10,000 farmers who handcraft them. They are certified Fair Trade by the World Fair Trade Organization. For every pound of cheese chewed, the company donates a book to a library in Nepal.
Our top choice was Natural Farm which are made from grass-fed, free-range cattle with no artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors (view at Amazon). The company also has sustainable packaging and donates proceeds to help animals in need with every purchase. Another great choice is Nature Gnaws (view at Amazon). The all-natural braided bullies are especially challenging for power chewers.
What to Look For in Bully Sticks
Choose the bully stick based on the size of your dog. If it’s too small, it could be a choking hazard, as Dr. Katribe mentioned. Stay away from bully bites if you have a large dog, for example. If your dog is small and the bully stick is too large, they may get frustrated and might not be able to chew it. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, opt for a thicker bully stick like a braided option. Most companies have recommendations on their websites regarding their specific products.
You and your dog might disagree on this one. Bully sticks can smell really, really bad (or really enticing, if you're a dog). If you don’t want your house smelling like a musty, meaty animal, you might want to opt for an odor-free pizzle. These are usually cooked longer to get rid of some of the smell and moisture.
But just a heads up: When your dog starts chewing any bully stick, that saliva will make even the odor-free sticks start to smell a little.
Most companies will list where the animals came from. We like the idea that they came from free-range, grass-fed cattle. Some people prefer that the animals were raised in the U.S. or Canada, but others point out that cows in Brazil, for example, are nearly always free-range and fed on grass, so check the fine print for sourcing information.
Are bully sticks safe for puppies?
Bully sticks are generally safe for puppies, says Dr. Katribe, though you should take the same precautions that you take with adult dogs. “Puppies are often prone to more sensitive stomachs than adults, and so this is something to watch out for,” she says. “Puppies may need their access restricted to a shorter time so that they ingest less at one sitting."
When should I take a bully stick away from my dog?
Keep an eye on how much of the stick your dog is eating. “When the bully stick is approaching a size that’s small enough to ingest whole, it’s time to take it away to reduce the chance of it becoming lodged in the throat,” Katribe says. She suggests that you may also want to take the bully stick after a certain amount of time per day, simply to limit the amount ingested at once.
How often can I give my dog a bully stick?
As mentioned, all treats should be given in moderation. Katribe says treats should make up less than 10 percent of your dog’s caloric intake. You can do the math and figure this out based on the size of your dog and the bully stick.
“For a more general rule of thumb, a maximum of two to three times per week should be reasonable for most dogs,” she says. “If your dog is a particularly fast chewer, it may make sense to limit their time with the bully stick so that they last longer (and so the dog doesn’t ingest a large amount at once).”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
We consulted with a veterinarian before researching bully sticks. All the chews we recommended are 100 percent beef with no additives or chemicals and they offer clear information about sourcing.
This article was researched and written by Mary Jo DiLonardo who has covered animals and pets for several decades. Mary Jo has fostered more than three dozen puppies and is always searching for the healthiest and most effective products, foods, and treats for them.