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Are bully sticks safe?

Species: Dog
Breed: German Shepherd
Age: 5-8 years
My dog loves to chew on bully sticks. I think it's kind of gross that it is a penis. But other than that, is it a safe thing for him to eat? I don't want to give him anything that is harmful.




Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for an excellent question Darlene. I know that dogs absolutely love bully sticks. I am a little torn on how to answer you because on one hand I think they are a good treat that dogs love. But, on the other hand there are some potential risks that go along with feeding them.

There are several things that could be risky about bully sticks. The first is that dogs can break their teeth on them. They are hard, and similar to bones, a dog can easily get something called a slab fracture from chewing on a bully stick. With that being said, it's not something that happens often.

Next, any time we feed our dogs a product made from dried animal parts (i.e. pig ears, rawhides, bully sticks) there is a risk for salmonella contamination. But again, that risk is small. I can't say I have ever heard of a case where an animal got Salmonella poisoning from eating a bully stick. (I have heard of and seen cases where pig ears caused salmonella problems.)

Thirdly, as the dog chews on these they can get soft. These soft sticks can very easily cause an obstruction. I haven't personally treated an animal for an obstruction because of a bully stick but I have treated some serious rawhide obstructions (and rawhides are not that much different than bully sticks.)

So, it's a tough call. It's hard to find a good treat that will keep a dog occupied and taste good and be totally safe. I recommend synthetic toys like gumma bones and nylabones. But, I'll be honest, when I had a dog I would occasionally buy him a bully stick as a treat. I remember when one went missing and I found it a week later under my pillow. :)


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.