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If you’re a dog parent, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about bully sticks. And if you’ve got a dog that loves to chew (we’re so sorry!) a bully stick might be just the solution you’re looking for.
Dogs love them, too. So what’s the issue? Well, bully sticks have one big disadvantage—they stink. A lot.
So why do bully sticks smell so bad? And is there anything you can do to prevent it?
Before we can really explain that, we need to explain what they are, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty about bully sticks.
What are bully sticks?
Bully sticks, also known as pizzles sticks, beef sticks, beef pizzle, and more, are single-ingredient, long-lasting, digestible chew treats for dogs. So far, sounds like a good thing, right? Well…that depends 100 percent on your own way of thinking.
According to what Dr. Kerri Wiedmeyer, an emergency veterinarian with WVRC Emergency & Specialty Pet Care in Waukesha, Wisconsin, told Paw Culture, the single ingredient may be a little shocking: it’s bull or steer penis.
And no matter how gross you might think they are, dogs do not care.
Dr. Cailin Heinze, a veterinarian at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, told the publication, “They’re super popular–probably one of the most popular dog treats on the market.”
Are bully sticks good for your dog?
On the surface, bully sticks sound like a great treat for dogs.
According to the American Kennel Club, they’re the perfect thing to give to a dog with a desire to chew—which, let’s be honest, is pretty much all of them.
They say bully sticks contain lots of protein and are free of artificial ingredients that many health-conscious dog lovers try to avoid.
And not only do they last a lot longer than many other chewy treats, but they also won’t break into several pieces and digest easily. Three cheers for bully sticks, from jumbo to tiny to beautifully braided!
But, some experts claim there are also a few drawbacks to handing over bully sticks to your chew-happy pup.
Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a small study on bully sticks, and nearly a third of the samples they tested were positive for some form of bacteria.
Not only does this put your dog at risk for illness but also yourself, since you’re handling the treats.
If you think about it, this isn’t too surprising, considering the fact that bully sticks are animal byproducts, and we do not regulate pet treats in the same way as pet food.
According to Wiedmeyer, they may also be unsafe for your dog’s teeth. While many consider chewing on bully sticks beneficial as it helps clean the teeth, she says that can sometimes lead to teeth fractures in dogs—not something any dog owner (or dog) wants to deal with.
They’re also high in calories, with one six-inch bully stick adding up to around 88 calories, says Levine. That may not be a huge concern for larger dogs, but it’s a significant amount of the daily calorie allowance for smaller breeds.
Why do bully sticks stink?
No matter how seriously you take the possible health risks, there’s one drawback to bully sticks that is just too much for some dog owners. They smell horrible.
Heinze told Paw Culture she had a former roommate who gave their dog bully sticks, and “when they got wet, they smelled like a dead animal—we couldn’t get the smell out of the house.”
Dr. Judy Morgan, a holistic veterinarian based in New Jersey, added that they can also smell like urine.
Pet expert Kristen Levine told Chewy that if they’re not fully dried, they can retain some of their smells. Of course, dogs love that smell, but humans…not so much.
Morgan says the same thing happens if the cooked variety isn’t cooked for long enough.
“The longer they are dried or the more moisture removed by cooking, the less odor they will have,” she explains.
Do odor-free bully sticks work?
Since part of the biggest hassle of being a pet-owner is trying to keep your house from accumulating pet smells, it seems like bringing in a treat made up of just the smells you’re trying to clean away would be a bad move. But your dog loves them so much.
So what’s a dog owner to do?
Levine recommends odor-free bully sticks.
According to a representative from Chewy, odor-free bully sticks “are cooked longer to reduce their moisture content and smell.”
Levine says sometimes even thoroughly dried (or cooked) bully sticks can still have a slight smell, but we can all agree that a slight smell is certainly better than all the smell.
Several manufacturers of odor-free bully sticks admit that their products are not exactly odor-free.
According to bully stick manufacturer Red Barn, “While No-Odor Bully Sticks aren’t entirely odorless, the smell is virtually undetectable.”
Best Bully Sticks makes a similar claim but adds that when a dog chews an odor-free bully stick, they are re-introducing moisture to the treat, and therefore also re-introducing some of the smell. So there’s that.
How to buy bully sticks
Stink or no stink, it’s hard not to give in to something your dog really loves. So is there a way to ensure your dog’s safety, and find something that won’t make your house smell like the inside of a barn?
Heinz says the best way to guard against contamination is to buy individually packaged bully sticks, since they’re not open to the air for long periods of time. She also advises you to direct questions about safety and recalls the retailer or manufacturer, and avoid bully sticks that have been washed with chlorine or other chemicals.
It’s also important to read the package directions, making sure you buy bully sticks that match the size—and chewing tendencies—of your dog.
If you’ve decided to give odor-free bully sticks a try, it’s not easy to choose from all the different manufacturers and retail sites out there. These are some of our favorite odor-free bully sticks to choose from:
- Best Bully Sticks 12-inch Jumbo Odor-Free Pack
- Red Barn Odor-Free Bully Spring
- Jack and Pup Premium Grade Odor-Free Bully Sticks, Jumbo
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Feature image via Flickr and Chewy