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New puppy owners soon discover that their little sweeties love to chew on just about anything they can get their jaws on. They end up needing to distract their pup by giving them something safe to chew. 

Bully sticks are among the popular chew treats you’ll find in every pet store, and they’re a big hit with dogs. 

In my experience as a veterinarian, many dogs and puppies can handle chewing bully sticks a few times a week. But I’ve also seen pups damage their teeth or get an upset stomach from the treats. Let’s talk about how to keep them safe…


  • Puppies and dogs may safely chew bully sticks only with supervision.
  • Be careful not to overfeed your dog by giving them too many bully sticks.
  • Other hazards include breaking teeth and swallowing large pieces of the chew treat.

What Is a Bully Stick?

A “bully stick” is a type of dog chew treat that is made from dehydrated tissue from a male cow. They provide long-lasting entertainment for dogs who love to gnaw.

Many dog owners prefer them based on their natural, single-ingredient composition. But like any treat, they come with their own set of precautions, especially for puppies who are often more aggressive chewers.

how often to give puppy bully sticks
Bully sticks…dogs love ’em

Pros and Cons of Bully Sticks


Bully sticks are natural treats that fulfill a dog’s desire to chew. They can help keep your pup’s teeth clean, too. Researchers found that chewing bully sticks reduced dogs’ mouth bacteria by about 61%. (4) That’s almost as much bacteria reduction as tooth brushing!

bar graph showing mouth bacteria reduction of brushing, VeggieDent and bully stick chewing.
Bully sticks are nearly as effective as brushing at reducing oral bacteria.

Some bully sticks contain about 97% protein and 3% fat so they’re actually somewhat nutritious. Their only ingredient is beef, which may be important for sensitive dogs.


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Hugo the Husky puppy shows how hard puppies can chew!

Bully sticks have some drawbacks. Some brands of the treat contain a lot more fat, which might upset a dog’s stomach. They also tend to smell bad and are more expensive than regular biscuit treats.

Vets warn about other risks too. These treats are hard to chew and can be tough on a dog’s digestive system. They can also carry harmful bacteria, which we’ll talk about later.

The next logical question is: How often should you give these treats to your puppy? Let’s go over some guidelines that can help you make an informed decision.

How Often to Give Puppy Bully Sticks

If you’re going to let your pet try bully sticks, limit their chew sessions to 20 minutes once or twice a week. And be careful giving your puppy bully sticks for the first time.

While some vets advise against giving bully sticks to any canine, there are safer ways to introduce them:

  • Consider waiting until the pup is a year old before introducing bully sticks.
  • Introduce bully sticks gradually over a period of 7-10 days.
  • Always buy from a trusted source.
  • Supervise your puppy while they’re chewing.
  • Remove the chew if they break off pieces larger than about 1/2 an inch.
  • Monitor for any changes in stool or appetite for the next 48 hours.

Watch That Caloric Intake!

Don’t forget that treats should not make up more than 10% of your pet’s daily caloric intake. A 2013 study found bully sticks averaged 15 calories per inch. (2)

The table below gives guidelines for the amount of bully sticks you can give your dog as a treat. Stick with this amount once or twice a week to avoid overfeeding.

Weight of DogInches of Bully Stick per Chew Session
10-24 pounds3.5-5”
25-49 pounds5-7”
50-75 pounds7-10”
>75 pounds10-14”

Side Effects & Safety Concerns

While bully sticks are a popular treat for many dogs, they do come with some risks that pet owners should be aware of. From potential dental issues to bacterial contamination and digestive problems, it’s important to understand the possible drawbacks. Here are a few things to watch out for…

Tooth Damage

dog with a broken tooth

Bully sticks can be hard on a puppy’s developing teeth. They can break their teeth which carries the risk of tooth root infection. They can also damage unerupted adult teeth with vigorous chewing.

It’s important to introduce them gradually and under close supervision. If they’re chewing aggressively, take it away from them. 

Adult dogs can also damage their permanent teeth by chewing these hard treats. I’ve seen teeth partly torn out by the roots from chewing bully sticks and the dog hardly even noticed!

Bacterial Contamination

Bully sticks, like other raw foods, can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella or E. Coli. (1) These bacteria can be a health concern for both your dog and you. 

Dogs can pass the bacteria to humans through their saliva or excrement. People can also be exposed to these bacteria by simply handling the bully sticks and then touching their mouths afterward.

Always use good hygiene practices and thorough hand washing when handling dog treats and body waste.

yellow labrador dog drooling

Upset Stomach

The most frequent issue dogs face from chewing bully sticks is indigestion. These treats are hard and dry, making them tough for dogs to digest. Additionally, some may have high fat content.

As mentioned above, the bacteria present on bully sticks can also upset a dog’s stomach. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea and a decreased appetite.

Choking and Blockage Risks 

While bully sticks are meant to be fully digestible, big chunks can still be harmful. They can either get stuck in your dog’s mouth, throat, or digestive system. I’ve also seen dogs with very sore mouths or throats because they chewed bully sticks too aggressively. 

Chewy Alternative to Bully Sticks

Kong toys are a great alternative to bully sticks because they’re made of chewy plastic that’s easier on your dog’s teeth. These toys look like rubber beehives with a hollow center, and dogs usually love them, especially when filled with food.

Try making this easy, long-lasting and safe treat for your pup who loves to chew.

Make a Kong Pupsicle

This Kong Classic Dog Toy has a hollow center that is perfect for stuffing with treats!

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Supplies Needed

  • A Kong Classic dog toy that fits your pup’s size
  • Dry kibble your dog likes
  • Wet or canned dog food your dog enjoys

How to Make a Kong Pupsicle

  1. In a bowl, mix equal parts of dry and wet dog food.
  2. Use a spoon or your fingers to pack this mixture into the hollow center of the Kong toy.
  3. Place the stuffed Kong in the freezer for at least 2 hours until it’s mostly frozen.
  4. Give the frozen Kong to your dog when you need to keep them busy.

This frozen treat will keep your pup occupied and is a safer chewing option!

FAQs: Common Questions About Bully Sticks

They are theoretically fully digestible, but larger pieces can still pose a choking hazard or cause gastrointestinal blockages.

Here are some alternative treat ideas that are generally safer for puppies and dogs:

  • Slices of apple, carrot, or cucumber
  • Food-dispensing interactive toys
  • Using regular kibble as treats by hand-feeding them to your dog

The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of treats that are safer for dogs’ teeth. The list includes Purina Busy HeartyHide® and Canine Greenies® chew treats. For more options, you can visit the VOHC list of approved dog chews.


In conclusion, bully sticks keep puppies busy and their jaws active. If you follow this article’s tips, it’s relatively safe to give them to your dog once or twice a week.

Because of the hazards involved, I’m always hesitant to recommend these treats to my clients. Risks include tooth damage, bacterial issues, and digestion problems. To decrease these risks, limit chewing time and consider safer alternatives.

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Related Posts

  1. Clark, C., Cunningham, J., Ahmed, R., Woodward, D., Fonseca, K., Isaacs, S., … & Rodgers, F. (2001). Characterization of Salmonella associated with pig ear dog treats in Canada. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 39(11), 3962-3968.
  2. Freeman, L. M., Janecko, N., & Weese, J. S. (2013). Nutritional and microbial analysis of bully sticks and survey of opinions about pet treats. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 54(1), 50.
  3. The Calories in Bully Sticks. (2022, January 20). TuftsYourDog. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from https://www.tuftsyourdog.com/dogfoodandnutrition/the-calories-in-bully-sticks/
  4. Gallagher, L. (2013). The effect of dental products and natural chews on canine oral bacteria. Letters in General Microbiology1(2), 1-4.