Even the dogs have to count calories

University Researchers Report on Caloric, Bacterial Content of Bully Sticks
Posted: Jan. 28, 2013, 2:30 p.m. EST

Tufts and University of Guelph researchers reported today that many veterinarians and pet owners could not identify the source of bully sticks and did not realize that the popular dog treats quickly add calories to an animal’s diet.

The study, published in the January issue of the Canadian Veterinary Journal, also noted that some of the bully sticks tested were contaminated by bacteria.

Bully, or pizzle, sticks are made from the uncooked, dried penis of a bull or steer.

Tasty bully sticks can add calories and carry bacteria.
The researchers, representing the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and the University of Guelph, examined 26 bully sticks purchased from retailers in the United States and Canada and made by different manufacturers. Random testing of the bully sticks found that they contained from nine to 22 calories per inch, or 88 calories in the average 6-inch stick.

Eighty-eight calories is equal to 9 percent of the daily calorie requirements for a 50-pound dog and 30 percent for a 10-pound dog, the researchers stated.

“While calorie information isn’t currently required on pet treats or most pet foods, these findings reinforce that veterinarians and pet owners need to be aware of pet treats like these bully sticks as a source of calories in a dog’s diet,” said Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVN, a professor of nutrition at Tufts.

“With obesity in pets on the rise, it is important for pet owners to factor in not only their dog’s food, but also treats and table food,” Dr. Freeman added.

She co-authored the paper with J. Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph, and Nicol Janecko, a research associate at the Canadian university.

All 26 treats were tested for bacterial contaminants. One stick contained Clostridium difficile; one had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a staph bacterium resistant to certain antibiotics; and seven had Escherichia coli, including one tetracycline-resistant sample.

The researchers acknowledged the small sample size and that not all of the bacterial strains discovered are shown to infect humans.

The study included a 20-question Web-based survey designed to measure veterinarian and pet owner perceptions of dog foods and treats. More than 850 adults, mostly female dog owners, responded from 44 states and six countries.

“We were surprised at the clear misconceptions pet owners and veterinarians have with pet foods and many of the popular raw animal product-based pet treats currently on the market,” Freeman said. “For example, 71 percent of people feeding bully sticks to their pets stated they avoid byproducts in pet foods, yet bully sticks are, for all intents and purposes, an animal byproduct.”

When it came to identifying the source of bully sticks, the researchers said they were surprised. Only 62 percent of veterinarians knew that a bully stick came from a bull penis, compared to 44 percent of the general respondents.

Twenty-three percent of the respondents reported feeding bully sticks to their dogs.

Further research with a larger sample size is needed to determine whether the reported calorie content and contamination rate are representative of all bully sticks and other types of pet treats, the authors added.

3 thoughts on “Even the dogs have to count calories

  • February 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks for posting this interesting article. My boy, became very ill after the first of the year. We finally were able to identify the organism he had, a virulent pseudomonas that was resistant to many antibiotic’s. Our vet felt he had such a heavy bacterial load, and antibiotic resistance it was probably from an outside source that we could only assume was from the bully stick’s he loved. We’ll never know for certain, but I can tell you we almost lost him,and I won’t take the chance. (These were sourced from the US only).

  • February 19, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Hey Lisa! Thank you SO much for this bully stick article. Whodathunkit?????
    Weight gain is one thing but THIS paragraph is the most scary and all should take note: “All 26 treats were tested for bacterial contaminants. One stick contained Clostridium difficile; one had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a staph bacterium resistant to certain antibiotics; and seven had Escherichia coli, including one tetracycline-resistant sample.”
    I just read about the virulent pseudomonas aeruginosa that Patti’s dog got…..horrible!!! That could possibly occur when a dogs immune system is pulled down during inoculation administration, or when a dog is ill with something……then they eat bully sticks, and THEN???? Who knows whose dog may be susceptible?
    Wikpedia on VPA: “It uses a wide range of organic material for food; in animals, the versatility enables the organism to infect damaged tissues or those with reduced immunity. The symptoms of such infections are generalized inflammation and sepsis.” The other contaminants mentioned above, can also cause a host of damages to the system!
    I know about and have helped people’s dogs’ with Clostridium difficile (which is a BUGGER and lays dormant in the system for possible years!!!), but did not realize bully sticks could possibly contain these things!
    DARN!!!! NOW the poor dogs can’t eat penis’s’!!!! LOL 😉 LOL
    Thanks again for posting!

  • February 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    This is AWFUL!!!!
    I am so glad your baby is better now!
    Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Made me look up VPA!

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