Dog Treats Found To Contain Bacteria And High Calorie Content
January 29, 2013

Bully Sticks Dog Treats Are High In Calories And Contain Harmful Bacteria

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

A new study from The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (TCSVM) at Tufts University and the University of Guelph reveals that a popular pet treat is adding more calories than most pet owners realize, and might possibly be contaminated with bacteria.

The "bully" or "pizzle" stick is the treat in question. They are made from the uncooked, dried penis of a bull or steer. The research team analyzed the caloric and bacterial content of these very popular treats, and administered a survey to pet owners to understand their knowledge.

The findings of this study were released recently in the Canadian Veterinary Journal.

The scientists examined 26 bully sticks purchased from retailers in both countries and made by different manufacturers. A random subset of the sticks was tested for caloric content, revealing that the sticks contained between nine and 22 calories per inch. This means that the average six inch bully stick packs in 88 calories - nine percent of the daily calorie requirements for a 50-pound dog, and 30 percent of the daily calorie requirements for a 10-pound dog.

"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, PhD, DACVN, professor of nutrition at TCSVM. Freeman is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

"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," Freeman added.

The entire sampling of 26 sticks was also tested for bacterial contamination. The research team found that one stick (4 percent) was contaminated with Clostridium difficile; one stick (4 percent) was contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and seven sticks (27 percent) were contaminated with Escherichia coli, including one tetracycline-resistant sample.

The sample size was small, and not all of these strains of bacteria have been shown to infect humans, the scientists admit. However, they still advise all pet owners to wash their hands after touching these and any other raw meat treats just as they would with raw meat. They also advise that the very young, elderly, pregnant, immunocompromised and any other high-risk person avoid all contact with raw animal-product based treats and diets.

The research team developed a 20 question Web-based survey to learn more about veterinarian and pet owner perceptions of dog treats and foods. Available online for public participation for 60 days, all responses to the survey were anonymous. 852 adults from 44 states and six countries responded, with most being female dog owners.

"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," said Freeman. "For example, 71 percent of people feeding bully sticks to their pets stated they avoid by-products in pet foods, yet bully sticks are, for all intents and purposes, an animal by-product."

The number of respondents who did not know what bully sticks actually were surprised the team. More veterinarians (62 percent) were able to identify the source of bully sticks as bull penis than general participants (44 percent). Only 23 percent of those who responded actually fed their pets bully sticks, however.

The team says further research with a larger sample size is required to determine whether the caloric content and contamination rate is representative of all bully sticks, or other types of pet treats.