Popular dog treats called bully or pizzle sticks may contain more than just dried penis meat – they could be contaminated with dangerous pathogens, according to a new study published this month by researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and the University of Guelph.
The study, published in the January 2013 issue of the Canadian Veterinary Journal, examined 26 bully sticks purchased from retailers in the United States and Canada and made by different manufacturers. They found was that one-third of treats tested were contaminated with bacteria. According to study authors,
“One (4 percent) of the sticks was contaminated with Clostridium difficile; one (four percent) was contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics; and seven (27 percent) were contaminated with Escherichia coli, including one tetracycline-resistant sample.”
For the uninitiated, “bully” or “pizzle” sticks are dog treats are made from the uncooked, dried penis of a bull or steer. The study authors were surprised to learn that a large number of people who did not know what bully sticks actually were. 38% of veterinarians were unable to correctly identify the source of bully sticks as bull penis’ and 56% of the general pubic didn’t have a clue what the treats were actually made of.
Pet parents handling contaminated treats should exersize caution. Owners should wash their hands after touching such treats. In particular, very young children or pets, elderly people and aging pets, pregnant women or pets and people or pets with weakened immune systems should never touch or handle raw animal-product-based treats and raw meat diets, the researchers said.
Further research with a larger number of samples is needed to determine whether the contamination rate found in this study is representative of all bully sticks, or other types of pet treats, according to the authors.
The study was published in the January issue of the Canadian Veterinary Journal. To read more about the study click here.
Reference: Freeman LM, Janecko N, Weese JS. Nutritional and microbial analysis of bully sticks and survey of opinions about pet treats. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2013; 54: 50-54.