Rawhide is a favorite dog treat for many dog owners, but is rawhide good for dogs?
The truth is, it depends on who you ask.
Dog health experts typically advise against giving your dog rawhide bones, but a diet consisting primarily of rawhide can be beneficial as well, depending on the dog.
There are several types of rawhide dog treats available on the market today.
Some are made from beef or pork, others from chicken or lamb.
The most popular are the treats that look like a cow's hoof or pig's ear.
Rawhide dog treats are a nutritious way to treat your dog and at the same time, keep his teeth healthy.
Rawhide dog treats made of what?
Rawhide treats come from the inner layer of cow or horse hides.
During manufacturing, the hides are cleaned and cut or ground.
Then they’re pressed into chewable dog treats of different shapes and sizes.
Some rawhide treats contain beef, chicken, or liver flavorings to make them more appealing for dogs.
In recent years, many dog owners have become concerned about the ingredients in their dogs’ food and treat. You may have even noticed that many rawhide chew manufacturers are promoting their “natural, digestible chews.
Does that mean that rawhide chews are not all the same? That’s exactly what it means.
Rawhide chews are made from dried animal skins, which seems natural enough. However, what’s important to consider is where these rawhide chews are made.
Rawhides made in the United States are few and far between, and much pricier than your average chew, but the benefits are well worth the cost.
Rawhide chews are made from the leather industry’s leftovers. Most hides are taken directly from the kill floors at slaughterhouses and placed into high-salt brines, which helps slow their decay.
Most rawhide chews are manufactured in China, and it can take weeks to months before these brined hides actually make it to the tanneries for their final manufacture.
Once the hide arrives at a tannery, it is soaked and treated with lime to help separate the fat from the skin, the hair is removed by chemical and physical efforts, and the hide is rinsed again.
Unfortunately, the salt brines cannot prevent decay, no matter how long they delay it. It is best to fully rinse a rawhide in water before giving it to your dog.
Rawhide digestibility can vary from dog to dog and from chew to chew.
Generally speaking, rawhides are not easily digested, which is why large chunks broke off and swallowed pose such high obstruction risks.
Any pieces your pup breaks off will have to pass through his digestive system in chunks since they will not be broken down as well as the rest of his food.
It is best to manually remove the chewed-up rawhide before the dog ingests it, as it can not only potentially cause an esophageal or intestinal obstruction, but it can last for months in his stomach, causing gastrointestinal issues.
That said, dogs that truly take their time chewing on rawhides and do not swallow large pieces should have no digestive problems with the treats.
Some manufacturers even make rawhide chews out of more digestible ingredients, and although they do not always last as long, they are excellent alternatives for dogs that might have stomach issues. There are also rawhide alternative treats that are similar in texture and look to traditional rawhide but are formulated to be digestible.
The decision about whether to offer rawhide chews is going to be yours and yours alone.
Consider your dog’s individual chewing habits and health, decide if you’re willing to accept the extra expense of high-quality, American-made chews, and consult with your veterinarian. Make sure you read the label carefully and remember that the thicker the hide, the better since it will take longer for your dog to chew.
There are many great alternatives to rawhide chews, but for the right dog, these treats can be a perfectly safe option.
It all comes down to your comfort level and ability to recognize the risks involved in providing them to your dog.
Benefits of Rawhide
All dogs need to chew. It’s an instinct.
Some even spend hours chewing every day. Chewing can provide your dog with stimulation and help relieve anxiety.
Especially with puppies, treats like rawhide bones can be a great substitute for your leather shoes and the legs of the dining room table!
Chewing also keeps dogs’ jaws strong, teeth clean, and breath a bit fresher.
Dogs that chew regularly on rawhides and other bones or toys have less plaque and tartar build-up on teeth.
Risks associated with rawhide dog treats
Given the amount of rawhide consumed by dogs each year, the risks are relatively small.
Still, risks can be serious, so don’t ignore them. Weigh the risks and benefits of giving rawhides based upon your dog's chewing needs and behaviors.
These are the most common rawhide risks:
- Contamination. As with pet toys, rawhide chews can contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. And, as with other pet (or human) foods, Salmonella or E. coli contamination is possible. Even humans can be at risk when coming into contact with these bacteria on rawhide treats.
- Digestive irritation. Some dogs are simply sensitive or allergic to rawhide or other substances used in their manufacture. This can cause problems, including diarrhea.
- Choking or blockages. Rawhide bones and other edible chews can pose a choking and blockage risk. In fact, this is a much bigger risk than contamination or digestive irritation. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Depending on its size and where it is located, a vet may be able to remove these pieces fairly easily through the throat. But sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.
Make rawhide chews safer for dog
If you decide to offer your dog rawhide, you can take certain precautions to make them safer.
To minimize your risk of exposure to contaminants, wash your hands thoroughly after handling these treats.
Have young children and family members with immune system problems avoid handling them at all.
To protect your dog:
- Ask your vet about how much is safe to give your dog. The general rule is the smaller the dog, the fewer the chews. Especially at first, give one at a time. Then wait a day to see how your dog’s intestinal system responds.
- Separate your dog from other pets so they can relax while chewing. This way, your dog will be less likely to gulp large pieces whole. Doing this might be especially important if you have a very territorial dog around food.
- Offer different types of rawhide, but only when you can supervise and see how your dog is handling the treat. Are they swallowing big bites? Are they starting to gag or choke? If so, take the treat away and check with your vet about other types of rawhide or other types of chew treats or toys.
- Take the rawhide chew away from your dog once it is small enough to swallow whole. If it is hard to get your dog to give up the rawhide chew, try asking them to sit and then offer another type of treatment.
Watch for signs of bacterial contamination, gastric irritation, or blockage. Contact your veterinarian if your dog has signed such as:
- Repeated swallowing
- Diarrhea, with or without blood
- Lack of energy
- Signs of pain
- Refusal to eat or weight loss
Should some dogs avoid rawhide treats?
Does your dog have a history of diarrhea or other digestive troubles after chewing on rawhide treats? Or does your dog tend to swallow big chunks of rawhide, putting them at risk for a blockage? If so, try alternatives for keeping teeth clean and satisfying your dog’s urge to chew.
Talk with your veterinarian or pet store merchant.
Describe your pet’s size, personality, and needs to figure out what might work best.
Sometimes a hard rubber chew works well. Some types can be filled with food such as peanut butter to get your dog interested and keep them occupied.
Whether or not your dog has problems with rawhide chews, you might want to try a variety of chewing treats and toys, including rawhide, natural marrow bones, and hard rubber toys to fully satisfy your dog’s chewing and other needs.
10 Best Rawhide Alternatives for Your Dog
1. Bully Sticks
In recent years, bully sticks have become one of the most popular, natural chews for dogs. They love the taste, and the texture is ideal for safe chewing and dental cleaning. It softens as they chew, and can aid in removing bacteria that hide in the back of their mouth and at the gumline.
They are offered in different lengths, thicknesses, and shapes to suit each dogs chewing style. They are suitable for dogs of any size and are a safe chew for seniors and dogs that have fewer chompers than they should.
Bully sticks are great options for teething puppies as well. As they soften, they will massage the gums and help to work baby teeth out.
2. Eldon's Tendons
One of the ways that we manage our dental health is by flossing. If you feed tendons to your dog, then they can floss too. The stringy texture of the tendon will allow the chew to sink between teeth as it softens.
Eldon's Beef Tendons are fully digestible and are suitable for all dogs. Choose the size and protein that is best for your dog. The most common types of tendons available are beef, bison, and lamb.
3. Eldon's Tripe Twist Sticks
Another great flossing method, tripe twist sticks is a stick of 100% green beef tripe that is twisted into a layered chew stick. Unlike a rawhide that is tightly pressed together, tripe twists will soften and be chewed apart much easier.
It’s not the longest-lasting chew on our list, but it is absolutely a fan favorite due to its meaty flavor. Tripe twists are low fat, and easy to digest. They don’t expand in your dog’s stomach, so don’t be alarmed if your dog begins to crunch away at this dental chew.
4. Eldon's Chomper Sticks
For dogs that love to chomp, this natural chew provides a satisfying crunch for powerful jaws and a long-lasting chomp session for more delicate chewers. Eldon's Chompers come in sticks, braids, and strips.
The beef5. Raw Bones
Feeding raw bones fights bacteria on two fronts. The action of chewing will loosen bacteria, especially in the harder-to-reach areas at the back of their mouth, and the enzymes from the raw meat will fight off bacteria and freshen your dog’s breath.
Not all raw bones are safe to feed though. Stick to edible bones like chicken necks, or softer recreational bones like beef ribs.
6. Himalayan Yak Chews
The toughest chew on our list is the Himalayan Yak Chews. It’s a thick stack of hardened yak and cow cheese that will be best suited for tough chewers. It will provide plenty of abrasions to remove bacteria from their teeth and will last longer than most natural chews.
Yak chews aren’t suitable for every dog. Puppies, seniors, and dogs with dental issues should avoid chewing on hard chews like this to reduce the risk of damaging their teeth. For adult dogs with strong teeth, they are low-fat chew with loads of flavor.
7. Eldon's Cow Ears
Eldon's Cow Ears are made of cartilage and are a tasty fun treat for removing plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth. For bigger breeds, a cow ear won’t be super long-lasting, but it will still stand up long enough for its teeth to benefit.
Cow ears are inexpensive and low in calories, and they are a great daily chew that won’t contribute to unnecessary weight gain.
8. Icelandic+ Lamb Horn
break down Icelandic Lamb Horns are fibrous which allows the chew to brush the teeth and gums as they chew. Unlike antlers that are very hard, lamb horns have some give, so they are suitable for dogs of all ages and sizes.
9. ValuePack Tartar Bones - small
This smoked bone is made from the kneecap of a cow. It’s round, solid, and covered with yummy cartilage. This is a recreational chew, so avoid letting your dog eat the whole thing. Your dog will enjoy cleaning off the bone, and they won’t even know that they are cleaning their teeth at the same time.
Like any cooked bone, there is a risk of tooth damage, so ValuePack Tartar Bones are not suitable for puppies, seniors, and dogs with dental issues that could crack or chip their teeth while chewing.
10. Hero Chicken Feet
Although small, chicken feet are a great option for dogs. In some ways, they are like the doggy toothpick. They will clean hard-to-reach places near the back of the mouth and scrape away plaque and bacteria near the gum line. Hero Chicken Feet are an excellent addition to your dog's regular dental routine.
No chew is without risk. No matter the type, any chew that is not properly chewed, is swallowed whole, or is not the appropriate size for your pet can be a choking hazard. When selecting a size for your dog, you can never go too big, but it’s dangerously easy to feed a chew that is too small.
Dog’s that tend to gulp treats, or have digestive conditions, should take extra care with natural dental chews. Large pieces may not break down or could risk damaging the softer tissues along their digestive tract.
Always feed chews in moderation. Even low-fat chews add calories. Make sure you are balancing dental chews with your regular diet and exercise. This will prevent your dog from packing on the pounds or running into digestive issues.
Lastly, never leave your dog unattended with a chew. Monitoring them ensures their safety and helps you understand how they chew to offer the safest and best natural chews to improve their dental health.