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Are Rawhides Bad for Dogs?

Are Rawhides Bad for Dogs?

For many pet parents, walking down the aisle of pet stores reveals a dizzying array of dog chews designed to keep our furry friends occupied and satisfied, all while promoting dental health. Among the countless options, rawhide chews have traditionally stood out, with many dog owners swearing by their effectiveness and appeal. 

However, many pet parents have recently begun to wonder if these chews are truly safe for our dogs or if potential hazards lurk within these treats. This article aims to help pet parents understanding rawhides, their benefits, and the concerns surrounding their use.

What Is Rawhide?

Rawhide is essentially derived from animal skin. It primarily consists of the inner layer of the hide, while the outer layer is typically used in the leather industry. 

When you hold a piece of rawhide, you’re essentially holding a piece of processed animal hide, which, when untreated, is thick, tough, and challenging to chew. Once it undergoes processing, this hide transforms into the malleable, chewy product that so many dogs love. 

The leather industry plays a pivotal role in the production of rawhide products. Many by-products of leather manufacturing end up as these chews.

What Are the Benefits of Rawhide Chews?

Rawhide chews are not just popular by chance; they offer benefits that appeal to both dogs and their owners. Firstly, from a dental perspective, these chews are a boon. 

Like other dental chews, they can significantly reduce tartar and buildup on a dog’s teeth, acting as a natural toothbrush. This not only ensures cleaner teeth but also promotes overall dental health. 

Secondly, rawhides provide a satisfactory outlet for dogs, especially those with a strong chewing instinct. They cater to a dog’s natural urge to chew, which can be especially beneficial for those pets that might otherwise turn their attention to furniture or shoes. 

Moreover, evidence suggests that rawhides might strengthen a dog’s teeth over time, provided they’re used appropriately. However, while these benefits are noteworthy, pet parents must be aware of the potential downsides.

What Are the Concerns Surrounding Rawhide for Dogs?

The growing market for dog treats and chews means more choices for pet parents, but it also means a greater responsibility to ensure what our dogs are chewing on is safe. Among the wave of new treat options, rawhides have raised eyebrows.

Choking Hazard

One of the most immediate concerns with rawhide chews is the risk of choking. As dogs gnaw on rawhide, they can tear off large pieces, especially if they’re aggressive chewers. These large pieces can become a choking hazard, potentially causing blockage in the esophagus. 

Many new pet parents ask the logical question: can puppies have rawhide? It’s essential to understand this risk is especially pronounced in puppies due to their smaller size and inexperienced chewing habits. This is especially important for puppies from smaller breeds like Dachshunds

Digestive Tract Issues

Rawhides, particularly the large chunks, pose a concern when ingested. If not chewed properly, these chunks can lead to intestinal blockages. This can be a serious health risk and may sometimes require surgical intervention. 

The FDA has even issued statements regarding potential gastrointestinal complications arising from rawhide consumption. This doesn’t mean pet parents should completely avoid rawhides, but being informed and cautious is crucial.

Chemicals and Contaminants

Beyond physical risks, rawhides can sometimes be treated with toxic chemicals during manufacturing. Preservatives keep the rawhide looking fresh, while other chemicals like hydrogen peroxide or bleach can be used for whitening. 

Even more concerning is the potential use of formaldehyde. While the majority of USA-produced rawhides adhere to strict standards, those sourced from abroad might not maintain the same quality control, making it essential for pet parents to check the origin of their pet’s chews.

How Does Rawhide Affect Your Dog’s Digestive System? 

Rawhide and its impact on a dog’s digestive system are a prime concern for many pet parents. When a dog chews rawhide, it softens and swells, making it malleable and easy to swallow. However, not all rawhide breaks down efficiently once inside the digestive system.

Large pieces of rawhide can sometimes become lodged in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract, leading to potential blockages. These obstructions can be life-threatening and may require surgical intervention.

Furthermore, rawhides can sometimes harbor bacteria. If not manufactured or stored correctly, harmful bacteria, like E. Coli or salmonella, can thrive. Ingesting these bacteria can lead to gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea.

While rawhides have been a go-to for many dog owners for years, it’s essential to understand the potential impact on a dog’s digestive system. If you choose to give rawhides to your pet, ensure it’s from a reputable source, monitor the chewing closely, and always consult your vet if you notice any changes in your dog’s eating or digestive habits.

How Can You Choose Safe Dog Chews?

Ensuring our pets get only the best, especially when it comes to their treats and chews, is paramount. Here’s a guide to making those choices a bit easier.

How Can You Recognize Safe Rawhide Products?

It’s not that all rawhides are harmful; it’s about knowing which ones to choose. Pet parents should prioritize USA-made rawhides. They usually undergo stricter quality controls, reducing the risk of bacterial contamination and harmful chemicals. 

Always inspect the product for any unusual odors or discolorations. If you’re wondering if your puppy can have one specific rawhide, ensure it’s of the right size and texture to minimize risks.

How Can You Understand Your Dog’s Chewing Style?

Dogs, much like humans, have preferences and habits. Some are gentle nibblers, while others are aggressive chewers. Similarly, some dogs primarily use their front teeth to slowly tear a toy apart, while others utilize their molars to do more damage.

Recognizing your dog’s style is key to selecting the right chew. For puppies or inexperienced chewers, softer chews might be more suitable to avoid any accidental ingestion of large pieces.

What Is Some Advice for Pet Parents?

While rawhides can offer benefits, it’s vital to introduce them slowly, especially if you’re contemplating giving one to your puppy. Always supervise your pets when they have a chew. 

If they bite off large chunks, it’s best to take it away and replace it with a more suitable option. Your dog’s safety should always come first.

What Are Rawhide Alternatives?

In the vast universe of dog chews, rawhides are just one among many. For those pet parents seeking safer or different options, the market offers a plethora of alternatives. 

Antlers and tendons have grown in popularity, known for their durability and mineral-rich content. Dental chews are designed to satiate the urge to chew and promote dental health, making them a two-fold benefit. 

Bully sticks and non-rawhide alternatives have become staples in many households with new puppies. While each alternative comes with its own set of advantages, it’s imperative for pet parents to research and decide what aligns best with their pet’s needs.

Is It Better to Give My Dog Chicken or Cow Bones Instead of Rawhide? 

It’s a question many pet parents grapple with: with concerns surrounding rawhide, could natural bones be a safer alternative? Both chicken and cow bones are often considered, but they come with their own sets of pros and cons.

  • Chicken Bones:Chicken bones are softer and can be chewed and broken down more easily by dogs. However, this very feature poses a danger. When cooked, they can splinter and lead to choking or even perforate the dog’s digestive tract. Frozen chicken bones can be purchased from reputable pet stores, but always proceed with caution and supervise your dog’s chewing.
  • Cow Bones: Cow bones are hardier and don’t splinter as easily as chicken bones. They can provide a long-lasting chew and may help with dental health by scraping off plaque. However, for smaller dogs, these bones can be too hard and can crack softer teeth.

Wrapping Up

The debate on rawhides, their benefits, and potential risks is multifaceted. At the end of the day, pet parents must weigh the pros and cons and, most importantly, understand their dog’s unique needs. 

As pet parents, our prime responsibility is to ensure our dogs’ safety and well-being. Rawhides come with several health concerns that make alternatives often the better choice. From bully sticks to non-rawhide chews, it’s important to find the best choice to support your dog’s dental health and overall well-being.

When faced with this decision, ElleVet believes in always prioritizing quality and safety. Whether you’re considering rawhides or their alternatives, understanding the source, manufacturing process, and any potential treatments or chemicals is key. 

Being informed ensures you’re offering your pet the best and fosters a deeper bond of trust between you and your furry companion.

For those still on the fence or concerned about potential risks, remember there are numerous alternatives in the market, from bully sticks to dental chews. The world of dog chews is vast and diverse, ready for exploration. Ultimately, the choices we make should reflect our commitment to our pets’ happiness and well-being.


Long-Lasting Chews Elicit Positive Emotional States in Dogs during Short Periods of Social Isolation | NIH 

Dog Owners’ Ideas and Strategies Regarding Dental Health in Their Dogs-Thematic Analysis of Free Text Survey Responses | NIH 

What to Do if Your Dog Eats a Chicken Bone | AKC

Can Dogs Eat Bones? Be Careful Before Giving Your Pup a Bone | AKC