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The 9 Best Rawhide Alternatives for Your Dog

Do you want a healthy chew for your dog? Discover nine different rawhide alternatives and whether these rawhide alternatives are safe for dogs.

For many pet parents, offering rawhide to their canine companions has been a go-to solution for keeping them occupied, aiding in dental health, and satisfying their innate urge to chew. However, recent discussions in the pet care community have raised concerns about its safety and nutritional value. 

While rawhide is a dog favorite, there are quite a few safer and more beneficial alternatives for our pets so they can enjoy their favorite pasttime, just a little bit more safely. 

Why Consider Alternatives to Rawhide?

Rawhide has a long-standing history in the dog world. Made from the inner layer of cow or horse hides, these chews were once deemed essential for dental health and keeping your dog entertained. 

However, recent studies and pet health experts have revealed potential risks associated with rawhide consumption. From contamination with harmful chemicals during manufacturing to choking hazards and digestive blockages, rawhide’s concerns seem to stack up. 

These findings can be unsettling for pet parents who pride themselves on providing the best for their furry family members. Add to that the lack of substantial nutrients in rawhide, and it’s easy to see why alternatives are gaining momentum. 

After all, when our goal is the absolute best for our pets, relying on safe alternatives becomes imperative.

Are Rawhide Alternatives Safe for Dogs?

When stepping into the world of rawhide alternatives, it’s natural to ask, “Are these really safer?” The answer largely depends on the product and the commitment of the companies behind them. Quality alternatives undergo more transparent production processes, are free from harmful chemicals, and are crafted keeping canine health in focus. 

By prioritizing these, you minimize risks like choking and indigestion and provide chews that contribute positively to your dog’s health. Yet, it’s vital to remember that every dog is unique. 

While shifting to alternatives is a step toward health-conscious choices, always monitor your dog when introducing a new chew and consult with a vet if unsure. Trust, after all, is built on a foundation of knowledge and assurance.

What Are the 10 Best Rawhide Alternatives?

Navigating the landscape of dog chews can be overwhelming, especially when prioritizing safety, health benefits, and enjoyment for your canine friend. 

Drawing on a combination of scientific insights, pet expert recommendations, and the general trend toward natural, evidence-based products, here’s a list of the top nine rawhide alternatives.

1. Bully Sticks 

Bully sticks, made from 100% beef muscle, serve as a digestible and nutritious alternative to rawhide. Bully sticks are packed with high-quality proteins and free from artificial chemicals. These sticks can last for a considerable duration, offering your dog a satisfying chew without the associated risks of rawhide. Bully sticks are great for teething puppies as well.

2. Antlers

Deer and elk antlers are an increasingly popular natural chew option. They’re durable, providing dogs with hours of gnawing fun. 

Rich in minerals like calcium and phosphorus, antlers can aid in dental health. However, ensure you choose size-appropriate antlers and monitor the chewing to avoid any potential for tooth damage.

3. Fish Skins

For those looking to venture beyond traditional land-animal products, dried fish skins offer an omega-3-rich alternative. These chews, made from pure, dehydrated fish skins, provide a crunchy texture dogs adore. Beyond the fun, the essential fatty acids contribute to a shiny coat and support joint health.

4. Sweet Potato Chews

Veggies aren’t just for humans! Dehydrated sweet potato chews offer a fantastic source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. While more like a snack for medium to large dogs, sweet potato chews are great for puppies and small-breed dogs. 

Their chewy texture helps with dental cleaning, and being a single-ingredient chew, you’re assured of its natural goodness. Plus, it’s a great hypoallergenic option for sensitive pups.

5. Himalayan Dog Chews

Originating from an ancient recipe, these chews are made using yak and cow milk. Hard and dense, they provide a long-lasting chew experience. 

As your dog gnaws, the chews soften, ensuring a safe, edible end. They’re a brilliant source of protein and essential nutrients, making them both fun and nutritious.

6. Alternative Hide Chews

Many brands are now creating alternative hide chews. These chews have a similar texture and look to rawhide, without the potential for blockages and digestive issues. Earth Animal has been making No-Hides for many years, made from rice, meat, and digestive enzymes. 

Similarly, beef cheeks have been found to have almost the same longevity and texture to rawhide, while remaining highly digestible. 

7. Tendon Chews

Natural beef tendons offer a chewy alternative packed with collagen and joint-supporting compounds. These chews are low in fat, making them suitable for dogs on calorie-controlled diets. Moreover, the chewy texture is brilliant for gum health, ensuring that while your dog enjoys its treat, it’s also receiving a host of health benefits.

8. Elk Hooves

While it might sound unconventional, elk hooves have garnered attention for their durability and natural origin. These chews are cleaned and processed to ensure safety, providing a hard surface perfect for aggressive chewers. As always, supervision is key, ensuring that the chew remains safe as it wears down.

9. Pig Ears

A classic favorite, pig ears are often preferred for their natural composition and the crunchy satisfaction they offer. Rich in protein and low in fat, they can be a part of a balanced diet. 

However, as with all chews, sourcing is crucial. Opt for those without added chemicals or preservatives, ensuring the purest experience for your pet.

Choosing the right chew for your dog isn’t just about curbing their gnawing instincts; it’s an act of love, ensuring their safety and health. Each of the alternatives mentioned above comes with its unique benefits, and the best choice often depends on your dog’s specific needs and preferences. 

How Should You Introduce a New Chew to Your Dog?

Introducing a new chew to your dog is an exciting venture for you and your pet. However, a thoughtful approach ensures the experience remains positive and beneficial. 

Here are some essential guidelines:

  • Gradual Introduction: Consider introducing the new chew alongside their familiar favorites instead of a swift switch. This eases the transition and builds a positive association.
  • Supervise Initially: While the goal is to find a chew your dog can enjoy independently, always supervise the first few sessions. This helps in gauging their reaction and ensures safety.
  • Watch for Digestive Responses: Just as humans might react to new foods, dogs can also have digestive responses to new chews. Monitor for any signs of discomfort or irregularities.
  • Quality Over Quantity: It’s always worth investing in high-quality chews, even if they might be slightly pricier. The benefits, both in terms of nutrition and safety, outweigh the costs.
  • Seek Vet Advice: If unsure, always consult your vet. Their expertise can guide your choice, ensuring it aligns with your dog’s health needs.

How Do Novel Chews Contribute to Your Dog’s Nutrition? 

When introducing a new chew to your dog, the primary aim often revolves around entertainment and dental health. Yet, the significance of the nutritional component should never be overlooked.

The type and nature of the chew can impact your dog’s daily calorie intake and overall nutritional balance. For instance, while some chews, like pig ears, might have a higher caloric content, others, such as sweet potato chews, offer a lighter option. 

However, it’s not just about the calories. Many chews, including those rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish skins or those abundant in collagen, like tendon chews, serve as more than a distraction. They have the potential to bolster your dog’s diet with essential nutrients.

It’s always prudent to lean toward chews free from artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. The more natural and closer the chew is to its original state, the better it typically is for your pet. 

For those dogs with particular allergies or sensitivities, a keen eye on the chew’s ingredient list is crucial. Remember, hydration is key, especially after a prolonged chew session, ensuring that your pet remains hydrated and aids in optimal digestion.

Chewing on the Future: Safe Choices for Your Pup

As pet parents, ensuring the safety and well-being of our furry companions is paramount. With growing concerns around rawhide, it’s reassuring to know that numerous alternatives satisfy your dog’s natural urge to chew and offer nutritional benefits. 

From bully sticks to sweet potato chews, each option has its unique advantage. However, just like any other pet product, always prioritize quality, research, and expert advice. In pet wellness, being informed and discerning can make all the difference in ensuring that our choices are indeed safe for our beloved dogs.

For more information about pet health and behavior, check out the ElleVet blog. We strive to offer resources and tools for all pet parents looking to support their pets’ health and wellness. 


In vitro disappearance characteristics of selected categories of commercially available dog treats | NIH

Nutritional and microbial analysis of bully sticks and survey of opinions about pet treats | NIH

Are Rawhide Chews Dangerous for Dogs? | American Kennel Club

Pet food safety: dietary protein | NIH