Is Rawhide Bad For Dogs?

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You want your dog to have the best things in life. But what do you do when you’re unsure whether their chew toys are safe for them? While we’d all like to trust the products we find in pet stores, we can’t. Many of your dog’s toys might  be dangerous for them. For example, rawhides are chew toys similar to bones. Pet parents have given their dogs these chew toys for years because dogs love them, and they soften as your dog chews them, so they appear to be less dangerous than chew toys and toys made from hard plastics. 

Unfortunately, rawhides aren’t always safe for dogs and can be incredibly dangerous to their health and wellness. If your dog loves to chew, you might wonder, “What is rawhide?” and “Why is rawhide bad for dogs?” and what are your options  for healthier chew toys.

What Is Rawhide?

Rawhides are made from animal hides, particularly horse or cow hides. The hides are cleaned and cut before being formed into chewable treats for dogs.1 Unfortunately, during the production process, the animal skin is treated with various chemicals and bleaching agents to give it its white appearance and preserve the skin. Depending on the company, they may add various flavorings to it, like beef or chicken, to entice dogs to chew. 

Dogs love rawhides because they’re delicious and easy to chew. As you already know, dogs chew for mental stimulation and to prevent boredom. It’s a natural instinct for them they must satisfy. However, “Is rawhide bad for dogs?” The truth is that it can be, and many experts recommend keeping them away from your beloved pet.  

Why rawhides bad for dogs

Why Are Rawhides Dangerous For Dogs?

Toys satisfy your dog’s natural urge to chew, but are rawhides bad for dogs? Unfortunately, they can be. Potential risks associated with rawhides for dogs include the following: 

Digestive Issues

Some rawhides are highly digestible, especially as more manufacturers realize the potential risk of their products. However, you can’t guarantee that your dog will be able to digest any rawhide product because animal skin isn’t easily digestible. If your dog happens to chew off a large portion of rawhide, they may be able to easily swallow it because the hide gets softer when moistened by saliva. However, it can still cause digestive issues and pose intestinal obstruction risks. Since rawhide doesn’t digest as easily as food, it can get stuck in the digestive tract and cause a blockage.2 

Luckily, most dogs only chew off and digest small portions of rawhide, but larger chunks can break off, especially if your dog is a heavy chewer. In addition, some of the ingredients used in rawhides, such as bleaching agents, chemicals, and flavorings, can cause mild GI upset. If your dog has a sensitive stomach, they may experience vomiting and diarrhea when consuming rawhides, so it’s best to monitor them for signs of illness and take any potential hazards away from them. 

Choking Hazard

Rawhides are long-lasting. While they break down as the dog chews and soften so small pieces can be easily torn off, they still pose choking hazards, especially for heavy chewers. Dogs that break off large chunks of rawhide can choke on them.2 In addition to being difficult to digest, they’re difficult to chew. This can be beneficial because they’ll keep your dog preoccupied for longer, but it also means that dogs who don’t chew enough can choke on the pieces they break off. 

The easiest way to prevent choking hazards is to ensure you give your dog the right-sized rawhide for them.2 However, if your dog is a heavy chewer that likes to destroy toys or break off large chunks of bones, it’s usually best to avoid rawhide altogether. Meanwhile, light to moderate chewers may still benefit from rawhides. These dogs are less likely to break off large pieces of rawhide and will spend a lot of their time softening it enough to break it into smaller pieces before chewing and swallowing it. 

Chemicals

Rawhides contain chemicals because the animal hide must be treated before being sold. Rawhides are made from natural materials like animal skin, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely natural or organic. However, some are made from all-natural and easily digestible ingredients.2

Rawhides are typically manufactured overseas, where they go to a tannery and are treated with lime to separate the animal fat and skin. They’ll also remove hair with chemicals and rinse the hide.2 This means that your dog’s rawhide is treated with chemicals that can be dangerous to them. Of course, not all rawhides are created equal, so it’s important to learn about the brands before you bring one home to your dog. Some companies invest in healthier rawhides and rawhide alternatives made without chemicals, so you can do your research to find healthier options that are more easily digested. 

Added Calories

Healthy nutrition is essential to your dog’s health, and everything you feed your dog contains calories. Believe it or not, rawhides contain additional calories. If you give your dog rawhide every day, you might be adding around 100 kcal per small piece to their daily diet.3 Since small dogs only need a few hundred calories a day, they could consume more than they need from treats and chews. These additional calories aren’t inherently bad for your dog but can lead to weight gain, obesity, and associated health problems like diabetes if you’re not careful. 

Benefits & Risks Of Rawhide For Dogs

As we’ve mentioned, not all rawhides are created equal, and some are easily digestible and can provide your dog with hours of chewing fun. The benefits of rawhide for dogs include the following:

Mental Stimulation

Chewing when dogs are bored can prevent destructive behavior because rawhides can provide mental stimulation for dogs. Dogs love to chew for many reasons, and it can benefit their overall wellness because it gives them something to do when they’re stuck inside for hours. Also, since rawhides are long chews, they can take hours to finish, keeping your dog focused on a task that will keep them calm and tire them out. 

Dental Health

Chewing removes plaque from your dog’s teeth to improve their dental health and reduces bad breath. Unfortunately, most dogs chew using one side of their mouths, so it’s not a complete dental care routine. Still, it can help remove bacteria that cause periodontal disease and bad breath. 

Low Calorie

Unfortunately, not all rawhides are low-calorie, so you should always check the packaging before giving one to your dog to understand how much you’re feeding them. Still, many rawhides are fairly low in calories, with many brands offering these chews with only ten calories. If you’re counting your dog’s calories or they’re on a diet, rawhide can be a great option to keep your dog focused compared to other, higher-calorie options like treat-dispensing toys filled with fattening treats.

Of course, rawhides don’t provide your dog with any nutritional benefits, so they must still eat their regular dog food. If you notice your dog isn’t eating their kibble, it might be because they’re full from their rawhide, which tells you to cut back on how many you give them in a week. 

While rawhides have many benefits, your dog can often get the same benefits from other types of toys and chews. However, if your dog loves rawhide, you can keep them safe from the potential hazards by following these tips:

  • Monitor them: You should always monitor your dog when chewing a rawhide or playing with any other toys because they may be able to break pieces off and choke on them. Since no toy is truly indestructible and rawhide can break off in large pieces, monitoring your pet and only letting them chew when you’re home and with them can prevent major health problems. 
  • Find the right size: You should never give a small dog a large rawhide because they’re likely to break pieces off. In addition, if your dog can’t open their mouths wide enough to chew it, they may not be interested in it. In addition, dogs that love to chew rawhide may finish them in one sitting, so you should only give them size-appropriate chews to prevent them from consuming too many calories. 
  • Take it away: Consider taking your dog’s rawhide away from them once they’ve chewed it down to a small piece that could cause a choking hazard.1 The final piece is often small enough your dog might try to chew it and swallow it whole, which could be dangerous. However, if you monitor your pet and take the chew away when it becomes a choking hazard, you can prevent a possibly dangerous situation. 
  • Check the packaging: Whenever possible, learn as much as you can about a particular rawhide. Most modern rawhide products are easily digestible, especially rawhide alternative chews that aren’t made from animal hides. Checking the packaging will tell you how many calories are in each rawhide and any additional and potentially harmful ingredients. 

Alternatives to rawhides

Alternatives To Rawhides

Are rawhide bones bad for dogs? Not necessarily, but they can be. Since many pet parents don’t monitor their pets to ensure they’re not consuming large chunks, they can cause choking or blockage hazards harmful to your dog’s health. Luckily, there are a few alternatives you can give your dog if they love to chew, including the following: 

  • Carrots: Carrots are a healthy, crunchy snack for dogs that will allow them to share a snack with their humans while satisfying their urge to chew. Unfortunately, since carrots are consumed pretty quickly, they won’t give your dog the mental stimulation they need, so while they make a great snack, carrots are not a replacement for chew toys.
  • Bully Sticks: Bully sticks are another favorite among dogs, and they’re easily digestible and don’t contain additional chemicals. They can also last a long time. Unfortunately, they have a strong odor and are high in calories.3 In addition, bully sticks may contain bacteria, and some dogs experience mild GI issues. 
  • Yak Cheese: Himalayan yak cheese is another popular option for dogs who love to chew. They’re hard chew treats that come in many different sizes, and dogs slowly chip pieces away by chewing them. Unlike rawhides, they don’t soften as easily, making them less of a choking hazard. However, you should still take these chews away from your dog as soon as they’ve chewed it down to a small piece.
  • Other mental stimulation toys: While dogs love to chew, they also enjoy any activity that can provide them with mental stimulation. If you’re trying to prevent boredom, you can give your dog treat dispensing toys, snuffle mats to let them sniff for food and treats, and lick mats. 

Dog chewing a bully stick

Final Notes

Every dog has a natural urge to chew. If your dog is bored, they may engage in destructive behaviors like chewing your shoes or the furniture. However, rawhides can help prevent boredom by providing your dog with mental stimulation, but they’re not always safe. Of course, monitoring your dog while they chew can make these chews safer for your dog by allowing you to ensure they’re not swallowing large pieces. Still, they can be choking hazards and lead to intestinal blockages. 

Finding the right toys, treats, and chews is essential for your dog’s health and wellness. Whether you’re looking for healthy alternatives to rawhides or you have a dog with a sensitive stomach and want to learn more about probiotics for dogs, you need a vet who can help. Dutch can help you find the right options for your pet based on their activity levels, play habits, and general health. Talk to a Dutch vet today or read through our other resources for dog owners to help you learn more about your pet. 

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References

  1. “Rawhide Bones and Treats for Dogs: Risks and Benefits.” WebMD, https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/rawhide-good-or-bad-for-your-dog.

  2. Burke, Anna. “Are Rawhide Chews Dangerous for Dogs?” American Kennel Club, 21 May 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/are-rawhide-chews-dangerous-for-dog/.

  3. “What Are Safe and Healthy Treats for My Pet?” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 2 Nov. 2017, https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2016/01/what-are-safe-and-healthy-treats-for-my-pet/.

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