Is Rawhide Safe or Bad For Dogs?

Updated on October 24, 2016
Alison Graham profile image

Alison is a freelance writer on health, nutrition, skincare, and pets, especially cats and dogs.

Dogs love rawhide chews and my own dog Ellie, with her Christmas chew, is no exception - but you do need to take care if you are going to feed your dog these chews safely.
Dogs love rawhide chews and my own dog Ellie, with her Christmas chew, is no exception - but you do need to take care if you are going to feed your dog these chews safely. | Source

Rawhide chews and bones are popular, but are they safe or bad for your dog? Learn which rawhide bones are better than others and some alternative treat choices.

We all love to give our dogs a tasty treat and rawhide chews are very popular so we will be examining the evidence and attempting to answer not only whether rawhide might be bad for dogs, but also whether rawhide is safe for dogs.

We will also be looking at some alternative treats that you might like to consider

This Article At A Glance

We all love to give our dogs a tasty treat and rawhide chews are very popular. My own little Jack Russell Terrier, Ellie, loves her rawhide chews and they certainly help to keep her teeth nice and clean.

In this article, we will be examining the evidence and attempting to answer not only whether rawhide might be bad for dogs, but also whether rawhide is safe for dogs. We will also be looking at some alternatives that you might like to consider once you have read the findings!

What Is Rawhide?

As the name implies, rawhide is the hide, or skin of an animal. The hide is scraped clean of all traces of muscle tissue and fat and the hair is also removed. The hide can come from any animal, but is most usually bovine or equine.

The hide is not cooked, but dried out and shaped to form a bone, twist or chew. These treats are available in various sizes and have flavorings added like chicken and beef flavors to make them even more palatable for dogs.

Are Rawhide Bones Good For Dogs?

It cannot be denied that dogs love to chew and it has been proven that dogs given suitable treats to chew on, have teeth with less plaque and tartar buildup and in general, sweeter smelling breath as a result of less mouth bacteria present.

Chewing is also good for dogs because there is no denying the pleasure they get from having a tasty treat to chew on. Giving them something they are allowed to chew, might also pay dividends, protecting your valuables like shoes and furniture from the attentions of a bored dog!

Dogs love their treats but is rawhide bad for them?
Dogs love their treats but is rawhide bad for them? | Source

Is Rawhide Safe for Dogs?

There are huge quantities of these rawhide treats consumed in the US and elsewhere in the world, every single day.

The number of dogs that have problems as a result, is small by comparison, but the risks should not be ignored and it is possible to minimise these and safeguard the health of your pet as far as possible if this type of treat is on the menu!

My Own Dog Enjoys Her Rawhide Chews

Avoid Bacterial Contamination

This is a risk that you can do something about. Keep any treats in a dry, cool, airtight container before use. Wash your hands after giving one to your dog and ensure that once the dog tires of chewing the treat that you remove it and put it in the trash.

Do not leave it where he can come back to it later or even the next day as once the dog has chewed, moistened and softened the dry surface, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria which could make him - and potentially other members of the family, really sick.

If your dog is reluctant to give up his rawhide bone, offer him an alternative small treat so that you can remove it, or call him for his meal, or a walk and then remove it.

Do not let your dog take the bone off and bury it - only to dig it up stinking and green with slime some weeks later. I have been there with one of my dogs - not an experience that either he, or I, would want to repeat!


Avoid Digestive Problems

Avoid Digestive Problems.
Because of the manufacturing process of rawhide dog chews, chemicals are often used in the liquid to soak the hide so that the hair can more easily be removed.

Traces of these chemicals can remain in the finished product and may cause digestive irritation including diarrhoea.

In addition some dogs may be allergic to some of the flavorings used and whilst this is not a problem specific to rawhide chews, it is something to bear in mind when choosing any dog treat.

Avoid Choking or Internal Blockages

Choking is one of the biggest risk associated with rawhide bones for dogs. This most often happens when the dog manages to chew of the end of a twist bone and a good reason to remove the treat from the dog once it starts to look 'chewed'.

If the dog does not actually choke on one of these large lumps of hide, it is possible for it to be swallowed and become lodged further down in the digestive system causing a full or partial blockage which, if left untreated could prove fatal. It could also turn a cheap treat into a very expensive and traumatic surgical procedure for your dog.

To minimize the risk of choking or swallowing large pieces make sure that your dog is where other pets will not hassle him so that he can enjoy his treat in peace. Being disturbed whilst eating a treat is the most likely cause of your pet gulping down a bigger piece than he otherwise would in order to prevent anyone else getting hold of his prize!

Keep a close eye on your dog for any signs that he might have a blockage after eating a rawhide chew. The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Being lethargic, listless or having a fever
  • Being sick
  • Having diarrhea which might have some blood in it
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Signs of being in discomfort - this might be that his tummy feels hard to the touch or he is reluctant to let you touch him there, or he may be restless and not want to lay down.

Know Your Dog

Is your dog a calm chap who likes to settle down with a chew and gently chew away at if for a long while? Or is he a gorger, who has got to get the treat down as quickly as possible and who will try to bite of great chunks in order to do so?

If your dog falls into the former category, he might well be safe to eat an appropriately sized rawhide bone or chew for his size and breed. If he is in the latter category, you would do well to find him a safer alternative!

The bone shaped treats are safer than the flat sheets and reconstituted, pressed or compressed rawhide treats, where small pieces are pressed together to make a bone or chew, are possibly the safest as they tend to break off in smaller pieces.

Safe Treats and Dangerous Treats

In the video below, the Vet talks about compressed rawhide as a pretty safe treat. He also talks about some treats which are pretty dangerous and some great, safe alternatives. Well worth a watch - even if only for the handsome Vet!

Which are The Safest Dog Rawhide Chews?

  • Look for treats that are naturally colored, not bleached white and choose ones that are naturally dried, without being chemically processed.
  • Look for larger, thicker chews of the compressed type or ones that are tightly rolled pieces of thicker, 'natural' rawhide.
  • Choose a size of treat appropriate for the size of your dog.

Pictured above are some of the best we found after extensive research! These are from Doctors Foster and Smith and are available on their own website and an extensive product range at Amazon.

We felt that after looking at a lot of different types and at customer reviews and feedback that these were the best quality products in rawhide.

Our Favorite Alternative to Rawhide Chews

Smartbones Rawhide-Free Dog Bones, Made With Real Chicken
Smartbones Rawhide-Free Dog Bones, Made With Real Chicken

Smartbones make a good alternative to rawhide, being 99% digestible and giving great dental health benefits for your dog. They contain absolutely no rawhide and come in a range of sizes and chicken, peanut butter and dental flavors.


Do You Give Your Dog Rawhide Treats?

Let us know what you think about rawhide for dogs

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Low Calorie Alternative To Rawhide

Nylabone Healthy Edibles Regular Variety Pack, 3-Count
Nylabone Healthy Edibles Regular Variety Pack, 3-Count

Healthy Edibles Natural Dog Chews are made by Nylabone and are low calorie chews which dogs love and which are very effective at cleaning their teeth too! They come in a wide range of sizes and three flavors, Bacon, Roast Chicken or Beef (plus a multi pack containing all three flavors).


The final Verdict

It seems that the answer to our original question "is rawhide bad for dogs?", is "not necessarily"! Unfortunately, the answer to our question "is rawhide safe for dogs?", is pretty much the same.

My conclusion is that you need to know your dog, his eating habits and his temperament. If he is a quiet chewer rather than a "gorger" and you choose a good quality rawhide product, made without chemicals and prepared so that it makes a stronger and safer chew - and that you take the precautions outlined above, your dog may very well NEVER have a problem with this type of chew.

For those of us who have concerns, however, there are safer alternatives. If in doubt, ask your vet for a recommendation based on his knowledge of your dog's breed, type and temperament and any problem cases he has treated arising from dog chews.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Alison Graham


    Submit a Comment

    • Alison Graham profile imageAUTHOR

      Alison Graham 

      4 years ago from UK

      Thanks so much for your comment Bob - you make an interesting point and certainly, apart from that one time when my dog dug up the chew all covered in green slime and ate the majority of it before I could get it away from him (goodness he was sick!), our dogs have never been ill as a result of eating 'used' chews!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thorough, well written hub, Alison! I owned a feed and grain store and, in my experience, rawhide chews were the most popular chew toys over the years. Of course, we've seen an influx of alternative chew toys and treats come onto the market in recent years, so that may have some impact on rawhide's popularity.

      I would quibble with one assertion, though. While bacteria can be a concern once the rawhide has been chewed, empirical evidence tends to be to the contrary...similar to the point you make in the sidebar "Is Rawhide Safe For Dogs?"

      Most rawhide chews aren't consumed in a single session and are just "put away" until the next time, when it's brought out without health consequences to man nor beast. Sort of like when we thaw meat on the kitchen counter. We're told not to for the threat of salmonella, yet it's commonly done without incident. Do some people get sick sometime? Sure, but compared to the volume of risks taken, it's pretty insignificant. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Alison Graham profile imageAUTHOR

      Alison Graham 

      5 years ago from UK

      Thanks Dreamhowl, I really appreciate your comment. Yes it does seem strange that more people do not know about alternatives to rawhid such as SmartBones - there must be a lot of dogs out there missing out on some really tasty treats!

    • Dreamhowl profile image

      Jessica Marello 

      5 years ago from United States

      This is a great hub! You covered the pros and cons of rawhide and offered some really healthy alternatives (that I find not many dog owners know about). My store sells SmartBones and I am surprised more people don't purchase them! Voted up.

    • Alison Graham profile imageAUTHOR

      Alison Graham 

      5 years ago from UK

      Thanks so much tillsontitan, I really appreciate your comment and the vote up. Duck jerky sounds pretty good to me!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      This was excellent! You've given good background and apparently done your research. I have a gorger so no rawhide for him but he does get duck jerky! The video was an excellent addition to this hub. I give this five stars.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.


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