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is rawhide bad for dogs

Is Rawhide Bad for Dogs? Here are 5 Better Treats for Your Dog

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Rawhide has been a popular dog treat for decades, but more and more pet parents are asking themselves: is rawhide bad for dogs? This article will show you the pros and cons of rawhide dog chews as well as multiple safe and healthy chewing treat alternatives for your pup.

Dogs young and old love to chew—but we certainly don’t want them chewing everything in our house! When a traditional chew toy doesn’t work, many pet parents turn to rawhide chews as a way to satisfy their pup’s chewing craving, but is a rawhide chew bad for dogs? What is rawhide? And what are some safe alternatives?

What is Rawhide?

Rawhide is made from the inner layer of an animal’s skin, usually a cow’s. After it’s cleaned and processed, it gets turned into all the familiar rawhide bones you see at your local pet store.

It’s not surprising that dogs love rawhide—they get to chew and chew on a treat that tastes like beef! 

A lot of pet parents love traditional rawhide too. It’s like a chew toy that keeps their pup occupied for hours, lowers their dog’s anxiety, and keeps their pup’s teeth clean.

All of that sounds great, right? But is that the whole story? Is rawhide truly safe or is rawhide bad for dogs?

Why Are Rawhide Chews Dangerous for Dogs?

On paper, traditional rawhide sounds like a perfect treat—it’s advertised as being made from a single natural ingredient, and dogs love them. In reality, there are multiple reasons why rawhide is a very questionable choice for your pup’s chewing needs.

Manufacturing of Rawhide

First off, while rawhide is made from dried skin, other ingredients can find their way into the mix. Some manufacturers use bleach, hydrogen peroxide, artificial colors, and more when making their rawhide. Also, manufacturers from outside the United States may have different manufacturing standards.

All of this means your dog’s rawhide treats may have been treated with toxic chemicals that could cause digestive problems and worse.

Digesting Rawhide

Next, even though rawhide is made from animal skin, most dogs can’t easily digest it. 

That means, unlike regular food and treats, most chunks of rawhide will pass as whole pieces through your pup’s digestive tract. If those pieces are large enough, they could cause an obstruction.

If not caught early and treated by a veterinarian quickly, obstructions can turn deadly. 

Is it okay to give your dog rawhide? No, it can cause blockages.

dogs can get sick from rawhide
Is rawhide bad for dogs? It can cause blockages.

Choking Hazards

Many pet parents love rawhide’s toughness, which makes it last forever when your dog’s chewing it. But that also means when your furry friend finally manages to bite or break off a piece, it may be too big to swallow safely.

These large pieces can get caught in your dog’s throat and cause him to choke.

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How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Digest Rawhide?

Rawhide may take 3–5 days for it to pass through your pup’s system, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Generally, digestibility can vary from dog to dog and chew to chew. 

If smaller pieces of your pooch’s rawhide chews are swallowed, they usually don’t dissolve but are passed out in the dog’s waste. This means that while rawhide chews may not truly “digest,” smaller well-chewed pieces can move through the digestive tract without causing issues.

But it’s a different story when it comes to larger pieces. Swallowed in big chunks, aside as a potential choking hazard, rawhide chews can be as indigestible as shoe leather and may linger in the stomach for months, posing a significant risk of gastrointestinal problems or blockages. This can be especially concerning and warrants keeping a close watch on your dog’s chewing habits.

No one wants to risk their pup’s safety over any dog treats, but we have to have things our dogs can chew safely. So what are a conscientious pet parent’s options?

Is There “Safe” Rawhide?

No toy is truly safe if they’re being played with under zero supervision. The same is true for rawhide. As always, ask your veterinarian first if you can give your pup rawhide.

If your veterinarian has given you the okay, get top-quality rawhide chews and rawhide dog bones that are produced and available in your country to lessen the risk of contaminants. You can also refer to the Veterinary Oral Health Council for safe rawhide chews.

Give your pup one chew at a time, and make sure the chews are appropriate for his weight and size. Keep an eye out on how they’re handling the chew. If they’re taking huge bites, start to gag or choke, or if the chew is small enough to swallow, take it away immediately. Offer your pup other treats to replace the rawhide.

Even with all these precautions, it may be better to avoid rawhide altogether and opt for safer, more digestible treats and chews instead.

5 Rawhide Alternative Chews That Are Safe for Your Dog

Aside from getting your pup the classic chew toy (sadly, these can’t be eaten), here are some of the treats I’ve given to Tulip and my previous dogs as safe chewing alternatives to rawhide. All of these dog chews are digestible and provide the anti-anxiety and teeth-cleaning benefits of rawhide without its risks.

1. Carrots

Carrots are a great, healthy snack for dogs. They have tons of vitamins and fiber, plus they’re low-calorie and inexpensive!

The one downside would be that they don’t last as long as some other chewing options.

2. Earth Animal No-Hide Rawhide Alternative Chews

These chews come in different sizes for different pups. They’re made in the USA and created from simple, all-natural ingredients like rice, eggs, olive oil, and meat—without any nasty preservatives or chemicals.

For picky pups, they offer multiple flavors like chicken, pork, peanut butter, and more.

Earth Animal Chicken Flavored Natural Rawhide Free Dog Chews
  • Rawhide free dog treats are made with humanely raised, American chicken 
  • Long lasting for aggressive chewers
  • Free of bleaches, synthetics, and preservatives

3. Yak Cheese Treats

It may sound strange, but hardened dried yak cheese makes a great dog chew. Yak cheese treats like these only contain basic ingredients like milk, salt, and lime juice while being lactose-free, which makes them highly digestible—but still highly chewable!

Nepal Dog Treat Large Yak Cheese Chew
  • 100% all-natural and contains only yak milk, cow milk, salt, and lime juice
  • Grain, gluten, and lactose free to be easily digestible
  • Long-lasting, eco-friendly, and organically handmade from free range grass-fed Yak

4. Antlers

Antlers are a great natural rawhide alternative that is shed naturally by deer and elk every year. Antlers like these may be more expensive than other rawhide alternatives, but they’re worth it because they last a really long time and don’t post the same hazards as rawhide chews.

Wildeers Premium Deer Antler Chews
  • Made from hand selected antlers naturally shed by wild deer in the USA
  • Long-lasting, clean, inspected and hermetically-sealed
  • Rich in minerals and nutrients

5. Bully Sticks

Bully sticks are also often a little more expensive, but like antlers, they’re worth it because of how long they last. You can buy bully sticks in different sizes to match your pup’s personal tastes.

There are a lot of imitation bully sticks out there, so it’s important to make sure you get the genuine article. Real bully treats are made from beef pizzle, which is almost pure protein and also contains many vital nutrients, making them all-natural and healthy while promoting good dental hygiene without the rawhide risk.

You can also get your dog some dental chews! They’re great for your dog’s teeth and delicious for your pup as well.

The Tail End

Many dogs love rawhide treats, but they come with a lot of risks like toxic chemicals and bowel obstructions. With so many healthy, safe, and highly digestible rawhide alternatives out there, we can show our dogs we love them by giving them treats they’ll love to chew while keeping them safe.

Bond with your dog

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience working with pets.

Through this blog and her book, Pampered Pets on a Budget, Kristen has helped millions of pet parents solve problems and provide the best care for their dogs and cats.

Working alongside hundreds of pet professionals, including veterinarians, behaviorists and trainers inspired Kristen to become a pet parenting “guide”, providing readers with reliable information about health, wellness and lifestyle for dogs and cats and the people who love them.

A dogged advocate for pet adoption and rescue, Kristen has featured over 1,000 adoptable dogs and cats from the SPCA on live television and radio appearances to get them adopted. Her blog, has been featured in over 100 media outlets – including the New York Times, USA Today, FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, Women's Day, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Pop Sugar and more.

To stay up to date on the latest health and lifestyle trends for pets, Kristen regularly attends the top veterinary and pet product conferences, where she’s often a featured speaker.

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