To rawhide or not to rawhide? When it comes to choosing a chew treat for your dog, there’s no shortage of options. But with great selection comes an even greater responsibility to ensure their safety. Chewing is instinctive behavior for dogs, and fortunately, the habit can be beneficial: chewing can help scrape away plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth and gums, relieve stress, and strengthen their jaw.
Rawhide treats are a popular choice for dogs, and there are plenty of varieties to satisfy their natural desire to chew. However, depending on what you’ve heard, you may be wondering if rawhides are good, or even safe, for your pup. Spoiler alert: it depends.
To help you decide if rawhide is right for your dog, let’s get the facts on this contentious treat.
What Is Rawhide?
Rawhide is made from cow or horse skin. Typically, the inner layer of the hide is treated and dehydrated before being formed into any of the many selections you can find in a pet store (the outer layer is used for leather shoes, garments, and upholstery). One of the most common forms you’ll find are rawhide “bones,” which are really just layers of rawhide configured into a bone shape. As for flavor, plain rawhide tastes similar to beef, which is why dogs tend to love them.
SEE ALSO: A Guide to Dog Dental Care
Rawhide Ingredients & Preparation
One of the more common concerns surrounding dog rawhides is over what’s added to it. While its most basic form — dried skin — is pretty straightforward and natural, some rawhide chews may have additives like bleach, hydrogen peroxide, preservatives, adhesives, and artificial colorings and flavors that your dog may react to adversely. Because rawhide is an animal product, it’s important to pay attention to where the chew is made and sourced. If you and your dog opt for rawhides, look for something labeled all-natural, digestible, and made in the U.S., which tends to have stricter manufacturing standards.
Digesting rawhide depends on your dog and the rawhide chew itself. Generally speaking, most rawhide is not easily digested. Any pieces your dog ingests won’t be broken down in the same manner as their food and will likely pass through their digestive tracts in pieces. For dogs big and small, these intact chunks can pose a potential choking hazard — more on that below.
Rawhides are intended to be a long-lasting treat for your dog to break down into small, sinewy pieces over time. However, if your dog is able to gnaw off large chunks, it’s possible that these fragments can cause choking or intestinal blockage. If your dog is a strong chewer and generally breaks down hard toys with ease, you may want to look for alternatives to satisfy their urge.
As always, when giving your pet to a new toy or dog treat, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them and monitor their play. We also recommend removing and replacing any chew with a new, large piece when it becomes small enough to be swallowed.
If you think rawhides may not be right for your dog, you have plenty of other dog chews to choose from. Dog owners can choose from raw bones; bully sticks; animal ears (we like venison for its low-fat content); Himalayan yak chews; split antlers; dental chews; dehydrated sweet potato treats; and specialty teething treats. Non-edible chew toys like Kongs are also a great way to satisfy your dog’s chewing instinct — look for something with a little give to avoid dental damage.
Nearby? Bring ’em to Bond Vet — make an appointment online or just walk in.