Dogs love to chew rawhide but there are plenty of reasons why rawhide is not the safest natural chew for dogs. Check our favourite rawhide alternatives to give your dog a safer and more nutritious chew.
Dog rawhide has long been touted as a superior dental cleaning chew, but concerns about the safety of the chews may have you looking for safer rawhide chews.
You might be wondering, are rawhides bad for dogs?
Rawhides are cheap and widely available. We can’t deny the dental benefits of rawhide chews, but there are many concerns about the safety of feeding your dog these less-than-natural chews.
In this article, we will explain just how dangerous rawhides are and how you can choose a safe rawhide dog alternative that will support your dog’s dental health.
What is Rawhide for Dogs?
We all have a rough idea of what rawhide treats is, but really, What is rawhide made of? Where does it come from? How is it made?
Is rawhide good for dogs? These are all things that rawhide manufacturers rarely advertise.
Rawhide is made from the inner layer or outer layer of skin or hide of an animal's skin, typically a cow.
They go through a manufacturing process similar to the outer side that is used to make leather. The same leather is used for furniture, purses, and belts.
The process of separating the inner and outer layers requires some harsh chemicals. Lye is also used to help remove hair, fat, and any other issues that are attached to the hide.
This process has already raised some red flags, and we are just getting started.
Once the rawhide is separated, a solution using hydrogen peroxide or bleach is applied to sanitize and whiten the hide. Whitening the hide is for our benefit, not our pets.
We prefer the look of clean, crisp white rawhide shapes for dogs to chew in their natural state.
From here, the hides are flattened, cut, and shaped into a variety of rawhide styles. To make them more appealing to dogs (and to us), rawhide chews are often coated or painted with artificial flavouring and colors.
Does this sound like something that you want to feed your dog?
Is Rawhide Good for Dogs?
If you are going to make the best choices for your individual dog, then it's a good idea to know the pros and the cons of rawhide.
In this article, you'll see a lot of reasons why rawhide is generally not regarded as good for dogs.
We'll get into that in the next section, but first, we need to answer - is rawhide good for dogs? Or in other words, can rawhide be good for dogs?
The answer to that, despite all of the arguments to the contrary, is yes. Rawhide does have benefits for dogs. What you need to consider is whether or not the pros outweigh the cons.
Here are the benefits of rawhide:
Rawhide is Good for Dogs Dental Health
Like most natural chews, rawhide encourages your chewing, which helps to loosen bad breath-causing bacteria and prevent plaque buildup.
While this is not a complete dental care system, rawhide bones for dogs can help to freshen breath and maintain better dental health or oral health.
Keep in mind that the dental benefits of cat food are not specific to rawhide dog chews. All natural chews that encourage chewing will have this effect.
Rawhide Offers Mental Stimulation for Dogs
Another benefit of chewing is to keep your dog busy and keep him mentally active.
This type of stimulation helps to prevent boredom and anxiety and can reduce unwanted destructive behaviours, like digging, chewing on furniture, and whining.
Rawhides Are Low Calorie and Low Fat
Is rawhide fattening for dogs? Natural chews are full of flavour, but they are often full of calories and fat too.
If your dog is counting calories or needs a low-fat diet, then rawhide chews might seem like an appealing option because they are low in fat.
This may be a factor in how often dogs can have rawhide. Dogs looking to shed a pound or two may be able to have rawhide more frequently than a high-calorie bone or natural chew.
Two to three rawhide chews a week will have fewer calories than one or two meaty rawhide bones or greasy pig ears.
They are mostly protein and fiber, and many pets even though they don't offer much in terms of nutritional value due to the harsh manufacturing process, work well as dogs.
Is Rawhide Bad for Dogs?
Now that you know that there can be some benefits to rawhide chews for dogs, let's answer the real question - Are rawhides safe for puppies?
If the variety of chemicals used to make dog rawhide chews isn’t scary enough for you, we have yet to even touch on the number one reason that rawhides could be dangerous for your dog: intestinal blockages.
We’ve heard countless horror stories of dogs choking or getting intestinal blockages from swallowing a large chunk of rawhide and having it get stuck somewhere along the digestive tract.
A blockage is life-threatening and will require expensive surgery to clear. In some cases, the blockage is caught too late, or the surgery is too risky for the blockage to be fixed in time.
Is Rawhide Safe for Dogs?
Of course, many dogs have been eating rawhide without issue for their whole lives. When properly chewed, a dog with good digestion will likely not have any major problems from eating rawhide chews, but why take the risk?
So the question is, does rawhide dissolve in the stomach?
Well, your dog's stomach is designed to break down rawhide bones, so yes, rawhide can break down in the stomach, but it takes much longer than most foods and can cause issues if large pieces of poorly digested rawhide pass into the intestines.
The issue is in the texture of the dog rawhide. It starts as a durable, dense chew and quickly softens into a slimy, gummy mess.
It’s easy to soften but not to tear apart, leading many dogs to swallow large pieces that are too big to break down quickly.
The glob of pressed rawhide will expand in the stomach juices. From here it can get lodged in the stomach, or move into the smaller passage of the intestines where a blockage is much more likely.
So... Is traditional rawhide safe for puppies? That's up to you to decide. You can stick to shapes and sizes that are better suited to your dog’s chewing habits to reduce risk, or you can check out some of our safer rawhide processing for dogs instead.
What Kind of Rawhide is Safe for Dogs?
Knowing what you now know about traditional rawhide, you might be wondering if there are some rawhides that are safer than others. Can different manufacturing processes make these chews safer for dogs, or are they all bad?
While all traditional rawhide chew can be risky depending on your dog's eating habits, there are some types that can be a little easier to digest and break down. These are called puffed rawhide.
Most traditional rawhides are pressed, meaning they have many, many paper-thin layers of rawhide that are pressed together to form a strong and solid chew. While this does make the chew last longer, it also makes it harder to digest.
A puffed rawhide will be fewer layers that are soaked to pre-expand the rawhide layers. This is something that would normally have to happen in your dog's stomach during digestion, which can contribute to poor digestion and blockages.
It's still not 100% digestible, but it will break down easier than a pressed rawhide bone will, especially if your dog has a habit of gulping large chunks of the chew bone.
Can Puppies Have Rawhide?
While rawhide product processing has some benefits and some concerns, the risks are much higher for puppies. Puppies often don't have good chewing habits, so the risks of choking on a soggy and gummy strip of rawhide are much higher.
Even if they don't choke, they are more likely to swallow large chunks that will be difficult to digest. Instead, puppies should stick to softer and easily chews that will help to loosen baby teeth, massage the gums, and aid in the eruption of new teeth.
Tendons are a good chew option for puppies. They will soften when chewed, like rawhide but do not expand or get goopy like rawhide will.
Does Your Dog Need to Chew?
Okay, so rawhide might not be the chew naturally for your dog. You are thinking about the goods for dogs, but you might start to wonder if your dog even needs a chew. The answer to that question is - yes, your dog needs to chew to support good dental and oral health.
All dogs naturally chew things, especially adult dogs. The action is a great outlet for frustration, alleviates dog boredom, and is mentally satisfying for your pooch. Chewing is a natural action that hearkens back to a canine’s wild ancestors.
Historically, a dog’s teeth are its weapons, protection, and how it provides dog food for itself. Without a healthy set of teeth, a dog in the wild will quickly die. The chew is a strong and compelling part of the animal’s genetic makeup that the pooch cannot deny.
The grinding and gnawing action of dog chewing naturally removes tartar from the teeth. The actions of shredding and tearing function as natural flossing to maintain healthy gums. The neck, jaw, and arm muscles needed to chew are a workout for the animal skin and help keep the dog in shape in pig ears.
Dogs enjoy chewing. Your pup isn't likely to chew out of spite but due to their natural urges, instead.
Here are a few additional reasons why a dog chews:
Ways to Overcome Destructive Chewing
If you don't supervise your dog with rawhide chews, then your pooch could cause widespread destruction to your home. It’s common for a dog to chew furniture, shoes, clothing, doors, baseboards, and other areas of the home.
You can overcome chewing by offering appropriate chew toys for your pet parent and also undertaking the following:
- Close the doors to your closet and other areas where your pooch can raid your possessions to chew.
- Provide ample exercise and mental stimulation.
- Keep an eye on your dog to ensure the pup is not chewing on inappropriate items.
- Confine your dog in a crate or safe room when you are not home and deer antlers.
- Offer appropriate chews to meet your dog’s chewing needs and deer antlers.
Types of Natural Dog Chews
Whether you are ordering safe rawhide dogs, or other dogs chew you’ll probably be overwhelmed with the selection. There are a lot of chews for dogs available in every size, shape, color, and material.
Below are a few categories of dog chew to consider:
Active Chews for Dogs
Your dog can burn off some energy while chewing and playing with active toys. Games like tug-of-war, fetch, and other activities are encouraged choking hazards with chews that are designed for fun.
With Kong chews, you can even hide an additional treat inside the toy’s compartment to encourage dog chewing.
Many dog owners use Kong Tennis Balls as active toys. These squeaking tennis balls are ideal for a game of fetch and your dog will enjoy chewing the item to hear the squeaking noise. They should only be used with care and under supervision, though. Kong balls are made of non-tear felt, the chew toy can start to show signs of wear over time.
Distraction Chews for Dogs
Distraction chews are designed to amuse your dog, so the pooch does not want to chew up your favourite pair of tennis shoes.
Often referred to as feeder toys, they are also ideal if you leave your dog alone in a crate because they help amuse the pup.
Kong toys are excellent for distraction because you fill the toy’s interior with a favourite treat. The gripper edges built into the toy’s interior help hold the treat firmly while the dog actively chews and deer antlers.
Comfort Chews for Dogs
Dogs who have some impulse control when it comes to toys enjoy carrying around soft chew toys. They view the plushie as a companion. You’ll want to pick a chew that is an appropriate size for the dog to easily carry from place to place.
If your pooch likes to shake and chew the plushie then make sure choking hazard you pick one that is sturdy enough to withstand the dog’s roughhousing.
Tuffy makes a line of plushies that are exceptionally giving your dog durable for chewers. The material is double-layered for extra toughness. The interior of the pet stores usually boasts either crinkle material or a squeaker to make noise every time your pup bites down on the toy.
Dogs who enjoy long-lasting comfort chews like to not only gnaw on the toy but also find solace cuddling the plushie.
10 Safe Rawhide Alternatives for Dogs
We spelled out the dangers of feeding your long-lasting dog rawhide, but what else can you give them to care for their dental health?
Here are our 10 favourite rawhide-free natural chews for dental health. You can opt to purchase acceptable alternatives at many pet stores.
1. Bully Sticks
In recent years, bully sticks have become one of the most popular, natural chews for puppies. The dogs love the taste, and the texture is ideal for safe chewing and dental cleaning. It softens as they chew and can aid in giving your dog remove bacteria that hide in the back of their mouth and at the gum line.
They are offered in different lengths, thicknesses, shapes, and sizes to suit each individual dog's chewing on rawhide style. They are suitable for dogs of any size and are a safe chew for seniors and dogs love that have fewer chompers than they should.
2. Eldon's Tendons
One of the ways that we manage our dental health is by flossing in pet stores. If you feed tendons to your dog, then they can floss too. The stringy texture of the tendon will allow the chew to sink between teeth as it softens.
Eldon's Beef Tendons are fully long-lasting digestible and are suitable for all dogs. Choose the size and protein that is best for your dog. The most common types of tendons available are beef, bison, and lamb.
3. Fieldcrest Farms Nothin' to Hide
Another popular option for dogs that love rawhide, but need long-lasting safer rawhide, is Fieldcrest Farm Nothin' to Hide chews. These rawhide shapes chew skip the hard-to-digest and chemically treated hide and stick to real food ingredients like natural bovine collagen and real meat to create tough natural chews that look and feel like rawhide.
Unlike other no-hide chews on the market, Nothin' to Hide chews use all-natural ingredients that are easy to digest and free of common food allergens.
4. Eldon's Beef Chomper Sticks
For dogs love that love to chomp, this natural chew provides a satisfying crunch for powerful jaws and a long-lasting chomp session for more delicate chewers. Eldon's Beef Chompers come in bully sticks, braids, and strips.
They are made of the beef esophagus, so they are high protein, low fat, and easy on the tummy. The beef esophagus has a stronger odour than the rest of the chews on our list, so we recommend this as an outdoor treat or at least feeding it in another room.
5. Raw Bones
Feeding raw dog bones fight bacteria on two fronts. The action of long lasting chewing will loosen bacteria, especially in the harder-to-reach areas at the back of their mouth, and the enzymes from the raw meat will fight off bacteria and freshen your dog’s breath.
Not all raw bones are safe to feed, though. Stick to edible dog bones like chicken necks or softer recreational bones like beef ribs.
6. Himalayan Yak Chews
The toughest chew on our list is the Himalayan Yak Chews. It’s a thick stack of hardened yak and cow cheese that will be best suited for tough chewers. It will provide plenty of abrasions to remove bacteria from their teeth and will last longer than most natural chews.
Yak chews aren’t suitable for every dog. Puppies, seniors, and dogs love with dental issues should avoid chewing on long-lasting hard chews like this to reduce the risk of damaging their teeth. Adult dogs with strong teeth are low-fat chew.
7. Silver Spur Cow Ears
Silver Spur Cow Ears are made of cartilage and give your dog a tasty, fun treat for removing plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth. For bigger breeds, a cow ear won’t be super long-lasting, but it will still stand up long enough for their teeth to benefit.
Cow ears are inexpensive and low in calories, and they are a great daily chew that won’t contribute to unnecessary weight gain.
8. Icelandic + Lamb Horn
Lamb horns are made of Keratin, not bone. While keratin alternatives is hard and give your dog, it is less dense than a rawhide bone and does not pose the same risk to your dog’s teeth as a harder chew would. As your dog chew, the horn will begin to break down into small enough to swallow digestible pieces.
Icelandic+ Lamb Horns are fibrous, which allows the chew to brush their teeth and gums as they chew. Unlike antlers that are very hard, lamb horns have some give, so they are suitable for outer-layer dogs of all ages and sizes.
9. ValuePack Tartar Bones
This smoked bone comes in two sizes. The small is made from the kneecap of a cow, while the large tartar bone comes from the cow's shoulder. It’s round, solid, and covered with yummy cartilage.
This is a recreational bone, so avoid letting your dog eat the whole thing. Your dog will enjoy cleaning off the rawhide bones and leather industry, and they won’t even know that they are cleaning their teeth at the same time.
Rawhide dog bones are an all-natural choice, but as with anything, you must weigh the pros and cons. Cooked bone presents a risk of tooth fracture and rawhide alternatives, so Silver Spur dog bones are not suitable for puppies, seniors, and dogs with dental issues that could crack or chip their teeth while chewing.
10. Hero Chicken Feet
Although small, chicken feet are a great option for dog owners. In some ways, they are like a doggy toothpick. They will clean hard-to-reach places near the back of the mouth and scrape away plaque and bacteria near the gum line. Hero Chicken Feet are an excellent addition to your dog's regular dental routine.
What is a No-Hide Dog Chew?
Though the concept has been around for a while, no-hide dog chews are becoming more and more popular now that the risks of rawhide dog chews are more commonly accepted. But what is a no-hide chew?
A no-hide chew is a type of dog chew that is meant to mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of a rawhide giving your dog without actually having any rawhide in it. There are many brands that offer a non-rawhide chew alternative, but make sure that you aren't replacing one undesirable ingredient for another.
Look for no-hide options that use natural ingredients and avoid unnecessary sweeteners or artificial flavours. Here are a few brands that we think your dog might not mind giving up his rawhide for:
You'll find options for dogs of all sizes, including bully sticks, rolls, and chips in a wide variety of flavours to accommodate preferences and sensitivities. No-hide dog chews are gluten-free long-lasting, nutritious, and, most importantly, safe and an alternative to rawhide.
Are Bully Sticks Better Than Dog Rawhide?
Bully sticks are quickly becoming one of the most popular chews for puppies, but are they really better than rawhide? In our opinion, yes! But that doesn't mean there aren't risks.
Rawhides and rawhide chews do share some features and benefits. Both are low in fat, making them an ideal chew for dogs that are watching their weight. Both are long-lasting and great for dogs that get stuck, bored and destructive. Both help to scrape away bad breathing-causing bacteria on your dog's teeth.
Where bully sticks take the lead, though, is in their digestibility. Bully sticks are a solid tendon, so while they will soften as your dog chews, they won't expand an alternative to rawhide and swell like rawhide. This reduces the risk of choking and makes digestion much easier.
So, are bully sticks better than rawhides? We think so! Learn more about the benefits of dog food in What are Bully Sticks Made From?
Making Your Dog's Natural Chews Last
You’ll want to make your dog’s chews last and keep your canine companion interested in the items. Weekly rotation of the chews ensures that the chews last longer and also makes your dog feel like they received a new and exciting natural chew.
The more your dog eats a natural chew, the faster he'll learn how to break it down. Rotating chews is a way to keep your dog interested and slow down how quickly they eat them. Choosing a new dog chew each week will provide enough variety to keep your dog on his toes.
How Many Chews Can You Feed Your Dog?
Edible chews, like those on our list above, may be an effective way to keep your dog busy and happy, but you need to be aware of how these chews are affecting your dog's overall diet. The extra calories and protein could lead to an unbalanced diet if you feed too many chews weekly.
The size of our dog and the size of the chew are both important. Small dogs need fewer calories, so feeding smaller chews less frequently would be suitable. The same goes for dogs who are overweight. Limiting calories from rawhide dog treats and chews can help slim them down.
This doesn't mean you need to skip natural chews altogether, though. Rotating in the occasional natural chew with durable chew toys can help support your dog's dental health without packing on extra pounds or spoiling her appetite.
In rawhide alternatives for dogs, 2-4 natural chews per week are typically fine for the average dog. Higher energy or underweight breeds may be able to handle a few more than that, but consider how much of their nutrients are coming from a complete diet versus treats and chews.
Dogs eating a raw diet may be able to accommodate eating raw meaty dog bones daily, assuming bone is not included in the diet already.
Know the Risks
No chew is without risk. No matter the type, any chew that is not properly chewed, swallowed whole, or not the appropriate size for your pet can be a choking hazard.
When selecting a size for your dog, you can never go too big a layer, but it’s dangerously easy rawhide alternatives for dogs to feed a chew that is small enough.
Dogs that tend to gulp treats, or have gluten-free digestive conditions, should take extra care with natural dental chews. Large pieces may not break down or could risk damaging the softer tissues along their digestive issues tract or digestive tract.
Always feed chews in moderation. Even low-fat chews add calories. Make sure you are balancing dental chews with their regular diet and exercise.
This will prevent your dog from packing on grain-free pounds or running into digestive issues or digestive tract.
Lastly, never leave your dog unattended with a chew. Monitoring them ensures their safety and also helps you understand how they chew the digestive tract so that you can offer the safest dog chews and best natural chews to improve their dental health.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some reasons to consider alternatives to rawhide for dogs?
Rawhide alternatives may be preferred because they are easier to digest, less likely to cause choking or blockages, and are often made from natural ingredients that are safer for dogs.
What are some popular rawhide alternatives for dogs to chew?
Popular rawhide alternatives include dental chews, bully sticks, natural antlers, nylon bones, rubber toys, and edible chews like sweet potato or chicken jerky.
Are rawhide alternatives safe for all dogs?
While many rawhide alternatives are safe, choosing options appropriate for your dog's size, chewing habits, and dietary restrictions is essential.
Do rawhide alternatives provide dental benefits for dogs?
Some rawhide alternatives, like dental chews, promote better oral health by helping clean your dog's teeth and reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
Can rawhide alternatives cause allergies in dogs?
Dogs with food sensitivities or allergies may react to certain rawhide alternatives, especially those with added flavourings or ingredients.
How do I know which rawhide alternative is best for my dog?
The best rawhide alternative for your dog depends on size, age, chewing preferences, and dietary restrictions.