What is Rawhide and is it Bad for Dogs?

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We want the best for our pets, and that includes giving them the best treats to chew on.

But we know that we’re not the only ones wondering, “is rawhide bad for dogs?”

is rawhide safe
By Shane Adams (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

Dogs love to chew and whether it’s your tennis shoes or a pair of slippers, they’ll always find something to get their teeth into.

Luckily, chewing has some great benefits. From stress relief to maintaining healthy gums and teeth, it is a great way to keep them occupied. Rawhide treats have become increasingly popular for this purpose and seem to be a common choice for owners and their dogs.

You might have heard of the countless benefits of this substance, but is rawhide safe for dogs?

Here’s everything you need to know about it, as well as some healthy alternatives.

What is Rawhide?

In simplest terms, rawhide is the appetizing alternative to a chew toy.

Rawhide has been designed to help dogs with chewing, but is also a great way to get your dog away from shoes or whatever else they like to vandalize. Rawhide can come in a range of different treats and you can even get varieties of rawhide for puppies.

Rawhide treats are made from the inner layer of cow or horse hides.

The hides are then thoroughly cleaned, before being cut or ground. The meat is pressed into different shapes and sizes and made into chewable treats. To make them more tempting for dogs, some rawhide treats contain added flavorings.

The ingredients should always be clearly labeled on the packaging, so you can always check for added flavors.

The Benefits of Rawhide

All dogs need to chew and this action has a number of benefits for your pup.

It can help relieve anxiety and provide stimulation. Chewing also helps to keep jaws strong, teeth clean, and breath a bit fresher.

Chewing regularly on rawhide can prevent the build-up of tartar and plaque on teeth. 

rawhide for puppies
By U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson

Is Rawhide Safe for Dogs?

Choking and Intestinal Blockage

It is important to remember that when rawhide has been chewed and slobbered on, it can become very soft and gooey. When this occurs, your dog may be able to chew off sections, which could then become a choking hazard.

Always supervise your dog when he’s chewing rawhide.

In most cases, if the hide is accidentally eaten, it will pass through the digestive system — but swallowing large chunks of it can cause intestinal blockage.

This means that it’s too large to digest and therefore becomes lodged in the intestinal tract, needing surgery to remove it.

However, there are ways to minimize this risk:

  • Make sure the rawhide is large enough that it can’t fully fit in your dog’s mouth and be accidentally swallowed
  • Always supervise your dog during chew sessions
  • Keep two rawhide treats on hand, so you can swap the soft chew with the harder one and alternate the two
  • Replace the chew once it is small enough to fit in their mouth


As well as choking risks, there is a risk of contamination with rawhide.

Similar to pet toys, these treats can contain small traces of toxic chemicals: either from packaging or from any added preservatives.

It’s also possible for rawhide to be contaminated with salmonella or E-Coli: this could also cause a risk for humans if they are in contact with the bacteria.

Lastly, owners should always be mindful of digestive irritation.

All dogs are different, and if your dog has a sensitive digestive system, then it is better to stay away from rawhide.

Some dogs may be allergic or sensitive to the chemicals or substances within rawhide, which can cause diarrhea or bowel irritation.

You can find more details about rawhide in this video:

What Are the Best Rawhide Alternatives?

If you are concerned with the risks associated with rawhide but still want to provide your dog with chewable treats, it’s worth considering the following:

  • Carrots! – Simple, healthy, and easy to find, carrots are a great source of fiber, B vitamins, and potassium. Dogs often enjoy the sweet taste of carrots and a larger sized carrot can keep puppies occupied for up to half an hour. If you do choose carrots as your alternative, make sure you find organic brands to minimize the risk of pesticide residue.
  • Crocodile Dog Bones – These bones are known to provide a great source of omega 3. They’re sourced from Australia and are free from additives and preservatives. These bones are fully digestible, so there is limited risk of intestinal blockage.
  • Himalayan Dog Chews – Made from hardened cheese from cow or yak milk, these treats are designed to be held in the mouth without breaking down for extended intervals of time. They are preservative-free, fully digestible, and apparently very flavorsome!

Best Rawhide Alternatives

 The Verdict

Although rawhide is very popular amongst dog owners, it is always best to research healthier alternatives.

You can never be completely risk free, but there are plenty of choices available to keep our canine friends chewing on something better than table legs and slippers!

What do you think – is rawhide bad for dogs?

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