Rawhide: Good or Bad for Your Dog?

Rawhide chews are a popular treat for dogs. You might have heard that rawhide is good for your dog's teeth and helps with his natural instinct to chew. But are there any drawbacks to giving your dog rawhide treats? Are there other alternatives that work just as well? Here's what you need to know.

1. What are rawhide dog treats made of?

Rawhide treats come from the inner layer of cow or horse hides. During manufacturing, the hides are cleaned and cut or ground. Then they're pressed into chewable dog treats of different shapes and sizes. To make them more appealing for dogs, some rawhide treats contain beef, chicken, or liver flavorings.

2. What are the benefits of rawhide?

All dogs need to chew. It's a natural instinct. Some even spend hours chewing every day. Chewing can provide your dog stimulation and help relieve anxiety. Especially with puppies, treats like rawhide bones can be a great substitute for your leather shoes and the legs of the dining room table!

Chewing also keeps dogs' jaws strong, teeth clean, and breath a bit fresher. Dogs that chew regularly on rawhides and other bones or toys have less plaque and tartar build-up on teeth.

3. Are there risks associated with rawhide dog treats?

Given the amount of rawhide consumed by dogs each year, the risks are relatively small. Still, risks can be serious, so don't ignore them. Weigh the risks and benefits of giving rawhides based upon your dog's chewing needs and behaviors.

These are the most common rawhide risks:

  • Contamination. As with pet toys,rawhide chews can contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. And, as with other pet (or human) foods, Salmonella or E. coli contamination are possible. Even humans can be at risk when coming into contact with these bacteria on rawhide treats.
  • Digestive irritation. Some dogs are simply sensitive or allergic to rawhide or other substances used in their manufacture. This can cause problems, including diarrhea.
  • Choking or blockages. Rawhide bones and other edible chews can pose a choking and blockage risk. In fact, this is a much bigger risk than contamination or digestive irritation. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes a vet can remove these pieces fairly easily through the throat. But sometimes open surgery is needed to remove them. If it isn't resolved, a blockage can lead to death.