By Courtney Emken
co-written by Bart Emken, CPDT-KA & Jen Larson, KPA-CTP
Rawhides are one of the most popular dog treats on the market. You can find them in all the big-box pet stores, and many other pet-supply shops. Naturally, tons of owners assume this means these bones are completely harmless. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Rawhides, while technically “safe” when properly administered, are potentially serious health hazards. Here’s what they don’t include on the labels.
Rawhides Are Safe For Certain Dogs, But ONLY Under Close Supervision
As your dog gnaws on a rawhide, they’re not at much more risk than when chewing on any other toy. It’s when the rawhide breaks apart and becomes swallowed that serious problems arise. Unlike natural bones, dogs can’t easily digest rawhide, if at all.
Depending on your dog’s size, choking may not be a substantial risk. Smaller dogs can chew all they want, but they typically don’t cause enough damage to break rawhide. You’d still need to supervise them in case of accidents, but generally they’re safe.
Larger dogs with stronger jaws are far more likely to swallow rawhide bones. Bigger breeds can quickly chomp rawhides into little pieces and then swallow them. These pieces are a huge choking risk, and can cause serious digestive disruptions as well, such as:
If your dog happens to swallow a rawhide, it may pass with little harm. Still, you should watch for certain signs of dangerous complications, like:
- Excessive swallowing
- Pain, especially in stomach
- Loss of appetite
If you notice any of these, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. If they have a blockage or an obstruction, it’s imperative to get medical help fast.
Even bigger dogs may not consume rawhides in a risky way. Our lab would just nibble on the bone until it became soft. Then she’d leave it alone. Well… she would bury it under our bed with pretend dirt first, then she’d leave it alone.
It all depends on your dog’s specifics: their size, their strength, and their habits. However, we still strongly recommend you supervise any dog while they chew a rawhide bone.
There Are Safer, More Effective Alternatives To Rawhide Bones
Dogs love to chew on stuff, from rawhides to expensive furniture. But this isn’t the most stimulating activity. Certain toys are designed to enrich dogs in more than just one dimension. Unlike simples chews, they exercise the teeth and the brains.
We highly recommend using interactive food puzzles instead of rawhides. For an example, the Kong Wobbler doesn’t just dispense treats. Your dog must push it with their nose to get treats to fall out. This works their brain, nose, and teeth simultaneously.
Stuffable toys work well too. We like to use peanut butter stuffed Kongs. Dogs will work away at a Kong to get at delicious treats. If your dog doesn’t like peanut butter, don’t worry. You can pack these toys with cheese, canned dog food, liver, or whatever else your dog prefers. You can even stuff the end with something like peanut butter, fill it with chicken broth and freeze – it’s a Pupsicle!
One popular alternative that’s much safer than rawhides is an elk or deer antler chew. Unlike rawhides and other kinds of bones, these treats won’t break down into smaller pieces and prevent the risk of choking.
Dental sticks can also easily replace rawhides. These are not only safe for your dog to chew and swallow, but they’re healthy for their teeth! One warning; when using a fibrous dental-stick like Greenies, don’t feed too many. This can cause constipation and obstruction.
As you can see, we’re not the biggest fan of rawhides. We’ve made some exceptions in the past, but they’re just too big a risk for general use. Luckily, there are tons of great alternatives out there. We’ve never had a problem keeping our dogs occupied.
If you have any questions about rawhides, or would like to know more about the alternatives, please contact us today! We want your dog to be entertained, engaged, and above all: safe.
Chewing Rawhide by Shane Adams
The Kong Cleaner by Alan Levine
Brown Rawhide by theilr