When it comes to products for your dog to chew on, there’s no shortage of options. Rawhide bones are among the most popular, but they’ve become controversial in recent years. Is rawhide bad for dogs?
Sadly, there is no short answer. Rawhide chews can be safe, but it really depends on your pooch’s own chewing habits. Let’s take a closer look!
In order to understand rawhide safety, it’s important to know what your dog will be chewing on. It’s right in the name: raw hide! Chewables with this name are made from dried animal skins, or hide.3 The hides, which can be cow or horse, are sourced from the leather industry. Leftover materials are soaked in a high-salt brine to slow the decay process before being sent to a tannery. There, fat and hair are removed from the hide using both chemical and physical means. The hide is rinsed clean and pressed, and voila! It’s a rawhide chew!
Unfortunately, not all rawhide for dogs is created equal. The most crucial difference can usually be found in the step between the brining of the hide and processing. Although brine will slow the decay of the hide, it won’t stop it completely. If the hide isn’t shipped immediately to the tannery, it will likely undergo some rot before it can be processed. For that reason, you should always rinse rawhide chews before giving them to your pup.
Most rawhide chews are manufactured in China.3 Because industry standards differ internationally, your safest option would be to purchase rawhide dog bones made in North America. These will typically be more expensive, but your pup’s health is worth it.
All that being said, the quality of rawhide is not where the controversy around these popular products stems from. It’s the physical safety of rawhide bones that dog parents should be concerned about.
Rawhide is not easy to digest. If your dog is a strong chewer and swallows large chunks of their rawhide chew, it could take months for them to pass it.3 This puts them at greater risk of an intestinal obstruction, which will also impact how quickly they can digest their regular food. There’s also the possibility of your dog choking on swallowed pieces of rawhide.
If your dog is a strong chewer who likes to take big chunks out of their toys, you might want to reconsider giving them rawhide. At the very least, you should keep an eye on them. Limit their time with the rawhide chew and remove any large pieces before your dog can swallow them. Be on the lookout for symptoms of gastrointestinal obstruction, including:4
- Excessive swallowing
- Blood in their stool
- Low energy
- Signs of pain
- Low appetite
- Weight loss
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately. Blockages can lead to death, either through choking or gastrointestinal upset. A severe intestinal blockage will require abdominal surgery to fix. This life-saving procedure could cost anywhere from $800 to $7000.5 A dog insurance policy could help cover some or all of that cost.2 It’s best to be prepared so that, if the worst happens, you don’t have to choose between your furry family and your bank account.
Rawhide isn’t inherently bad for dogs. The decision to give your dog rawhide chews ultimately comes down to you. As with all matters surrounding your pup’s health, consult your veterinarian for their expert advice. Consider your dog’s previous chewing habits, as well as any history of a sensitive stomach. Preventive Vet recommends not giving rawhide to puppies under 6 months old or senior dogs, as both could suffer jaw and tooth damage.6
If you do decide to treat your pup to rawhide, take steps to increase their safety. Rawhide dog bones come in all shapes and sizes, which makes it easy to find one that’s just right for your dog. Don’t leave your dog alone with the chew. Don’t give your dog rawhide in stressful situations, either, as that can increase the likelihood of them biting off larger chunks.
Dogs need to chew. It’s a natural way of strengthening their jaws and helps keep their teeth clean. Chewing can also relieve the pain of teething for puppies and help combat boredom.
So, if you don’t want to risk it with rawhide, what are your other options? Fortunately, there are plenty. Alternatives like Greenies are made of digestible, dog-safe ingredients, while still offering a satisfying chewing experience. You can also find softer, safer rawhide chews that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.7 Ask your veterinarian for more product recommendations.
Rawhide dog bones are popular for a reason. They can give your pup hours of chewing time and strengthen dental health. They can also pose a risk if not given responsibly. Talk to your vet to get their professional opinion and consider all factors before deciding whether or not to give your dog rawhide.
It’s also important to be ready for the worst-case scenario. Even rawhide alternatives could pose a choking hazard. MetLife Pet Insurance offers accident protection, so you won’t have to worry about money if your pooch needs emergency care.1,2 Get the inside scoop on how pet insurance can help protect your furry family.