Is Rawhide Bad for Dogs?

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Is Rawhide Bad for Dogs?

  • 8 min read

As pet parents, we’re always on the lookout for the perfect chew toy to keep our dogs happy, healthy, and active. Thankfully, we have plenty of options available, although some are better than others.

One such option is rawhide chews. You probably have heard some good and bad things about them, and in this article, we’ll put them all together to ultimately determine - is rawhide bad for dogs?

Let's start unraveling the truth and make informed choices for our furry friends.

What Actually Are Rawhide Chews?

Rawhide is obtained from the inner layer of animal skin or hide and is considered a byproduct of the meat industry. These hides are mostly taken directly from the slaughterhouses and placed into brines to slow their decay.

The process of turning a hide from the slaughterhouse kill floor into chews involves the following steps:

1. Cleaning - Once the rawhide arrives at tanneries, it’s first cleaned to remove any remaining fat, flesh, or hair from the animal. This cleaning process usually involves using chemicals like lime or sodium sulfide.

2. Splitting - The rawhide is split into thinner layers, so it’s more flexible and easier to work with. This process is done by mixing rawhide with water and some chemicals to make it puffed up and easier to split.

3. Coloring - This is an important step as it involves making a by-product look more appealing and appetizing to dogs. There are usually some chemical treatments involved to add more flavoring and coloring to the hide. 

4. Preserving - Lastly, rawhides are dried to remove any moisture and preserved to prevent spoilage.

While these are the standard steps followed to make rawhide chews, it’s important to note that not all rawhide products are created equal in terms of quality and safety. There are rawhide products that contain additives and chemicals which can be harmful to a dog’s health.

Are Rawhide Chews Bad for Dogs?

Now the big question is, are rawhide chews bad for dogs? Most experts will say that you should avoid giving your dog rawhide as the risks outweigh the potential benefits. We have highlighted the potential benefits and risks associated with rawhide chews to help you make informed decisions about your dog’s health.

Benefits of Rawhide Chews

First, let’s discuss a couple of benefits associated with rawhide chews:

1. Might Improve Dental Health

Chew toys are known for their dental benefits, and rawhide chews are no different. When a dog chews on rawhide, it helps in scraping off plaque and tartar buildup from their teeth. This action also promotes saliva production, which further helps in breaking down and preventing the buildup of harmful bacteria in a dog’s mouth.

It’s because of these dental health benefits some people claim that rawhide chews can be a part of a dog’s dental care routine with regular brushing and other dental care treats. However, this benefit isn’t unique to rawhide chews, as most dental chew toys in the market can also help improve your dog’s dental health.

2. Provides Mental Stimulation

Rawhide chews can help alleviate your dog’s boredom and provide mental stimulation. They can spend hours chewing on these chews, which will not only satisfy their natural chewing instinct but also keep them occupied.

In some dogs, the act of providing mental stimulation with chew toys can also prevent undesirable behaviors like excessive barking, chewing on household items, or digging.

Risks of Rawhide Chews 

Now, let’s also discuss some risks associated with rawhide chews:

1. Digestibility Issues

Rawhide chews are meant to be chewed and are nearly impossible to digest. Most likely, your dog will try to rip and swallow a piece of rawhide. If that happens, the rawhide won't be digested and can cause digestive issues and intestinal obstruction. in fact, it can even pose a greater risk of choking in smaller breed dogs.

2. Concerns About the Chemicals

Rawhide is often heavily treated with various chemicals during the cleaning, softening, shaping, and drying process. These chemicals are needed to remove impurities, sanitize the hide, and make it suitable for dogs.

However, some of these chemicals used during the processing phase can be toxic for dogs. It will come down to you as pet owners to do your research about reputable manufacturers who you can believe prioritize the safety of the products by using minimal and safe chemical treatments.

3. Risk of Contamination

Rawhide is a natural product made from animal skin. Thus, there is a small chance of it being contaminated with harmful pathogens. Especially if the rawhide wasn’t properly cleaned and sanitized before processing, there is a possibility that bacteria present on the animal's skin could have survived and transferred to the final product.

Precautions While Giving Rawhide Chews to Dog 

After comparing the pros and cons, if you choose to give your dog rawhide chews, here are some important precautions you should keep in mind:

  • Supervise them while they are enjoying the rawhide chew. Monitor their chewing behavior and remove the chewed-up rawhide before they can ingest it.
  • Replace the rawhide chew once it’s all chewed up to a small piece.
  • Choose a rawhide chew that is appropriate for your dog's size and age.
  • Buy rawhide chews from a reputable manufacturer.
  • Read the label to ensure the chews don’t contain harmful additives, chemicals, and preservatives.
  • Limit the time they spend chewing on rawhide chews.
  • If you notice any signs of choking while your dog is chewing rawhide, take them to a vet immediately.

    Rawhide for Puppies

    Puppies often have some unique needs and considerations compared to adult dogs. This also applies to their choice of chew treats. Rawhide chews may be suitable for an adult dog but not for a puppy.

    Firstly, puppies who are less than 6 months old should avoid rawhide chews. It’s mainly because, before this age, their teeth and digestive system are not fully developed to handle the tough texture of rawhide chews.

    But even after they are 6 months old, you might want to consider other softer and safer alternatives, especially if they belong to a small breed or have some unique health requirements. We recommend that you consult with a veterinarian to determine what’s the right kind of chew toy for your puppy.

    Alternatives to Rawhide Chew Toys

    If you’re skeptical about rawhide chews, you can consider other amazing alternatives listed below:

    Vegetable Chews

    Chews made from healthy, crunchy vegetables are a safe and healthy option for dogs. You can use cucumber, frozen carrots, or even dried sweet potatoes to make simple DIY dog chews at home. 

    Just make sure you have washed and peeled these vegetables beforehand. And also, just like with other chews and toys, constantly supervise your dog to ensure their safety.


    Deer and elk antler chews are also a popular choice amongst pet owners. They are eco-friendly and single-ingredient treats that don’t contain any additives, chemicals, or preservatives. However, they can be extremely hard and can even lead to damaged teeth, which are painful and expensive to repair.

    Pig Ears

    Pig ear chews are another natural and single-ingredient treat. They are savory and an appetizing option that can effectively cleanse your dog’s teeth. However, these chews have a considerable amount of fat and calories, so you should only give them to your dog occasionally and in moderation.

    Raw Bones

    Using raw bones as chew toys is an age-old practice. They have several benefits, as the texture of raw bones can effectively scrape away plaque and tartar from your dog's teeth, which promotes better dental hygiene. Even the bone marrow contains various nutrients that can help improve your dog's overall health.

    However, you should exercise caution when feeding bones as they most often pose a risk of choking. Cooked bones, in particular, are dangerous for dogs as they can splinter easily, causing serious injuries in their mouth, throat, or digestive system.

    Bully Stick

    Bully sticks are long-lasting, protein-rich chews for dogs. They are also single-ingredient treats that are typically free from additives or preservatives. These chews even have a natural taste and texture, which draws in dogs and can provide hours of entertainment while cleaning their teeth.

    Himalayan Chews

    Made from yak or cow milk, Himalayan chews are basically hard cheese. These are an amazing rawhide alternative for dogs who are more prone to swallowing, as these chews are generally considered safe to swallow. They are also a great choice for dogs who have a sensitive stomach, as these chews are free from lactose and gluten.

    Want more?

    Apart from these rawhide alternatives, there are many new ones getting introduced every year. You can either find them online or at your local pet store.

    Summing Up: Is Rawhide Bad for Dogs?

    Rawhide chews can be good for dogs. They offer some benefits, including better dental health and mental stimulation, but they also have certain drawbacks, like digestive issues, harmful chemicals, and bacterial contamination. In fact, these drawbacks are why some pet food stores have decided to remove all rawhide products from their shelves.

    When it comes to determining whether these treats are right for your furry friend, we recommend consulting with a veterinarian.


    1. What benefits are there to rawhide?

    Rawhide chews offer a satisfying chewing experience to dogs while scraping away plaque and tartar from their teeth and promoting better dental hygiene. Plus, these chews offer mental stimulation that can help alleviate boredom and prevent undesirable behaviors like excessive barking, chewing on household items, or digging.

    2. Why is rawhide considered bad for dogs?

    Many veterinarians and pet owners consider rawhide bad for dogs due to several reasons. First, rawhide products can be treated with various chemicals during the cleaning, softening, shaping, and drying process. These chemicals help in making the product suitable for dogs, but in some cases, it can be unhealthy for dogs. 

    Secondly, rawhide is very difficult to digest. So if your dog accidentally swallows a large piece of a rawhide chew, it can cause choking, digestive issues, or intestinal obstruction.

    Additionally, there’s also a small risk of bacterial contamination if the rawhide isn’t properly cleaned and sanitized during processing.

    3. Is rawhide good or bad for dogs?

    Many experts believe the potential risks outweigh any of the benefits, such as digestive issues, harmful chemicals, and bacterial contamination.

    Ultimately, we recommend you consult with a veterinarian to determine if rawhide chews would be a good option for their dog. And if you do choose to give them rawhide, we’ll advise you to exercise caution and buy the chews from a reputable manufacturer, supervise your dog at all times, choose a more age and size-appropriate chew, and replace the rawhide chew once it’s all chewed up to a small piece.

    4. Can I give my dog rawhide every day?

    It depends on your dog's unique needs and health considerations. While some dogs can tolerate rawhide chews every day, others might experience some digestive problems. We recommend that you consult with your veterinarian to determine if daily rawhide chews are appropriate for your dog.

    5. At what age can puppies have rawhide?

    A puppy should be at least 6 months old before they can have any rawhide chews. It’s mainly because, before this age, their teeth and digestive system are not fully developed to handle the tough texture of rawhide chews.

    Furthermore, during their early growth years, it would be more beneficial to opt for much softer and safer chew toys that are made especially for puppies. We recommend you consult with a veterinarian to determine the right kind of chew toy for your puppy.



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