Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, chances are that they love to chew! For puppies, it's a way to relieve the pain caused by new teeth and explore their environment. For older dogs, it helps them to keep their jaws strong and their teeth clean. Chewing also prevents boredom and can even relieve anxiety or frustration. Rawhide is a popular treat for dogs that love to chew, but is it safe? Let’s take a closer look at rawhide.
What is rawhide?
Rawhide dog treats are made using the soft inner hide or skin of an animal. During the manufacturing process, the hides are cleaned and then cut or ground. They're then pressed and shaped to make chewable dog treats of different sizes. The ingredients could come from cows, horses, pigs, or sheep, depending on where the product is manufactured. Many dogs love rawhide, with the treat satisfying their natural instinct to chew. The treat starts dry and is made softer by the saliva they produce. Gradually, the chew becomes soft enough for them to bite off small pieces.
What are the risks of rawhide?
Whilst the risks of rawhide are small, they can be serious. So, it’s important not to ignore them. Consider your dog’s chewing behaviours before you decide whether or not to give them the treat. Here are the biggest dangers of rawhide.
Rawhide can sometimes contain small levels of harmful chemicals, include insecticides, antibiotics, and even arsenic. These can be very harmful to your dog, causing symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting, and dehydration. Salmonella or E. coli contamination may be possible too. Even humans can be put at risk if they come into contact with the bacteria found on rawhide treats.
If you do choose to give your pet rawhide treats, you can reduce your risk of exposure to contaminants by washing your hands after touching them. Anyone who has immune system problems should avoid handling them at all.
The ingredients used to make rawhide chews can be incredibly difficult for dogs to digest and may result in digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhoea. Plus, some dogs are often allergic or simply sensitive to rawhide or the other ingredients and substances used in their manufacture. If you want to give your dog rawhide, ask your vet about how much to give them. In general, smaller dogs should have small amounts. Give one at a time, and then wait a day to see how their intestinal system responds.
Chocking or blockages
Arguably the biggest risk of rawhide dog chews is choking or blockages. This is why most manufacturers warn against letting your dog chew the treats unsupervised. The issue is in the rawhide’s texture. It starts as a dense and durable chew and then quickly softens, becoming a slimy, gooey mess. It’s soft but not easy for a dog to tear apart. This means that many dogs will ingest pieces that are too large to break down quickly enough. These pieces then expand in the stomach juices, potentially causing big problems for the animal. They can become lodged in the throat or other parts of their digestive tract, causing choking or blockages.
A vet might be able to remove these pieces through the throat; however, abdominal surgery may be needed to remove them from the intestines or stomach. In some cases, swallowing large chunks of rawhide can even lead to death. If you notice chewed up rawhide, it’s best to remove it before the dog eats it. You should also separate your dog from your other pets while chewing. This way, your dog will feel more relaxed and be less likely to swallow large pieces whole. This is especially important if your dog is territorial around food.
What are the best rawhide alternatives?
Rawhide may be a popular chew treat for dogs, but there are many other alternatives to choose from. There are several natural chews on the market which are delicious, long-lasting, and free from chemicals.
In recent years, bully sticks have become an extremely popular chew treat for dogs. Not only do dogs love the taste, but the texture supports safe chewing and dental cleaning. The sticks soften as they’re chewed and can help to remove bacteria hiding at the back of the mouth and the gum line. Bully sticks are available in various lengths and thicknesses to suit dogs’ individual chewing styles.
Dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds enjoy chewing on bully sticks, and they’re even suitable for puppies, providing the same high levels of protein and dental health benefits as for adult dogs. You can also try chicken feet, cows ears and goose necks.
Another good alternative to rawhide treats for dogs is bones. Bones are eaten by dogs naturally in the wild and they find them a satisfying and delicious treat. As well as satisfying a dog’s need to chew and saving your furniture, they can also improve their dental health by keeping their gum’s healthy and removing plaque build-up.
Feeding bones fights bacteria in your dog’s mouth in two different ways. The first is through the action of chewing which loosens the bacteria, particularly at difficult to reach areas at the back of the mouth. The second way is that the enzymes from the bone fight off the bacteria and freshen your pet’s breath.
Yak milk chews
Yak chews are thick sticks of hardened yak cheese which are ideal for tough chewers. Packed with flavour, they will provide your dog with hours of chewing pleasure whilst providing lots of abrasion to remove bacteria from their teeth. These chews are longer lasting than many other natural chews. Keep in mind that yak milk chews aren’t recommended for all dogs. Puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with dental problems should avoid chewing on tough chews like these to lessen the risk of damaging their teeth.
Ultimately, whilst rawhide may be convenient, affordable and improve your pet’s dental health, it simply isn't worth risking their health and safety. With so many fantastic alternatives on the market, there’s no need to turn to rawhide to satisfy your dog’s appetite for chewing. The Natural Pet Store aims to provide consumers with products we would give our own pets. We don’t feel rawhide is safe for our own dogs, and therefore we will never stock these products for you to give to your furry family members.