french bulldog chewing rawhide

Is Rawhide Dangerous For Dogs?


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Rawhide has long been a popular choice for dog chews and toys. They were designed to be long-lasting so they keep dogs occupied. And we’re in full support of your dog chewing a toy or treat instead of your carpet or shoes.

But over the years, there have been articles and warnings from experts around the dangers of rawhide. And as responsible pet parents, it’s our duty to stay informed around what’s best for our beloved dogs.

So, let’s look at some of the potential benefits and dangers that rawhide can pose to your dog. That way, you know the risks and can make an informed decision as to whether rawhide deserves a place in your home.

What is rawhide?

Rawhide is the skin of animals such as sheep, cows, pigs, or other cattle – hence the “hide” part of the name. It’s dried and prepared specifically for dog consumption.

The exact preparation process depends on the specific company, but it usually involves bleaching and shaping, as well as leaving the hide in a salt brine to help lengthen the shelf life.

If this sounds a bit like process of getting leather from an animal, you wouldn’t be wrong.

young labrador chewing rawhide

What are the benefits of rawhide?

Dogs like to chew. There’s no way around it. Rawhide chews, often flavoured to be more attractive to your dog, were designed to help dogs satisfy that need. Without turning to your precious furniture, that is.

If your puppy’s chewing habits are stressing you out, read our survival guide to teething puppies as well as our advice on how to puppy proof your house.

Aside from the behavioural benefits, chewing helps to keep your dog’s teeth clean and jaws strong. Regular chewing can help prevent plaque and tartar build-up.

Rawhides are meant to be durable chews that break down into small soft pieces over a long period. However…

The dangers of rawhide

Now we know what rawhide is and why it can be useful to develop healthy chewing habits, there are some of the risks…

Rawhide can cause blockages and choking

As mentioned above, rawhides are designed to break into tiny, soft pieces which are digestible. But of course, this depends on your dog’s chewing style.

Your energetic Labrador will probably chew more intently than an older, relaxed Great Dane. And their chewing style changes as they grow and develop too.

Heavy chewers are often able to break rawhide off in big chunks. This is one of the main risks associated with rawhide, and why many owners stay clear of it altogether.

These chunks are problematic as they can be a choking hazard. Choking can be fatal very quickly, but even in non-fatal scenarios, is usually quite scary and traumatic for both dog and owner. If the dog doesn’t choke but manages to swallow the entire chunk, it can cause a blockage somewhere in the digestive system.

If rawhide causes blockages in the digestive tract or esophagus it may have to be surgically removed (often in an emergency surgery) and can even lead to death if not treated in time.

You can minimise some of the risk by choosing an appropriately sized chew. A big dog, for instance, shouldn’t be given a small rawhide chew as the chances of choking are much higher.

However, heavy chewers of any size probably shouldn’t be given rawhide at all.

Rawhide can cause digestive problems

Because rawhide chews have to go through quite a bit of chemical processing to create the products we give to dogs, they’re sometimes not well tolerated. Rawhide might not count as one of the things that can poison your pet, but it can cause allergic reactions.

Reactions can be due to bacteria, chemicals, artificial flavourings, or a number of other ingredients. Some dogs are even allergic to the rawhide itself, not the ingredients used in its manufacture.

If your dog doesn’t tolerate rawhide well, you might see rashes or itching. Or your dog might experience gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and bloating.

Watch the PD Pet Care Vlog with Dr Cath Watson for more rawhide insights:

So, should you use rawhide or not?

As always, the onus lies with the pet parent to make responsible decisions. If you’re there to supervise rawhide chewing and your dog suffers no side effects from the chew, it’s probably ok as a treat from time to time.

However, if your dog is an excessive chewer, has a sensitive stomach or skin, or will be left unsupervised with his chew, it’s probably best to opt for something safer. Some safe, effective chew toys include:

  • KONG toys. Stuffed with kibble or a pet-friendly paste, this can keep them occupied for hours. Make sure to select the right size for your dog.
  • Beef tendons. Often called bully sticks, these are a safer natural alternative to rawhide. They generally last a while, taste great, and work particularly well as “high reward” chews. You could even save them for events or situations your pup finds stressful, to create a positive association.

You can also peruse the selection at your local pet store. Choose an appropriately-sized toy in material suitable for your dog. Some like soft chews, others prefer harder ones. Just make sure that whatever chew toy you give your dog, you keep an eye on them and throw it away when they start to break up and become choking hazards.

If you like to let your dog chew in order to avoid destructive behaviour, they might be suffering from a lack of stimulation and/or exercise. Read our article that answers how much exercise does a dog need and our article covering tips for exercising a dog without walking.

Pet insurance offers an extra layer of protection

Regardless of the chew you choose, you might want to consider pet insurance.

That way, if your dog does have an accident – chew-related or not – you can make a trip to the vet without it hitting your pocket hard.

Check out our dog insurance plans for more.

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