Are Rawhide Chews Good or Bad For My Pet?

rawhide chews2

Not too long ago I had a client schedule pet sitting services and during our consultation, when I asked if there was anything about her dog I should know about, she mentioned that he wasn’t allowed to have rawhides, whatsoever. This caught me off guard because usually when pet parents mention their pet isn’t allowed to do or have so and so they don’t feel so strongly about it so naturally I was curious and went ahead and asked why.

She proceeded to tell me that she gave her dachshund (weenie dog for those of you not familiar) a rawhide which he pretty much devoured in a matter of hours. She didn’t think anything of it except that he must’ve really, really enjoyed it but not long afterwards noticed him acting unusual. He stopped eating and drinking and she said he kept “stretching,” which I’ve found is a behavior many dogs do when they have upset stomachs and feel very uncomfortable. When she took him to the vet the next day she came to find out that her poor dog had an obstruction in his GI tract and that it would cost her $1,500 to perform surgery to have it removed!

I was in shock. Mainly because I didn’t think it would be so expensive, but then again it was surgery so I guess it shouldn’t be so surprising, but also because what caused this obstruction was a rawhide. I thought those things were supposed to be safe?! Apparently not for this guy.

Rawhides 101

Can we please just take a moment to reflect on the name of these chews: “Rawhides,” one would assume that they would in some way be raw, right? I mean why  name a product a rawhide chew if there isn’t anything raw about it? In reality rawhide chews are highly processed skin from livestock be it a cow, pig, sheep, horse, etc. During the process of developing this “rawhide” the skin is soaked in a chemical solution, ash-lye or lime, to remove all the hair and fat and is then disinfected with either bleach or hydrogen peroxide (other countries may opt to use arsenic also known as rat poison or formaldehyde a solution used as a preservative in medical laboratories or mortuaries). After it’s been “cleansed” it’s left as is, white, or they can add artificial colors and flavors to make it more enticing for your pet to chew.

What The Label Doesn’t Tell You

Hooray! You now have a potentially toxic cocktail in the form of a bone for your pup to chew for hours and hours on end, aren’t you excited? What this means for you is that you can finally have that peace and quite you’ve been day dreaming about… but at what cost? I don’t know about you but I’m not too enthusiastic about having my dog chewing on something that’s just been treated with formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide or bleach! And as if that weren’t bad enough, the common misconception that’s attached to these rawhides, the one that claims that these chews are beneficial because they provide an excellent way for your dog to “clean their teeth” by chewing, is complete poop! You heard it here first on! After a while of your pup continuously working and drooling on said chew it becomes soft so you’re no longer getting that added benefit of your dog cleaning their teeth anymore. Instead what you’re facing is your pup potentially choking or having the chew become obstructed in their GI tract, which is exactly what happened to my client’s dog.

Precautions To Rawhides

If you love rawhides, as I’m sure many pet parents do (they’re pretty cheap), and feel compelled to keep buying them I would recommend:

– Choosing a chew that is an appropriate size for your pet. You can use your pups head to gauge how large the chew should be, width wise.

– Supervise your pup during their chewing sessions. Some of these guys are very enthusiastic about their chew toys and love swallowing them whole, which in actuality is normal for our dogs and casts.

– Be sure to only buy products that are made in the U.S or other safe countries like Canada and also read the label carefully so they don’t include any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Chew Alternatives

I always cringe when a client mentions they feed their pup rawhides because deep down inside I know how bad they truly are so whenever I get the chance I try and mention safer and healthier alternatives for their pups.

Some of my favorite chews include:

1. Bully Sticks 

These are actually bull penises that are dried, smoked and sometimes molded to create unique shapes and sizes.

2. Himalayan Chews

These are made of yak and cow milk with no preservatives or chemicals. *Currently these are Zoey’s favorite chews and mine as well as they last much longer than the bully sticks!

3. Raw Meaty Bones

Different from raw bones in that these have a considerable amount of meat still left on them and once gone would be discarded.

4. Deer Antlers

Literally antlers that come from deer. No processing, chemicals, preservatives, etc as these are naturally shed from deer every year.


Which kind of chews are you currently feeding your pup?

And have you ever fed rawhides, if so I’d love to hear about it!




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Lori Waters

Lori Waters

Animal Expert Extraordinaire! at The Litter Sitter, inc.
Lori Waters is the author and voice behind Thee Inside Poop as well as the owner and operator of The Litter Sitter, a local dog walking and pet sitting company in Miami Beach, FL. When she's not busy blogging and taking care of clients' pets you can find her running around with her german shepherd Zoey or having in-depth conversations with her two fur balls, Michi and Oakley!
Lori Waters

  • i no longer give raw hide as I’ve seen my bully regurgitate a wad of rawhide goo and have also been warned against them by bulldog owners. I like the Himalayan Chews and frozen raw marrow bones. Both can keep them occupied for quite a while 🙂

    • Oh no, that’s no bueno! At least he did regurgitate as opposed to getting an obstruction! I’ve never tried the marrow bones but apparently those are great too along with the raw meaty bones!

  • jana rade

    I believe that rawhide chews are definitely NOT GOOD. With some potential exception of those specifically designed for dental care.

    And they are potentially BAD. Chocking and blockage hazard, as well as contamination depending on the source.

    • Same here, I’ve always been a little skeptical about rawhides and just never found them very appealing. They don’t even smell tasty!

  • Not all rawhide is processed with bleach, hydrogen peroxide or formaldehyde. Natural processes of making rawhide existed before those chemicals were invented! However, natural rawhides are not cheap, are not as popular, are harder to find to purchase and still pose all of the risks of choking and blockage. The alternatives you offer are great but none as healthy (bully sticks are nutritionally very poor!) or as long lasting as rawhide for my aggressive chewers- I find a simple Kong filled with low cal wet food and frozen to be the rawhide alternative that entertains the longest!

    • I agree natural rawhides aren’t cheap and easily accessible (probably because they aren’t cheap)! I’ve used a frozen peanut butter kong for a client of mine with a great dane and that did wonders for him!

  • Dot Piercey

    My dog recently broke a tooth and my vet asked me if she had deer antlers to chew!!My answer was YES.She has had several other clients with the same problem.They are as hard as stone!

    • Oh no! You know I was wondering the same thing when I bought our shepherd her first antler. I was a little skeptical of them at first because they looked so tough. I think she was smart enough to know that she wouldn’t be able to crack down on it because after the first day or so she stopped messing with it. She literally only chewed the edges off it and then left it alone lol. Guess it was for the better 🙂