We’ve Got a Bone to Pick With Rawhide

Why Rawhide Is Bad for Dogs

a stack of rawhide dog chews

Rawhide is bad for dogs for a number of reasons.

Topping the list of risks associated with rawhide are:


digestive issues

choking hazard

intestinal blockage.

These concerns are so big, that the Humane Society and ASPCA both discourage the consumption of rawhide for pets. Also, Petco recently announced it will no longer sell traditional rawhide in its stores.

While a popular dog chew, more information of its dangers has come to light in recent years. Of all the dog foods out there, rawhide can even be life-threatening.

Let’s take a deeper look into what rawhide is and why dog owners should avoid giving it to their pets.

Rawhide: What Is It, Anyway?

Other than a western-themed TV show from the early 1960s with a famously catchy theme song, rawhide is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s skin (typically from free-range grass-fed cows) that has not been tanned.

To get from cattle to dog treat form, the rawhide is processed in chemicals, cleaned in water, bleach (do you really want your dog ingesting toxic chemicals like bleach?), or hydrogen peroxide, and dried. Sometimes they are smoked for added flavoring.

Why is rawhide bad for dogs?

english bulldog chewing on a dog toy for chewing
Dogwood dog chew alternative to rawhide

For one, rawhide bones and rawhide chews are famous for causing issues to the digestive tract as well as intestinal blockage. They can even get stuck in the esophagus. Some dogs swallow such large pieces of it without chewing and end up at the ER vet. This requires the large chunks to be removed via surgery.

Other reasons rawhide chews are bad for your dog include:

Contamination: Salmonella is a really big concern for this product. It’s not only a risk to your pets but can be a risk to you if you come in contact with the chew. Between 2008 and 2011, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) held six MAJOR recalls of rawhide due to salmonella contamination and poisoning.

Dr. Michelle Burch of Safehounds.com told Outward Hound: “Not all rawhides are made or produced equally, with some having bacterial contamination. The most common bacteria seen on rawhides are Campylobacter and Salmonella.”

Digestive Distress & Intestinal Blockage: When dogs swallow rawhide the effects can be dangerous. Rawhide swells in stomachs and can swell up to 4x its original size!

This swelling, combined with the inability to digest this material, can cause blockage and indigestion for pets. Not to mention making it difficult for them to poop. Small dogs are especially at risk.

“Symptoms of intestinal obstruction can include continuous vomiting, lack of eating, and severely decreased energy. Treatment of intestinal obstruction typically involves surgical intervention,” said Dr. Burch.

Tooth damage: Your dog’s chewing rawhide treats or dog bones is not great for their dental health, especially if you have a teething puppy or an aggressive chewer.

“While many owners give rawhides to their pets to help with dental health,” said Dr. Burch, “they may be causing more harm than benefit. If the rawhide is too hard, your dog’s teeth can get fractured while chewing.”

Elk antlers are similarly hard on your dog’s teeth. Best give your power chewer a safe alternative dental chew that is actually made for cleaning tartar off the outer layer of their teeth.

The Best Rawhide Alternative Chews

dog with a chew toy

Since there are more risks than benefits of rawhide, dog parents are better off looking for alternative pet treats and long-lasting natural chews like sweet potato chews, Himilayan chews, or bully sticks at the pet store. Even a toy stuffed with peanut butter is going to be safer.

There are many grain-free or gluten-free options out there without additives or preservatives that are easier for your large dog or small breed dog to digest.

Chewing is a natural and healthy behavior for dogs. Virtually all puppies chew to explore the new world around them. This same behavior continues in adult dogs, but instead of exploration, dog chewing is a form of enjoyment and therapy for dogs as it satisfies nervousness and restlessness.

Many of our Petstages chew toys satisfy the natural instinct to chomp and chew, enhance dental health, dispense treats and keep dogs occupied.

In addition to long-standing favorite types of rawhide-free and splinter-free chews like Dogwood and Deerhorn, we also have ultra-tough Orka chew toys for your pooch to gnaw on!

What Are Orka Toys, You Ask?

dog on a couch with toy

Step aside, rawhide. Go for a rawhide alternative for dogs. It has none of the uncertain swelling properties of rawhide and has the taste of rawhide dogs love. Petstages Orka chew toys are made of durable, non-toxic, synthetic rubber, combining fun and function in one toy.

We developed a dog chew solution to rawhide that is lead and phthalate-free. Made in multiple shapes and sizes to suit your large dog or small dog.

Better Safe Than Sorry

dog with a chew toy

Don’t put your pup’s health (or life) at risk by giving your dog rawhide. From yak milk chews (aka Himalayan chews) to single-ingredient treats, there are safer ways to satisfy your dog’s chewing instincts.

If you think your dog is at-risk from eating rawhide or are not sure what chewy alternatives to give them, talk to your veterinarian.

What are your dog’s favorite healthy alternative long-lasting chew toys?

Our dog chews are available on our website, Chewy, Amazon, and more.