Rawhide: Delicious or Dangerous?

For many people, the rawhide debate isn’t a debate: the stuff is dangerous, shouldn’t be sold in stores, and shouldn’t be an option for anyone’s furry friend. The concerns aren’t just understandable, they’re legitimate. Dogs can certainly have issues with rawhide, but it remains one of the best-selling pet treats available on the market. Rawhide has its ups and downs, and you can always consult your vet if you have questions about how much is appropriate for your dog, or if your vet will allow any at all.

What is Rawhide?

Made from the skin of several animals, including cattle, which is the most common, pig, deer, elk, or buffalo, rawhide is made from the inner layer of the animal’s skin. After an animal is slaughtered, the skin is cut off, cleansed of the upper layers of epidermis, hair or fur, and cleaned again thoroughly. From there, the pieces are processed, and pressed to dry. The slabs of dry rawhide are broken up, and sold by the pound to various people and businesses, depending on the supplier. Rawhide is an easy-to-find, easy-to-administer treat for dogs.

How is it good for dogs?

Simply put, dogs love to chew, and rawhide is both chewy, and tasty. While all rawhide isn’t created equal, dogs generally love the taste, and may even fight over a piece! Some suppliers will add the flavors of chicken, beef, or duck to rawhide, but that’s rarely necessary. Rawhide satisfies a dog’s instinctual desire to chew, and for many pet owners, that makes things a little easier. Rawhide has the added advantage of scraping away plaque from dog teeth, as well as being a fun activity for them. It is understandable, though, that there are concerns.

Why is it bad for dogs?

The danger of rawhide is enough to make some pet owners (and vets) nervous. Rawhide isn’t something a dog can digest, meaning that the way it goes down is usually the way that it will go out. In the case of rawhide, owners can sometimes see the bits and pieces that come out when their dogs relieve themselves. If a piece of rawhide is so large that the dog cannot pass it, an intestinal blockage may occur. Therein lay the danger of rawhide: if a dog ingests rawhide, has a blockage, and the owner can’t pay for the surgery, or doesn’t know what’s happened, there could be serious consequences for the dog. Most pet owners understand the enormity of veterinary surgery, and will shy away from rawhide, if for no other reason than to spare their dog the discomfort. Rawhide remains a popular choice for dogs, though – for many people, the reward outweighs the risk.

What are the alternatives?

In recent years, bully sticks have increased in popularity. While the smell of them has been described as, ‘bad, at best,’ they have the same effect for dogs as rawhide: they provide hours of chewing fun, and are made of completely digestible ingredients. Bully sticks are growing more and more in popularity, but rawhide remains a top choice for dog owners. Frozen carrots are another safe, natural alternative to rawhide. Natural marrow bones will also provide the flavor and fun that your dog craves with rawhide. Still not sure? Ask your veterinarian, or a seasoned animal shelter worker. An internet search will often yield good information, but there is nothing like talking to individuals experienced with dogs.