Dogs love to chew on things, that is not a secret. There are many toys and treats out there to offer your dog a satisfying chewing experience. One of the more popular options are rawhide dog treats. These rawhide treats, however, are not always safe and you should be aware of the risks before you give your dog a rawhide bone.

Rawhide treats, or rawhide bones, are popular dog treats made particularly for the purpose of chewing. They are very durable and they can provide a chewing entertainment to your pooch for days. Of course, some dogs go through them much faster.

Rawhide bones are made of hide or skin of an animal, usually out of cow or pig. The hide is first scraped clean of any muscle tissue and fat. The hair is also removed. The hide is then cut and in some cases, it is also flavored. Then, instead of being cooked, the hide is dried out and shaped into bone, or some other shape.

Are Rawhide Dog Treats Safe for Dogs?

Are Rawhide Dog Treats Safe for Dogs

Rawhide dog treats come in different shapes, sizes, and flavors. The most popular flavors are beef and chicken, and your dog will certainly enjoy the taste. He will also enjoy the chewing experience as well.

In addition to this, rawhide bones are actually good for your dog’s teeth. Even though it won’t actually keep his teeth clean, a rawhide chew can certainly help. Like basically anything else that your dog chews on, rawhide dog treats work to scrape the plaque and tartar off of your pet's teeth. And, since your dog can chew rawhide treats for hours, it is without a doubt a good thing for his dental health.

Chewing a rawhide bone can also keep your dog mentally stimulated and pleased. It can help your dog relieve anxiety and make him feel content and peaceful. After all, dogs love chewing things, as we already mentioned. It will also keep your dog out of trouble since he will be busy chewing the treat. Obviously, he can’t chew on a rawhide bone and your shoes at the same time.

Rawhide treats are also pretty inexpensive, and that is why they are the first choice of many people. So, there are some good sides to rawhide treats, but there are also some potential hazards and safety issues as well.

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Are Rawhide Dog Treats Safe for Dogs

Dangers of Rawhide Treats

Rawhide bones carry certain risks, and you should know about them so you can make sure that your dog is safe. So, here are some of the most common dangers of rawhide bones.

1. Digestive Problems

First of all, there are some dogs who are too sensitive to rawhide, or possibly even allergic to it. They could also be allergic or sensitive to some other substances that are used in the manufacturing of the rawhide treats.

That could lead to different digestive issues, like vomiting or diarrhea. If you notice some of these symptoms after your dog has been chewing on the rawhide treats, take him to your vet to see whether rawhide was the cause.

2. Choking and Blockage Hazards

Choking is probably the biggest risk associated with rawhide treats for dogs. Choking usually happens when a dog chews the end of a bone. Choking hazard is however, not the only thing that could happen if your dog is not careful when chewing.

For example, your dog could also end up with an intestinal blockage if he swallows a large part of the rawhide treat. The large part can get lodged in his digestive system and cause a partial or even full blockage. Some cases of partial blockage can be treated fairly easily since your vet can dislodge the piece through the dog’s throat.

Are Rawhide Dog Treats Safe for DogsHowever, if the blockage is full, that can lead to some serious issues. If left untreated,  an intestinal blockage could even result in death. If full blockage happens, one thing is sure – a cheap treat will turn into an extremely expensive surgery, not to talk about the trauma and stress that come with that.

Some of the symptoms to look for if you think that your dog swallowed a larger piece of a rawhide bone include diarrhea, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and being in discomfort, which usually manifests with the refusal to lay down or to be petted, especially in the stomach area.

3. Contamination

There are other safety issues that come with rawhide treats. First of all, there is the question of the way that these rawhide bones are made and prepared. For example, in the United States, they are washed with detergents and sterilized with hydrogen peroxide. They are then rinsed, thoroughly, and refrigerated to stay fresh. Rawhides prepared in the USA are safe to use, but not all rawhide treats are made in the United States.

Some other countries don’t really have such strict procedures and since the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the process of manufacturing rawhides in other countries, particularly China, finding the information about the way that Chinese rawhide treats are prepared is left to consumers.

Another hazard is the one that comes with any other food – Salmonella or E. coli contamination. Any product that comes from animal sources carries this risk, and rawhide chews are no different. Smaller and younger dogs are more susceptible to these risks.

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Are Rawhide Dog Treats Safe for Dogs

How to Keep Your Dog Safe?

There are many things you can do to make sure that your dog is safe, if you are thinking about getting him rawhide dog treats.

1. Know Your Dog

First, you should keep in mind which breeds are more at risk from certain hazards. For example, some dogs will chew rawhide treats for a long time, and they will not be at risk of choking as much as some dogs who will eat the treat much faster. Labrador Retrievers and Pitbulls, for example, are more prone to gulping down bigger pieces of food, and thus are at bigger risk with rawhide dog treats.

Also, you should be aware of your dog’s chewing habits and eating habits. If you know that your dog likes to eat fast, to swallow larger pieces of food, then you should definitely avoid giving him rawhide dog treats. If your pooch eats slowly and values the chewing experience as much as eating, then it is much safer to give him rawhide bones.

If your dog has a history of digestive problems, you should avoid giving him rawhide altogether, especially flavored ones.

You should consult with your vet as well, and ask him how much rawhide is safe for your dog. Also, give your dog just one rawhide treat first and see how he will react. Since some dogs are more sensitive, you should notice if Fido has some digestive problems after he eats rawhide.

2. Be Careful

It is probably best to buy only rawhide made in the US. Since it is FDA approved, it is much safer and you can always check with the manufacturer about the entire process of making rawhide treats. You can never be sure whether imported rawhide has gone through rigorous control or not.

If you don’t want to risk any possible allergy, opt for the non-flavored rawhide treats. That might not please your dog very much, but at least you can be sure that he will be safe. Also, always watch out for signs that something is wrong.

Are Rawhide Dog Treats Safe for DogsIf you notice symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, gagging, lethargy, or any other unusual symptom after you give your dog rawhide, call your vet immediately. Some problems can be rather serious if you don’t react fast.

You should also think about your own safety and wash your hands after handling these treats. If you have immune system problems, you should avoid handling them at all.

Get your dog separated from other pets when you give him rawhide treats. That will help him relax while chewing and he will not gulp larger pieces just because he is excited to play. This is particularly important if your dog is extremely territorial around food, which can make him rush and eat big pieces of rawhide.

If you notice that the rawhide treat has become small enough to be swallowed whole, or if it looks chewed enough, you should take it from your dog. That is when the risk of choking and blockage is the highest.

3. Think about Alternatives

Discuss possible alternatives with your vet, or with a pet store merchant. There are many chew toys and treats out there which can replace rawhide bones. For example, your dog could be just as happy with a hard rubber chew, especially since there are types which can be filled with food.

You should look at other things, like marrow bones, bully sticks, deer antlers or even carrots. These are much safer and more natural alternatives to rawhide which will also satisfy your dog’s need for chewing and for keeping his teeth clean.

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James has been a certified veterinary technician for the last 8 years in Birmingham, UK. After working with many dogs, he's changed his focus to writing, building businesses and researching subjects on canines and products created for dogs.