Can Dogs Have Rawhide Chews?

Take a stroll around any pet shop, or down the pet food aisle in your supermarket, and you will likely see some form of a rawhide chew.

Bones, shoes and sticks are all common rawhide items. They are often cheap to buy, and tough so could be perfect for a dog who really needs to keep occupied. After all, dogs love to chew.

But is rawhide actually safe for dogs? After all, surely something so hard could have disastrous results if not chewed properly?

What is rawhide?

Rawhide is essentially animal skin. Often from cattle or pork, it is removed as a byproduct of the leather industry, dried and then prepared into a treat for dogs.

The treats come in all shapes and sizes, from large bones to shoe shapes and long thin chews.

Rawhide chews are odourless and long-lasting, so many owners are drawn to these properties.

Is rawhide safe for dogs?

Technically it is safe, yes. Whether you should give your dog rawhide is another question.

Rawhide chews soften when they become wet through chewing. However, if your dog is particularly excited to have their chew and get through it, it can sometimes not be chewed as much as it should be.

These hard pieces of rawhide then get stuck in your dog’s throat, causing a choking hazard. Sometimes, this may be obvious in coughing. Other times, it could simply cause an impaction that puts your dog off eating, but you don’t notice for days.

If a piece of rawhide were to cause a big issue for your dog, it may require surgery to remove.

Some cheaper rawhide products are also unsafe thanks to the manufacturing process. Some companies may not remove the chemicals that were used in the process of stripping the hide from the animal. These are in turn digested by your dog.

In the UK, rawhide doesn’t have to adhere to any health regulations, because it isn’t classed as food.

It can also have bacteria build-up, with the most common form found on rawhide in the USA being salmonella. In dogs, salmonella can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea, leading to weight loss and internal illness. In less severe cases, rawhide can simply cause digestive issues if your dog has a sensitive stomach.

Rawhide for dogs in a shoe shape
Rawhide shoes can be a particular choking hazard for dogs, due to the shoelace parts and smaller overall size

Should I give my dog rawhide?

Rawhide is available in many pet shops up and down the UK, including large chains. Therefore, it is easy to think it is perfectly safe for your dog.

Here at Petz, however, we would never give our office dogs rawhide. Not only is the choking hazard something we have experienced, but the Humane Society and ASPCA in America both discourage the consumption of rawhide.

The risk of bacteria is ever-present in rawhide, even if you buy a reputable brand. This isn’t only dangerous for dogs, but humans who handle it too.

I want to give my dog rawhide – how do I find the best products?

Rawhide is far from illegal, of course, so while we wouldn’t personally use or recommend it, some vets still say it is fine to use if your dog is observed when they have it.

In these cases, always check your chosen rawhide is from a reputable company, such as Purina. Get rawhide which is large, and therefore easy to chew. Your dog has to bite off small pieces and chew them, as opposed to potentially swallowing them whole in greed.

Rawhide is meant to be eaten over time. Avoid small treats which your dog could be tempted to finish ASAP.

Because they should be observed when chewing rawhide and the products are meant to last for a while, it may not be the best product if your dog could become protective over it. Some dogs don’t appreciate any treats like this being taken off them. Be cautious they don’t become too protective over the rawhide.

Rawhide and puppies

Rawhide can be given to puppies at 6 months of age, as before this stage their teeth will not be strong enough. However, we personally would wait until they are at least 1 year old and know to chew things like that slowly.