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Is Rawhide Safe for Dogs?
A Hidden Risk Every Pet Owner Should Know


Dogs have a natural instinct to chew, and doing so can keep them entertained for hours. Chewing also provides an excellent workout for your dog’s jaw while helping to relieve anxiety and clean teeth.

Your dog loves rawhide .... but are the risks worth it? Swap your dog’s rawhide bone with one of the safer, nutritious (and 100% dog-approved) options from!

So while it’s absolutely imperative that you give your dog healthy chew options on a daily basis (or risk sacrificing your favorite shoes, table legs or bedspread for the cause!), one of the most popular and most common chews on the market, rawhide, may pose a hidden health risk to your pet.

What Exactly is Rawhide?

Rawhide dog chews are sold in the majority of U.S. supermarkets and pet stores. Like their name implies, rawhide is the inner hide from a horse or cow that has undergone chemical processing to remove hair and other material, then ground or used whole and pressed into various shapes. Some also contain added flavoring.

Is Rawhide Safe for Your Dog? Choking and Intestinal Blockages

Dogs do love rawhide, and because such chews are cheap and easily attainable, they’re one of the most popular on the market. But there are hidden risks you should know.

The greatest risk of rawhide chews is choking or intestinal blockages. Although the material is said to be fully digestible, it is a very slow process. If your dog swallows a large piece of rawhide, it can easily become lodged in his throat or digestive tract.

Even if your dog is able to comfortably swallow the rawhide piece, it may still be too large for her body to digest. Further, it’s reported that rawhide can expand once in your dog’s stomach, causing blockages. This means that even small pieces of rawhide can be deadly to your dog if swallowed.

According to some reports, rawhide may swell up to four times its original size once in your dog’s stomach!

As written by Dusti Summerbird-Lockey for the Great Dane Angel Network:

“When your pet tears off and swallows a piece, that piece then has the potential to swell inside your dog’s stomach. Your dog’s gastric juices WILL NOT break down the rawhide. Once swollen, the piece then has the potential to cause anything from mild to severe gastric upset, to death.”

Sadly, many dogs die from rawhide-induced intestinal blockages or choking every year, although exact statistics are not known, partly because rawhide is difficult to see on X-rays.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

“While many dogs enjoy nibbling on rawhide, some tend to swallow it -- and this could potentially pose a foreign body obstruction in your pet's gastrointestinal tract if large enough pieces are swallowed.

If you do decide to offer rawhide, you may want to supply your dog with only limited quantities, and take care to dispose of any pieces that get chewed down to a size that could be swallowed whole.”

Chemical Contamination?

The second risk of rawhide chews comes from their chemical processing. In collaboration with WSBT News, Notre Dame researchers tested more than 12 rawhide products for lead, cadmium, arsenic, nickel, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium. In excessive levels these substances can cause severe health problems, and some are toxic even at very low levels and should not be consumed at all.

Although the study found levels of the tested substances were within an “acceptable range,” rawhide chews from outside of the United States (from countries such as China, Mexico or Columbia) tended to have higher levels.

The levels were concerning enough that the ASPCA recommended to WSBT that “the smaller the dog, the fewer rawhide treats, and never give your dog rawhide treats without keeping an eye on them.”

If you do choose to give your dog rawhide, you should therefore only choose brands that are made in the United States. But be aware that some rawhide chews, including those made in the United States, may be treated with potentially harmful chemical preservatives including arsenic, ethoxyquin, formaldehyde, BHA and BHT. Salmonella and E. coli contamination have also been found on rawhide dog chews.

Are There Safer Chew Options for Dogs?

Your dog needs to chew, and giving him your loafers and slippers just won’t cut it. So what options are there?

The chews that you give your dog should be free of chemical preservatives and additives, and they should be either 100% digestible or hard enough that they won’t break into pieces that your dog can swallow or choke on. Raw bones, which you can find at many high-end pet retailers, are one excellent option (note: do NOT give your dog cooked bones, which can splinter and cause serious damage).

Two other all-natural nutritious options that highly recommends are:

  • Elk Antler Chews from Elk Antler Chews are the longest lasting chews available on the market. Made from naturally shed antlers that won't splinter like other hard chews, they're great for promoting healthy teeth and gums. They're also a 100% natural source of over 40 essential nutrients promoting strong bones and healthy joints.

There are also safe rubber and nylon chew toys on the market that many dogs enjoy.

Your dog may love rawhide, but the fact remains that the pieces can easily become lodged in his digestive tract. Switching your dog to safer chews will satisfy his need to chew and your need to keep your dog safe! Of course, no matter what chew, treat or toy you give your dog, you should always monitor him for safety.

Happy Chewing!

Give Your Pet the Longest, Healthiest, Happiest Life Possible


Choose healthy, natural pet food and treats from!

You’ll save money on vet bills while keeping your cat or dog healthy and strong.

Visit now to view their unique line of all-natural pet products to enhance the health and well-being of your furry little ones.

greener wiener

Recommended Reading

How to Save Money on Vet Care: 5 Key Tips

How to Keep Your Dog’s Ears Clean and Healthy

Sources May 3, 2007

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