Rawhide for dogs is such a popular, often inexpensive treat that many pet owners turn to for their pets. Most dogs love to chew – and chewing is good for them – but is a rawhide treat the best choice to offer? Is it even a half-decent choice?

Regardless of their popularity, rawhides could actually be the WORST choice of chew for your dog.

And it all starts with how they’re made.

How Rawhide for Dogs are Made

What exactly is rawhide? Rawhide is the inner soft hide or skin of an animal. It’s most commonly made from cows but, technically, can come from any cleft hoofed livestock.

That sounds harmless enough – especially if your animal is on a raw diet. After all, it is a “raw” hide, right?

The problem isn’t actually where the initial rawhide comes from. The problem is the process it goes through before it makes it to your pup! That technically “raw” rawhide is nowhere near raw by the time your pet gets it. It’s so heavily processed it’s the complete opposite of raw.

Prepare to be grossed out…

Step 1 – The hide is stripped then given a chemical bath for preservation. Remember, most of this material will be used to make leather goods – clothing, furniture, etc.

Step 2 – A toxic chemical like ash-lye or sodium sulphide lime is used to strip away hair on the outside of the hide and the fat on the underside. After all, no one wants a leather couch with fur still attached in spots.

Step 3 – Chemicals are added to puff up the hide to make it easier to split it into layers. The outer layers are what are used for the aforementioned leather products. The inner layer is what’s going to be used to make rawhide for dogs.
**Note – that inner layer has been treated to all the same chemicals!!

Step 4 – The inner layer of hide is washed in bleach, hydrogen peroxide or other chemicals to remove the smell of rotten leather and whiten it. Your dog might like that gross smell, but you probably wouldn’t – and manufacturers know that.

Step 5 – The whitened hide is them rolled out into a fancy shape – often a bone-like shape, and often glued to help hold that shape longer. Yummmm glue…

Step 6 – Once the rawhide is shaped, coatings of chemicals like titanium oxide, sodium benzoate and known carcinogens such as FD&C Red 40 are used to make the rawhide more appealing for pet store shelves.

rawhide for dogs

Does any set in this process scream healthy to you? Do any of the steps make you think “hmmm, yes, that sounds like something I feel safe giving to my dogs”? Probably not.

Other Potential Dangers

If those toxic chemicals aren’t enough to turn you off, they’re actually not the only issues when it comes to safety.

Even forgetting about the ingestion of toxic chemicals (although, really, how can we forget), rawhides are dangerous for several other reasons!

  1. Choking. One of the things that unsuspecting pet owners like about rawhides is that they are “edible.” Believe me, I use that term very loosely here. But it’s true, many dogs chew on rawhides and eat them once they’ve become soft enough. But don’t let that soft consistency fool you. The rawhide can quickly and easily become lodged in your dog’s throat, blocking his airway, choking him. This is a life-threatening emergency.
  2. Blockages. The other problem is, if it doesn’t get stuck in your dog’s throat, it could work its way farther down and get stuck in other parts of the digestive tract. Rawhides can swell up to four times their original size once they get soft, and this swelling in your dog’s stomach is really bad. It can cause a major blockage, and abdominal surgery may be needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If the blockage isn’t removed, this can lead to death.

Final Thoughts

If you give your dog the occasional rawhide bone, hopefully this will help you understand why it might be a really good idea to find an alternative.

What might me recommend? Stick with an actual RAW bone. A raw meaty bone will accomplish all the things a rawhide tries to – the benefits of chewing, entertainment, etc. – without the danger. A meaty beef rib bone or turkey neck will do the trick with the added benefit of all that nutrition. And chances are, those raw meaty bones are actually less expensive that a rawhide. So you’re actually getting far more bang for your buck. To find out how to feed raw bones safely, check out this post.