The Hidden Dangers in Rawhide Dog Treats



It's extremely important to provide chew toys and treats for your dog. Not only does it help promote natural behaviors, but chewing also helps clean teeth, freshen breath, and ease anxiety. However, not all chew treats are created the same. Rawhide treats, though affordable and popular, have hidden dangers that all owners should be aware of.


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What is Rawhide?

Before we get into the dangers of rawhide for dogs, what exactly is rawhide? Rawhide is made from the inner layer of leftover skins from the leather industry. The skins are then brined, stripped, whitened, and formed into rawhide treats.


The issue does not lie with where the treat comes from; most dog treats are made of leftover meat, skin, and bones from other industries and can be very healthy and safe for your dog. Unlike other treats, rawhide is processed with lye, bleach, and other chemicals that are toxic to dogs. There are also increased risks for contamination, choking, intestinal blockages, and GI upset.


Rawhide Contamination

There is also a high risk of contamination of rawhide treats due to the length of time the skins take to process - skins that often rot and decay! The FDA has recalled rawhide dozens of times for salmonella and other bacterial contamination, as well as some brands outside of the US using chemicals that are not approved for the processing. Some of these chemical compounds have resulted in inflamed stomach lining, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dogs not wanting to eat. Overall, it's better to avoid rawhide that has been made outside of the US due to the contamination risks.


Choking Risks with Rawhide

Another big issue with rawhide treats is the risk of choking and intestinal blockages. Rawhide is meant to breaks off in pieces when chewed, and for heavy chewers this can be a huge problem. When large pieces are swallowed, they can easily cause your dog to choke. Never leave your dog alone with rawhide treats!


When these large pieces are swallowed, they can swell up to 4 times their size in your dog's digestive tract. This can cause intestinal blockages, a medical emergency that requires the pieces to be removed via surgery. Rawhide is notoriously difficult to digest, so these large pieces swell in the stomach and pass into the lower intestines without breaking down. This is an especially large risk to small breed dogs.


Rawhide Treats and GI Distress

Even if your pup successfully swallows and passes rawhide, the treat can make them sick. Due to the inability to digest rawhide, dogs often experience vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, or even pancreatitis which often requires an overnight stay at a veterinary ER. It's just not worth it!


Rawhide Alternatives

Treats and enrichment toys
Some of our treat options at Martha's Garden!

Here at Martha's Garden, we never offer rawhide treats to our daycare or dog park pups. Instead, we offer and recommend other treats and chew toys that provide safe chewing enrichment. Some of our favorite treats and chew toys include:

  • Bully Sticks - easily digestible beef treats with a low choking risk

  • Pig and Cow Ears - easily digestible treats that are more difficult for heavy chewers to break off large pieces

  • Kong toys - thick and durable rubber toys that can be filled with cheese, peanut butter, and other treats

  • Natural bones and antlers - real bones and antlers rarely break apart like rawhide and really get teeth clean. They last a long time too! However, extremely heavy chewers have a risk of tooth breakage

  • Dental treats and toys - these are treats and toys that are specially made to be hard enough to clean your dog's teeth without risk of tooth breakage. Great for heavy chewers!


Ultimately, saving a few dollars by choosing rawhide treats can cost you thousands in veterinary bills and put your dog at risk. There are so many safe and affordable long-lasting chew treats and toys out there!

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