Rawhide Bones: The Good, The Bad And The Downright Dangerous

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Puppy with rawhide boneWhether your dog is a 6-month-old puppy or a six-year-old adult, most owners would agree, they all love to chew. Rawhide bones are often the go to treat many of us give our beloved pets. But are rawhide bones really safe for our dogs?

What Is Rawhide Anyway?

Rawhide is just that: the inner soft hide or skin of an animal. It is most commonly made from cows but, technically, can be made from any cleft hoofed livestock.

Yes, this means exactly what it sounds like. Depending on where it’s manufactured, the ingredients could include hide from cow, pig, sheep, horse or even water buffalo. The animal itself may not be cause for concern, but how, where and in what conditions the animal was raised can affect the overall quality (thinner and drier) and safety of the product.

How Is It Made?

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In countries outside of the USA, Rawhide often begins its journey with a chemical bath to help “preserve” the product during transport. For the most part, inside the US, it is shipped in refrigerated containers to prevent spoilage. Translation: if imported, this chew treat most likely has an extra dose of chemicals. But, if it’s U.S. made, it likely contains fewer chemicals.

During processing, it is first soaked in an ash-lye solution to remove the hair and fat. Then it can be “cleaned” with water or bleach and/or hydrogen peroxide. In some countries arsenic, or even formaldehyde, is used in this process (banned in the U.S.). Finally, it is either left natural or smoke and other artificial flavors are added to entice your dog to chew for hours.

Why Do Dogs Love Them So Much?

Dogs seem to adore Rawhide treats. But is it the Rawhide or just the chewing that they love? Eons ago, when dogs (and humans), still lived in the wild, dogs were given the scraps from the fire. This served to keep the dog loyal and as a means of trash disposal for the humans (yes, even then, no one wanted to take out the trash).

The urge to chew serves many purposes for your dog. As a puppy, it is a way to explore their environment and is natural when teething. As adults, dogs chew as a scavenging instinct, to play and to satisfy the urge to gnaw as a means to clean their teeth. Some dogs chew more because they are rewarded with attention, whether it’s positive or negative. And finally, for some dogs, chewing excessively is a reaction when they are anxious or stressed.

How Do Dogs Consume Rawhide?

It’s easy to see why Rawhide bones satisfy dogs’ urge to chew. It starts dry and then the dog’s chewing action combined with its saliva slowly softens the treat. Over time, they should be able to tear off small pieces that can easily pass through their digestive tracts.

The dangers of these chew treats are not inherent to raw hide. Some dogs will try to consume their treat in record time. If your dog chews their treat too quickly, they can easily choke on a piece that is too large. Even if they can swallow such a large chunk whole, this does not mean that it can pass through their system without doing damage.

Many of us have heard horror stories of beloved pets being too eager with their Rawhide only to later require emergency surgery. If not caught soon enough, this sad situation could even lead to the death of your darling pooch.

So Are Rawhide Bones Worth It?

Are there any advantages to giving your dog this bone? And what about the downsides?

The Good

The Bad

The Truly Dangerous

  • Rawhide bones satisfy your dog’s need to chew in a positive way
  • When consumed properly, they are very good at cleaning your dog’s teeth
  • Relatively inexpensive treat for your dog
  • Rawhide bones could be an inadvertent source of harmful chemicals for your dog
  • Poorer quality (thinner and drier) Rawhides could break your dog’s tooth, causing your dog pain and you high vet bills
  • Yummy flavored raw hide bones can cause issues (e.g. vomiting and diarrhea) for some sensitive dogs
  • If not sized right for your dog, they can be a serious choking hazard
  • Large chunks can be swallowed whole, which are indigestible and can cause serious illness or death for your dog

Are There Any Good Alternatives?

Editor’s Pick
SmartBones SmartSticksSmartBones SmartSticks

Many vets recommend natural alternatives to Rawhide. But, like all things, these dog treats also have pros and cons to consider.

Some beloved alternatives to give occasionally include (click on the links to view the product on Amazon):

  1. Large (full-size) organic carrots with the tops cut off
  2. SmartBones SmartSticks
  3. Pawstruck 100% Natural Beef Tendon Chews
  4. Snooks Sweet Potato Dog Chews
  5. Zukes Z-Ridge Dental Bones

Remember: If the chew treat is harder than the dog’s teeth it could cause breakage and is not a good choice. The video below covers treats that can be dangerous and good alternatives to them.

Rawhide Rules To Live By

Rawhide itself is not an evil treat to give your dogs but there are some things to remember before you give in to your begging four-legged friend.

Location, Location, Location

When choosing treats make sure you know where they come from; the country of origin makes a difference in the overall quality and safety of the product.

Unflavored Or Flavored

It’s also best to avoid the flavored variety no matter how much your dog loves them. This will help prevent any sensitivity your dog may have to different flavors.

Size And Shape Matter

Make sure the treat you choose is size appropriate for your dog. Also, rawhide treats that are long and cylindrical are better; avoid the knobs that can be easily chewed off. Remember to take these long treats away when they become short enough to swallow whole.

Supervise Your Dog’s Chewing

And finally, always supervise your pet when giving ANY chew treat. It’s just not worth the possible tragedy that could result. We all love our dogs and treats are good for anyone occasionally. So don’t feel guilty giving your dog a treat now and then. It will make both of you happy.

What type of rawhide treat does your dog love?

About The Author:

Nicole is a freelance writer and a hobby historian who has always had dogs in her life. For the last 12 years, she’s been the proud mom to 2 rescue pups: Angie and Dana. Her days wouldn’t be complete without their love, companionship and daily walks together.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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April 15, 2020 11:29 am

I asked my vet if it was ok to give my dogs rawhides an she said it’s fine.

David Arnold
January 5, 2020 11:38 pm

Hi,names David.
I was trying to find out why beef rawhide is bad for dogs and so far I’ve read that it gets Stuck in in their esophogas. I was chosen by a female spoodle and I spoil the hell outta her because how smart sh is. I can hold 2 or 3 treats (put a treat between my pinky and ring fingers and another one between pointer and middle fingers, and she will sniff all 3 and choose what one she wants, set it down come back and try to get another the same way. BUT she was raised and played with my cousins male unfixed Australian shepard, talk about a handful that one! Any way so she always had food in a small bucket and ate when she wanted and never had a weight problem now I have a roommate with a dog that looks like a white German Shepard with short legs and don’t know the breed it he eats furiously even bullying my dog out of her bowl now she fights back but when she’s in .y room I give her treats and she takes her time unless I’ve been out of her favorite, smoke house skewers with chicken then she plows through the 1st one in like 5 minutes,and also old roy 6 inch rawhide bones, those take a couple days. but if I try giving her a pork of chicken rawhide she won’t mess with it or if she does it’s reluctantly. So what I’m getting at is if the dog eats the beef rawhide slow do you think there will be less of a problem with beef rawhide for other dogs?

December 31, 2019 11:26 pm

Thank you I agree with you about rawhide bones. I had a dog who actually got one stuck in his throat and as a child I was able to pull it out because my hands were little or he would have choked to death,

D Aguiar
December 31, 2019 12:45 pm

Raw hide bones should be re-called and band !!!! How many dogs have to die or have surgery due to these things before the light comes on !!! Raw hide bones are extremely dangerous to our pets !!!!

Steven Philpott
February 12, 2020 6:59 am
Reply to  D Aguiar

I would love to find out how many, as there seems to be no reliable figures to work out any perspective. Apart from this 22million dog death title, which is not to do with the consumption of rawhide.

If anybody has any surveys they could point me to?

May 12, 2020 8:42 am

I was thinking about this… I was going to ask my local animal hospital how many times they´ve had to do emergency operations and what their take is on it.

September 13, 2019 5:04 pm

can hyperkeratosis be caused by raw hide bones?

Kimberly Alt
September 16, 2019 10:58 am
Reply to  Marg

Hyperkeratosis is passed down through genes.

Cathy V
March 6, 2019 8:07 am

Can chewing rawhide bones cause weight gain?

Kimberly Alt
March 6, 2019 9:45 am
Reply to  Cathy V

Just chewing and not ingesting? I wouldn’t think it would cause weight gain but I have not researched it. Perhaps if your dog has gained more weight and chews on rawhide bones a lot it is because the dog isn’t moving around as much?

Saundra Harbison
November 16, 2018 9:31 pm

My heart is broken I’ve given and spent all kinds of money thinking I was doing and giving all the love to my Daisy I could give. She is very sick because I give her pet chews and she was swallowed some and possibly I could be burying her. I hope more information becomes available to pet owners about the true dangers of pet treat/ bones. I didn’t know I was going to kill her by loving her. I really appreciate all the lies consumers are told about their safe. There are as safe as leaving your baby in a 100 degree car all day.

Vee Lazar
September 17, 2018 12:00 am

Just last week our corgi became listless and didn’t want to play. Then she started vomiting bile-like fluid. We took her to our vet. When she palpated near the pancreas Baby yelped, making the vet suspect pancreatitis. Blood work ruled this out. Further testing revealed the small bowel was very irritated and contained tiny bead-sized densities that were seen scattered thruout the bowel and a cluster of them sticking together in one area. These densities were also found in the stool sample we took to the vet. The vet stated these were bits of Nylabone. Had it gone another day Baby could easily have developed an obstruction. She treated Baby with a prescription medicine used to aid in passing fur balls. We had to administer this liquid at prescribed intervals for the rest of the day and the following day. Baby wasn’t allowed to eat until the third day when we could give her small amounts of a prescription moist food for two days, then
gradually introduce her kibble with boiled chicken and rice. We took her to the vet last Tuesday, and today, Sunday is the first day she’s acted like her usual self. When we took her back to the vet for a recheck the day after the initial visit, one of the vet techs. who assited the vet the day before said she had been giving Nylabones to her dog. She brought in a stool sample from her dog, and the vet confirmed seeing the same tiny bead-like pieces in the sample, which are probably undigested nylon. In addition , Baby has chipped two of her teeth in the back of her mouth from Nylabones. Many owners have reported cracked teeth found on xrays from chewing these. These are dangerous for dogs and should not be given to pets. Most vets consider parts coming from an animal (rawhide, pigs ears, hoofs, etc.) to be considered unsafe due to possible bacteria. Rawhide is collected from animals and chemicals are used to remove the hair from the hide. These chemicals can remain in the hide during the cleaning process and can also be a choking hazzard.

madeline ohenry
June 11, 2018 5:53 am

Please DO NOT give rawhide chews to your Lab puppy or any puppy or dog that is a strong chewer. It gave mine diarrhea and she also threw up large chunks of it. Thankfully a bland meal of boiled chicken and pumpkin along with a probiotic helped calm her stomach down and get her back to normal. I can’t believe these things are so widely sold.

Julie A Muto
June 8, 2018 10:44 am

My dog can get aggressive sometimes so what can I do about that

Alexis Meyer
December 18, 2018 12:45 am
Reply to  Julie A Muto

for some reason, every dog gets aggressive with rawhides. I try to take it way and he snarls at me.

Kimberly Alt
June 11, 2018 10:05 am
Reply to  Julie A Muto

Do you mean your dog gets aggressive with rawhides?

December 26, 2019 8:23 pm
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

Just gave my boxer his first rawhide and he got real angry with me. he even snapped at me.
He will never again gets a rawhide.

Bev scales
February 5, 2018 6:50 pm

I gave my dog these and he eats everything if you dont watch him tore his stomach up it was a hot mess to clean up

February 3, 2018 12:13 pm

I have a 9 pound Yorkie 3 years old. He swallowed a beef hide a couple of weeks ago. He seems fine . Will it dissolve or should I take him to the vet. The beef hide was about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide.

October 20, 2017 6:39 pm

When I give rawhide bones to my dogs it creates more anal gland fluid.

Jeff R
May 8, 2020 5:22 pm
Reply to  MaryAnn

My dog has the same issue. We didn’t make the connection for quite some time, but when we were out of rawhide treats everything was fine. Weeks later we got a new bag and boom, anal gland seepage within 12 hours of ingestion. It can’t just be a coincidence

November 16, 2017 4:48 am
Reply to  MaryAnn

I’m just wondering how you know that. Do you express the anal glands routinely and noticed when you give rawhide bones there’s more? I’m not sure there should be any correlation since anal glands are a defense mechanisme the dogs body builds up.

January 4, 2017 2:14 pm

My dog loves them! Is it ok to give him, a 75lb dog, 1 rawhide cylinder approx 10oz, every day?

May 23, 2018 2:59 pm

That’s what in trying to find out…plz. share if u here anything thank u

Christian Norton
July 24, 2016 10:20 am

There is another healthy alternative to rawhide and it’s called pork chomps.

June 6, 2016 12:51 pm

This information is not very accurate.

“During processing, it is first soaked in an ash-lye solution to remove the hair & fat.”
~All processes are different, in my facility we use calcium lime to remove the hair and fat, then we actually delime it.
“Then it can be “cleaned” with water or with bleach and/or hydrogen peroxide.”
~We use a hydrogen peroxide which actually pulls all residual chemical out of the product due to the chemical composition and specific mechanisms we have in place.

I think people need to understand the benefits of hydrogen peroxide too.

Once that is done, it is subject to intense thermal heat cycling where the hydrogen peroxide evaporates out.

Also, the reason for vomiting and diarrhea are likely caused by product bought from places like China where quality control is non-existent.

Lastly, your dangers are choking hazards which is a reality but dogs and other carnivores eat meat and meat bones all the time. Your dog could choke on a baby carrot if lodged in the throat correctly.

You might be scaring a lot of people who might just read this article and fail to do their own research or think for themselves. Just make sure you have the facts. I know these are the facts because I manufacture rawhide dog treats in the good old USA!

Barbara Waimel
January 15, 2019 2:07 pm
Reply to  Elcee

Can you tell me the brand name and I would be happy to buy them.

December 20, 2017 9:29 pm
Reply to  Elcee

What about blockages?

Dave M
February 2, 2017 1:10 am
Reply to  Elcee

Are you able to share with us what brand you make in the USA

May 12, 2016 8:58 pm

Can humans consume these treats I was wondering?

February 20, 2017 3:48 pm
Reply to  Devonta

What the…

Kimberly Alt
May 13, 2016 8:10 am
Reply to  Devonta

We definitely don’t suggest you eat any dog food including rawhides.

August 30, 2015 2:41 am

I’m having panic attack after panic attack, my 2 dogs each had a raw hide. (None today.) They both have diarrhea I don’t know what to do. Is there a chance that my dogs may die if so what should I do? (I’m only an 11 year old.)

Kimberly Alt
August 31, 2015 11:09 am
Reply to  Lauren

Hi Lauren, if you are ever scared that your dogs are ill you should seek help from your veterinarian immediately. How are your dogs doing today? Talk with your parents or guardians about your dogs’ health as well and voice your concerns with them. Hopefully they are doing much better today.

August 24, 2015 2:02 am

I arrived at this site while trying to research as to why our shepherd puppy (she just turned 3 months old today) loves playing, chewing and EATING pine cones. She also loves chewing on rawhide bones that we are giving her. At this time we are also very concerned about the diarrhea she’s been getting recently. To my dismay, I am learning a bunch of valuable information in search for answers especially the ones about rawhide. Needless to say, I am now on a guilt trip over this. But will certainly make the proper corrections as of right now. We certainly don’t want anything to happen to our pretty little girl which is a registered pure breed. Thank you for your wealth of information.

September 30, 2017 1:14 pm
Reply to  Candimint

I was told to never give rawhide to a pup younger than 8 months as they can’t digest it as well as older dogs. Perhaps that’s why there’s diarrhea?

May 10, 2015 1:08 pm

My dog’s teeth have worn out. The vet told me that this was caused by chewing these damn hide bones. DON’T give them to your dog.

April 19, 2015 9:29 am

My beagle found an old piece of rawhide in the yard and ate it 4 days ago. She has been throwing up ever since, but she is eating and drinking and going to the bathroom fine. Does anyone know if this could be the rawhide?

October 31, 2018 2:08 pm
Reply to  natalie

Do you treat your lawn? Could there be dangerous lawn chemicals on the rawhide that the dog ingested?