Your dog loves to chew things. And you in turn love that chew toys help clean your dog’s teeth, keep its gums healthy, and even make its breath a fraction less terrible.
The key, however, is the type of chew toy you’re giving them.
Rawhides are classic doggy chew toys, and they’re durable enough to give your dog hours of chewing pleasure. But pet parents should know that these toys aren’t as safe as they’re cracked up to be.
Looking for answers? We’re here to debunk a few myths about rawhides, and to point you to some rawhide alternatives that will keep your best friend happier and healthier.
Are Rawhides Bad for Dogs?
Before we get started, what is rawhide, anyway?
Rawhide dog treats are made from the inner layer of animal hides, usually cow or horsehide. The manufacturing process for rawhide is similar to the process used for leather.
This process, however, can use some pretty toxic chemicals. Hair and fat are cleaned from the hide using lye or sodium sulfide liming. Hydrogen peroxide sanitizes and whitens the hide, which is then either coated with artificial flavors to appeal to dogs (think beef or chicken) or painted in various colors.
The resulting product isn’t something most of us want to put in our mouths, so it’s hard to imagine giving it to our dogs!
At this point, you may be wondering, “Can dogs digest rawhide? Can they even swallow it?” After all, even sturdy animal products like bone can be broken down over time, especially by the forceful jaw of a playful dog.
Most dog owners have heard horror stories of pets getting digestive blockages from swallowing a chunk of rawhide that was a little too big. The truth is that if the rawhide is chewed well, most dogs won’t have any issues with it.
But if the potential alternative is a life-threatening and painful blockage that requires surgery…is the rawhide worth the risk?
Store-Bought Rawhide Alternatives
It’s pretty clear that your dog deserves better.
But a dog’s still gotta chew—so what should be used instead? Below, you’ll find our top picks for store-bought rawhide alternatives in a few different varieties. The key here is that these treats were made to be digested, and they present less of a choking or health hazard than rawhides do.
Bully sticks are natural and safe dog chews that have quickly grown in popularity. Their texture makes them safe for chewing, and they come in various sizes to suit your dog’s chewing style.
They also promote dental hygiene by softening as they chew, which can help trap and eliminate bacteria in hard-to-reach places in the back of your dog’s mouth. What’s more, the softer texture is great for older dogs whose jaws aren’t as strong as they used to be, as well as teething puppies that need a little gum massage.
You need to floss your teeth, so why shouldn’t your dog? Tendons can come pretty close to flossing, as these stringy chews that can sink between your dog’s teeth during the chewing process.
Tendons are fully digestible and come from a range of sources, like beef and lamb, making them a good combination of treat and chew toy.
Another natural chew, chomper sticks are crunchy and satisfying for larger dogs, but smaller dogs who like a long chew session will enjoy the durability!
Chomper sticks are protein-rich, as they’re made of beef esophagus. However, this source makes them smellier than other treats on this list, so you may want to give it to your companion outside rather than in.
Homemade Rawhide Alternatives
These “homemade” treats aren’t “made” in the traditional sense, but they’re easy ways to let your dog get its chewing fix without running to the store. As safer alternatives to rawhide, they’ll give your dog some of the same benefits without the health hazard.
Nutrient-rich carrots are naturally full of vitamins and antioxidants, and freezing them makes them a great chew for any dog.
Be careful, though: only larger carrots should be frozen. Frozen baby carrots can present a choking risk, especially in smaller dogs. You’ll also want to wash them before freezing them.
If you’re watching your dog’s weight, frozen carrots are a good low-calorie option that still gives them the chewing time they love (and deserve). They’re also recommended for teething pups, as the cold temperature can help soothe any pain from sore gums.
Raw bones are generally safe for dogs, as long as you’ve chosen the right kind of bone and it hasn’t been cooked. Bones from chicken, turkey, lamb, and beef are soft enough for your dog to chew and digest.
However, there’s always a choking risk with bones of any kind, and you should only give your dog bones that are longer than the length of their muzzle. In addition, you’ll need to keep an eye on your dog as it chews. If the bones break or grow small enough to swallow, take them away immediately.
Healthy Treats for a Longer Life
We all want our dogs to live forever—which means taking care of them any way we can. Healthier rawhide alternatives can satisfy your dog’s urge to chew while giving them all the dental hygiene and jaw-strengthening benefits you’re looking for.