Why you should never feed your dog rawhide (and what’s better)

Is rawhide bad for dogs? Dogs are often attracted to the chewy texture and smoky flavor of rawhide chews, but unfortunately these types of treats are dangerous for their health. Many pet parents love to reward their dogs with rawhide dog chews as a result. The chemicals in rawhide can cause stomach lining damage, intestinal problems, and tooth decay. In fact, just one or two pieces of rawhide can be enough to start causing problems for your dog (both for an adult dog and for young puppies). Here are a few reasons to avoid feeding your dog rawhide chews, as well as healthier alternatives to keep your beloved pet healthy.

Why Dogs Should Avoid Rawhide

A rawhide chew can cause stomach lining damage and intestinal obstruction

Rawhide can cause stomach lining damage and intestinal problems. When dogs eat rawhide, they often swallow large chunks that can cause choking or obstruction. Additionally, the chemicals in rawhide can irritate the stomach lining and lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or other gastrointestinal issues. For instance, my US tanneries use a process called sodium sulphide liming during leather manufacturing to separate the inner layer of the animal skin from the outer layer of the carcass, using toxic chemicals that lead many to end up as Superfund sites due to environmental pollution (and obviously bad for dogs). Some of these chemicals end up as unintended rawhide ingredients. Some dogs may also develop pancreatitis from eating rawhide. In some cases, a surgical intervention may be required which could prove fatal for your dog while also being very expensive. Rawhide bones and chews simply aren’t easily digested, and dogs tend to be much better off with healthier choices (especially for dogs with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues already).

Rawhide chews are choking hazards for dogs and puppies

Rawhide dog treats are a choking hazard because dogs often swallow large pieces that can cause intestinal blockage and interfere with the digestive tract (this can happen with raw bones as well). This can cause obstruction and choking, which can be fatal for dogs. Rawhide chews and rawhide bones can also get stuck in the mouths of small dogs and puppies mouths as well, although this can happen to a large dog as well. If your dog does start choking, it is important to get them to the vet immediately as they will need to be sedated in order to remove the obstruction.

Rawhide treats can also cause tooth decay

The high sugar content in rawhide can lead to tooth decay and can cause a dog to break teeth. The chewy texture can also wear down your dog’s teeth, which can eventually lead to painful cavities. Also, over time the acid in rawhide can break down tooth enamel and lead to cavities and be detrimental to your dog’s dental health. If you do give your dog rawhide, be sure to supervise them while they chew to prevent them from swallowing large pieces.

Better alternatives to rawhide treats and chews

Bully Sticks are a good alternative to rawhide and are a popular treat for dogs because they are made from 100% beef muscle. They are also high in protein and low in fat, making them a healthy option for your dog. Bully Sticks also help to clean your dog’s teeth and gums, and they are a great way to keep your dog occupied and mentally stimulated. Dogs love the challenge of trying to chew through the tough Bully Stick, and the chewing action helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Bully Sticks come in a variety of sizes, so you can find the perfect treat for your dog. Bully Sticks are also a natural source of glucosamine, which is beneficial for your dog’s joints (check out our favorite supplements for joint health). However, they also can be a choking hazard, so be sure to supervise your dog chewing (especially puppies).

Our favorite bully sticks are Natural Farm Bully Sticks. These are 6″ long and keep our dog busy for much longer than other treats.

Natural Farm Bully Sticks

A slightly less expensive option are Best Bully Sticks. More come in a pack, but they’re also much thinner so they won’t keep your dog occupied for as long.

Best Bully Sticks

Other rawhide alternatives include chew toys made from natural rubber or nylon (we love the ones in bone shape), which are safe and will not cause stomach or intestinal problems. Dental chews are also a healthier alternative to rawhide treats or rawhide bones and have the added benefits of getting their teeth clean. You can also give your dog fresh vegetables as a chew treat, such as carrots or celery. Some dogs love apples as well (these are also great for their teeth). However, be sure to check with your vet before feeding most fruits to dogs as some as known to be toxic to dogs (e.g. grapes) and others may upset the digestive system. Generally speaking, a toy filled with something like peanut butter will also safely keep your dog occupied for a long period of time (the same goes for puppies and adult dogs as well). Our favorite is the classic Kong chew toy. Our guy loves it when we ‘hide’ peanut butter inside.

Kong – Classic Doy Toy

Our dog Max loves peanut butter!


There are many healthy alternatives to rawhide – which again is emphatically bad for dogs – so there’s no need to take the risk of something like dangerous intestinal blockages (let’s face it – you wouldn’t feed your dog leather shoes!). Instead, dog owners should choose treats (see also ‘Can Dogs Eat Coconut?‘) that are made from natural ingredients and that are safe for dogs to eat. By being careful with what your dog ingests, you can help keep them healthy and happy. Thanks for reading!

John Lowery

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