Rawhide for Dogs: A Secret Killer

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / May 21, 2018
Rawhide for dogs a secret killer

What is Rawhide?

what is rawhide

First of all, “rawhide bones” should be renamed. They are not raw, not by a long shot, and they are not bones. So what is rawhide for dogs anyway?

If you google search, “what is rawhide,” you may be somewhat surprised at the results. Google defines rawhide as stiff, untanned leather. Untanned leather? Yikes.

As far as the product that many dogs crave and enjoy, rawhide is actually animal hide or skin, typically cattle, that goes through a process in which it becomes seemingly everlasting. If you give your dogs rawhide bones, you know what we are talking about. Let’s just say you won’t find yourself running out for a new rawhide treat every week. But isn’t that a little concerning?

With all of the bad press regarding rawhide for dogs, why are there so many pet owners buying it? Is rawhide for dogs really all that bad?

We hope to answer all of those questions and more. Let’s get into it.

How Are Rawhide Dog Bones Made?

Many pet owners believe that rawhide is a by-product of the beef industry. Makes sense, right? The hide from cattle = beef industry. Strangely enough, this isn’t the case. Rawhide is a by-product of the leather industry. Therefore, your precious pup is knawing on a leather chew (probably not what you had in mind).

So, how does it all work? How does leather end up at your local pet store? We’ll keep this as brief as possible, but it’s important to know exactly what you’re giving your dog.

 rawhide for dogs factory

The Tannery

The hides of animals, typically from cattle, are shipped from the slaughterhouse to the tannery. The hides are treated with a chemical bath in order to jump-start the preservation of the product and so it doesn’t rot in transit to the tannery.

Once at the tannery, the hides are treated with yet another chemical bath to help strip the hair and fat attached to the hide.

Splitting of the Hide

Next, you guessed it, the hide is treated with even more chemicals in order to cause it to split into layers. The top grain portion is tanned and used to manufacture leather products. The inner portion, in its “raw” condition, is used for dog products.

Inner Layer of the Hide – More Chemicals!

Now that the inner layer of the hide has been separated, it goes through whitening process that involves bleach and hydrogen peroxide. This process also removes the smell of rotting leather.

Aesthetically Pleasing Rawhide Bones

The manufacturer knows that they have to present a good looking product for the consumer to want to buy it. So…

The rawhide then goes through a series of tinting, painting, and dying to make them look pretty and smell delicious (well, delicious to your pup). Unfortunately, the vast majority of the dyes and smells that the manufacturer adds are completely artificial.

Final Step: Everlasting Rawhide

How do you get an animal product to last forever? We have an idea. When tested, the following chemicals have been found in rawhide products:

  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • Chromium salts
  • Formaldehyde
  • Among many others

Benefits of Rawhide Chews

benefits of rawhide foods

Dogs love to chew. In fact, many could argue that they need to chew. Chewing provides a number of benefits for the dog including:

  • Natural stimulation
  • Helps to relieve anxiety
  • Cleans the teeth
  • Promotes oral and dental health
  • Keeps the jaws strong
  • Helps to keep the dog occupied and out of trouble

However, your dog does not need to chew on a rawhide treat. In fact, there are many dog chew toys that make great alternatives to rawhide (we’ll discuss these soon). However, due to the longlasting qualities, pet owners are unfortunately still choosing rawhide dog treats.

Is Rawhide Bad for Dogs?

The risks of rawhide chews are undeniable. The chemicals used in production alone are a cause for alarm. However, the risks don’t stop there.

Chewed Bones = Fragments = Major Problems

Perhaps the greatest danger of rawhide chews for dogs is the potential for blockage. As your dog spends hours and hours devouring the rawhide treat, eventually small and large pieces will begin to break off. Not knowing any better, your dog will consume these pieces.

Dog rawhide treats were not made to be digested and therefore do not break down easily (if at all). The pieces of the rawhide chews can get stuck in your dog’s esophagus and digestive tract including the stomach and intestines.

Depending on where the rawhide gets stuck and the size of the piece, emergency surgery may be necessary to remove it. If the blockage isn’t cleared, it can result in death.

The fragments of the rawhide dog chews are also a massive choking hazard. The pieces can easily get launched in the dog’s throat. If the pet owner has gone out for a bit, leaving the dog alone with the rawhide treat, tragedy can quickly happen.

Contamination Risks of Rawhide Bones

The toxic chemicals used in the production of the rawhide treats present a risk of contamination for dogs and humans alike.

It is also possible for bacteria contamination such as Salmonella or E. coli contamination to occur.

How is this possible? Unlike the pet food industry, the pet treat industry is not regulated, making potential bacterial contamination possible.

It is recommended that pet owners thoroughly wash their hands after handling rawhide treats. However, this poses the concern of your dog tracking the chews all through the house. Not to mention, the dangers of potential bacteria contamination around children.

Rawhide Recall

Additionally, there have been a number of times that a package recall on rawhide products was necessary due to varying contamination issues.

For instance, United Pet Group issued a voluntary recall on a number of brands of rawhide products after the discovery that facilities in Mexico, Columbia, and Brazil were using a quaternary ammonium compound mixture in the production of the rawhide treats. The mixture is not an approved processing aid in the United States and can cause a number of adverse reactions in dogs.

Digestive Issues Caused by Rawhide

Many dogs are sensitive to rawhide and the materials used in the manufacturing process. This isn’t a surprise as the vast majority of its production is unnatural.

The sensitivity and potential allergy to rawhide treats can result in stomach issues such as vomiting or diarrhea.

Signs of Problems Caused by Rawhide Chews for Dogs

dog choking

If you still decide to give your dog rawhide chews, be on the lookout for signs of blockage, bacterial contamination, and stomach issues. Common signs include:

Of course, the best way to avoid the potential risks that come along with rawhide treats is to not give your dog the chews in the first place.

Safe Alternatives Dog Chew Toys

Luckily, there are some great alternative dog chews so that you can avoid the dangers of rawhide at all cost.

Bully Sticks

Some people believe bully sticks aren’t vastly better than rawhide treats. However, one of the largest and most important differences to note is that bully sticks are digestible.

Raw Bones

At the pet store, you’ll find cooked bones. Avoid these! Cooked bones can splinter and cause major digestive issues not to mention cracked teeth.

Pet owners should look into purchasing raw bones through their local food co-op or at your local butcher shop.

Always monitor your dog when eating bones or chews of any kind.

You can learn more about the types of raw bones and how to safely let your dog enjoy them here.

Edible Dental Bones

A high quality, fully digestible dental bone is a great alternative for rawhide dog treats. The edible dental bone implements mechanical abrasion that helps to improve the dog’s oral health by managing tartar and plaque buildup.

We recommend buying dental dog chews that are all natural and do not contain soy, corn, gluten, or animal by-products.

Rawhide Chews: The Bottom Line

 dog choking

We know that you want what’s best for your dog. Knowing what your feeding your four-legged companion is incredibly important in making sure that you are doing everything in your power to keep them healthy.

While rawhide dog chews make for a fine way to pass the time, the cons greatly outweigh the pros regarding the many risks associated with them.

The last thing that any pet owner wants is for something that was supposed to be a special treat to turn into a deadly nightmare. For this reason, we highly recommend finding an alternative for rawhide chews.

Tips & Tricks for Pet Owners

Can Dogs Eat Pork Bones

Pork bones, along with poultry bones and cooked bones of any kind, are an absolute no. The bones splinter causing them to be a choking hazard and have the ability to puncture the intestinal wall and cause major issues. Do not give your dog cooked bones of any kind.

Why Do Dogs Like Bones

Bones taste great, they are mental stimulation, and they feel great for the dog’s teeth and mouth. However, cooked bones are highly dangerous, no matter how happy your dog may look while eating them. There are many alternatives that your dog can chew on and be equally as happy.

What are the Best Bones for Dogs

Raw bones are the only bones that your dog should enjoy. Even then, pet owners should closely monitor their dogs while they are chewing on the bones.


Is rawhide digestible?

What age can have puppies have rawhide?

Are bones a better alternative to rawhide?



Are Rawhide Chews Dangerous for Your Dog?

Rawhide: The Most Dangerous Pet Chew Ever!


5 Safe and Healthy Alternatives to Rawhide Chews for Dogs






About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for Honestpaws.com.