Why You Probably Shouldn't Give Your Dog Rawhide


Raise your hand if you’ve ever given your dog(s) rawhide!

*raises hand*

Guilty as charged….but I had no idea that rawhides were dangerous. For years, family members of mine who have dogs have given their dogs rawhide. So, I grew up thinking that rawhide was a perfectly normal thing to give dogs. In fact, knotted rawhide bones are what we gave Bullett when we left the house for the day when we first moved into our current apartment over a year ago. Every store with pet supplies sells them--even our favorite local shop we frequent that carries mostly all-natural and organic pet products.

It wasn’t until I joined pet groups on Facebook that I learned how dangerous rawhide can be. Now, there are many things people get preachy about on the internet, and this can happen in dog groups. Strong opinions aside, it is always interesting to learn about the thoughts and ideas of others regarding pet ownership, and I always make sure to do my own research with said ideas to reach a conclusion for our pets. I had begun seeing some negative statements about rawhide, and it didn’t take too much digging around on Google to find the truth.

Rawhide sounds like food, right? I think by having the word “raw” in the name, our brains can automatically jump to “raw diet” and “raw feeding,” and we associate that with health and being natural. Did you know that rawhide is actually a byproduct of leather? Shocker, right? Because of this classification, rawhide is not regulated by the FDA. That right there should raise some red flags.


Rawhide is made from leftovers at slaughterhouses. The hides are placed into a salt brine for preservation before heading to a tannery for final manufacturing. Upon arriving at the tannery, the hides are soaked and treated with lime to remove any excess hair and fat. Because the salt brine cannot completely prevent decay, the hides go through several treatments with chemicals such as: bleach, formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, and sometimes even arsenic. After being treated multiple times with these highly toxic chemicals, the hides can be formed into various shapes such as the ever-famous knotted bone, and are held together with glue (that’s edible, right?). Well, what you may or may not have eaten in Kindergarten is not good for your dog. They are also painted with artificial dyes and flavorings that have been known to cause cancer and other digestive problems in dogs--slowly poisoning them. Yikes, right?

Anyways, it is true that some rawhides are created in worse factories than others, and certain dogs can handle them better than others. If you’ve done your research, check the labels, and have a breed such as a Rottweiler that can handle digesting the hide (we will get to that shortly)--that’s up to you.

Because leather is not food, it is not digestible. There are quite a few examples of how rawhide can affect your dog’s digestion:

  • Potential choking hazard.

  • Can cause gastrointestinal blockage and damage.

  • If not passed, the pieces of rawhide can decay and cause further problems from that. (Here is a video about a dog that died from being poisoned by rotting rawhide in its stomach)

  • Did we mention that most rawhides are treated with poison?

I understand the appeal of rawhide. They are long lasting, typically inexpensive, and most dogs may take a while to finish them. Chewing also helps your dog’s teeth, and rawhides can help clean their chompers. Some dogs are soft chewers and may never digest the leather. Ultimately, the decision to give your dog rawhide is up to you. If you do decide to give your dog rawhide, consider soaking the hide a bit in water before giving it to your dog to get rid of some of the chemicals.  Also, it’s a good idea to check and make sure the rawhide was made in America, where fewer chemicals are used in their creation, as opposed to a less regulated factory in China.

There are also many alternatives to rawhide to consider, many of which have benefits for your dog:

Bullett’s known stomach sensitivity is enough of a reason for us to not give him rawhide. In the past, he finished them very slowly and has a softer mouth in general, so ingestion of the hide was not as much of a concern compared to the chemicals used on rawhide. We’ve since explored other chewing alternatives: his favorites are Bully Sticks and Benebones, and we’re always looking into other things he can chew on. If you’ve had any success with alternative chews, please let us know! We’d love to hear what you’ve discovered.

The Girl in the Unicorn Pajamas

PS: I’m not a veterinarian, nor do I work in the pet industry--I write these posts to offer perspective from an everyday, run-of-the-mill pet owner on certain topics. For more information on rawhide, please consult with your Veterinarian or pet professional.