Rawhide treats come from the inner layer of cow or horse hides. During manufacturing, the hides are cleaned and cut or ground. Then they’re pressed into chewable dog treats of different shapes and sizes. To make them more appealing for dogs, some rawhide treats contain beef, chicken, or liver flavorings.
Rawhide is bad for dogs for a number of reasons. Topping the list of risks associated with rawhide are contamination, digestive distress, choking hazard, and intestinal blockage.
Rawhides are meant to be long-lasting chews that break down into tiny, soft pieces over time. However, strong chewers are typically able to break off large chunks that can pose a major choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage, and both are life-threatening events. You can help prevent this from happening by offering an appropriately sized rawhide, but it’s best to avoid them if your dog is a very heavy chewer. For dogs that are soft chewers, rawhides are generally considered to be safe treats because these dogs don’t break them down into chunks.
Contamination. As with pet toys, rawhide chews can contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. And, as with other pet (or human) foods, Salmonella or E. coli contamination is possible. Even humans can be at risk when coming into contact with these bacteria on rawhide treats.
Digestive irritation. Some dogs are simply sensitive or allergic to rawhide or other substances used in their manufacture. This can cause problems, including diarrhea.
Choking or blockages. Rawhide bones and other edible chews can pose a choking and blockage risk. In fact, this is a much bigger risk than contamination or digestive irritation. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Depending on its size and where it is located, a vet may be able to remove these pieces fairly easily through the throat. But sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.
Rawhide treats are cheap for a reason. I refuse to give my dogs these types of treats and personally prefer more organic options where possible. Do your research and be mindful of leaving these types of treats with your pets when they are alone.