The Raw Deal on Rawhide Chews: Uncovering the Risks

The joy of a dog fervently gnawing at a chew is a common sight in many pet-friendly households. Among the variety of chews available, rawhide has been a popular choice for many dog owners over the years. However, beneath the satisfying crunch and occupied mirth of dogs, lurks a plethora of potential dangers associated with rawhide chews. 

Let’s delve into the risks associated with these seemingly harmless treats, and consider some of the alternatives. 

Understanding Dog Chewing Styles

Understanding the chewing style of your dog is pivotal when deciding whether or not rawhide chews are a suitable option for your furry companion. The way a dog interacts with a chew toy or treat is influenced by several factors including their breed, size, age, and individual temperament.

Here’s a breakdown of different chewing styles and how they relate to the appropriateness of rawhide chews:

Gentle Chewers

Gentle or light chewers tend to nibble at chews delicately without exerting much force. For these dogs, rawhide chews might not pose a significant risk as they are less likely to tear off large chunks that could cause choking or gastrointestinal blockages. However, supervision is still advised to ensure safety.

Moderate Chewers

Moderate chewers such as Groodles and Labradors, exhibit a balanced chewing behavior. They might not be as delicate as gentle chewers, but they do not exhibit the intense force of aggressive chewers. The risk with rawhide for moderate chewers exists but might be lesser compared to aggressive chewers. Supervision and selecting high-quality, appropriately sized rawhides could mitigate some risks.

Aggressive or Powerful Chewers

Aggressive chewers exert significant force and tend to destroy or consume chews quickly. For these dogs, rawhide chews can be particularly dangerous as they are more likely to tear off and swallow large pieces, posing a high risk of choking or gastrointestinal obstruction​1​. Alternative chewing options are highly recommended for dogs with aggressive chewing styles.

Risks of Rawhide Chews

Choking Hazard and Digestive Blockages

A primary concern with rawhide chews arises from the potential choking hazard they pose. Dogs, especially vigorous chewers, can break off large chunks of rawhide, which when swallowed, can obstruct the airway or become lodged in the esophagus or intestines​​.

The severity of this risk can vary based on a dog’s size, breed, and age, with larger breeds and more powerful chewers being more susceptible to such hazards​​.

In severe cases, surgical intervention may be required to remove the obstructing rawhide, presenting a substantial health risk and financial burden for pet owners.

Digestive Issues

Rawhide chews are not meant to be consumed, yet the reality is that many dogs end up swallowing pieces, either small or large. This can lead to gastrointestinal blockages, resulting in symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea​3​.

Ingredient Safety and Potential Toxicity:

The composition of rawhide chews has also come under scrutiny. Flavorings added to make the chews more palatable could contain carcinogenic compounds, posing a long-term risk to dogs’ health​​.

Quality Concerns

Not all rawhide chews are created equal. The quality can vary significantly based on the country of manufacture and the standards adhered to during production. Higher-quality rawhides may pose less risk, but they can be harder to find and more expensive​​.

Safer Alternatives to Rawhide Chews

The concerns surrounding the safety of rawhide chews have paved the way for a myriad of alternative products designed to cater to dogs’ natural chewing instincts while ensuring their safety and health. 

Rubber Chew Toys:

Rubber chew toys such as those from reputable brands like KONG or Nylabone are designed to withstand rigorous chewing while being gentle on dogs’ teeth and gums. They can also be stuffed with treats or peanut butter to keep dogs engaged.

Dental Chews

Dental chews are formulated to promote oral health by reducing plaque and tartar build-up. They come in various sizes and shapes, ensuring a good fit for dogs of all breeds and sizes.

Vegetable-Based Chews

Vegetable-based chews made from ingredients like sweet potatoes or carrots are a healthier and more digestible option. They also provide an opportunity to introduce additional nutrients into your dog’s diet.

Freeze-Dried or Dehydrated Meat Chews

Freeze-dried or dehydrated meat chews are not only enticing for dogs but also provide a safer, more digestible alternative to rawhide.


The concerns surrounding rawhide chews are significant and warrant some consideration by dog owners. While they might provide a temporary solution to a dog’s chewing urges, the potential risks they pose may outweigh the benefits. With a plethora of safer alternatives available, such as rubber chew toys or dental chews, dog owners may want to consider steering clear of rawhide chews to ensure the health and safety of their furry companions.

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