Is Rawhide Bad For Dogs?

Dogs and bones have been synonymous since the beginning of time. It’s no secret that most dogs love to chew. It can alleviate boredom and be a great outlet if your dog is stressed. Bones can also be a great way to help keep tartar in check, improving your dog’s dental health. In recent years, dog owners have become concerned about giving their dog rawhide toys for chewing. We’re addressing the two main areas of concern so you can make the best decision for your furry friend.  

Enthusiastic chewers may break any chew toy into smaller chunks, which is why careful supervision of your dog is always recommended when introducing toys. Rawhide chews break apart more easily than the safer alternatives on the market, which can result in increased risk that a chunk of the rawhide chew can get stuck in a dog’s digestive tract. If this happens, a dog can face serious health consequences and may require expensive and extensive surgery for recovery.

Throughout the years, there have also been reports of chemical and/or bacterial contamination of rawhide chews.  The good news is that most of the horror stories that get shared on the internet about chemical contamination are just that – horror stories, with no factual basis.  However, there was a product recall issued in 2018 due to contamination of rawhide with cleaning products used in the manufacturing plant (LINK.)  In addition, rawhide chews can hold the same risks of bacterial contamination with salmonella or campylobacter as many other products such as pet food and other types of pet treats.  The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) shares some great tips for protecting yourself and your pets from bacterial contamination at this link.

So, are rawhide chews safe for dogs? Like many of life’s questions, this one does not have a universal yes or no answer.  Every dog is different, and every chew toy can have some element of risk.   The safest approach is to watch your pet carefully when introducing a new toy.  Is your pet chewing so hard that she may crack or damage her teeth? Might be time to consider a softer chew. Is he breaking his new toy into chunks that can get lodged in the digestive tract and cause big problems?  If so, time to look for a chew that is more robust and can stand up to heavy chewing.
Here at the Guide Dog Foundation, we recommend a number of great alternatives to rawhides that have have provided our dogs with decades of safer chewing:


  • Nylabone  
  • Kong Toys 
  • Zogoflex     
  • Deer or Elk Antlers (as with all products made with the meat, skin, or horns of animals, there can always be a risk of bacterial contamination, but antlers have less potential choking or digestive hazard than rawhide)  

Learn about other ways to care for your dog by clicking here