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Rawhide Alternatives For Power Chewers

Healthy & Happy 03.12.2019
By Jill Caren
Rawhide Alternatives & Guide
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Rawhide Alternatives & Guide

I am the proudest of pit bull moms. I had 2 that passed away and I have one now – and if there is one thing I know is that they love to chew. Our current girl Cleo is a chewing fiend and it seems like I can never have enough on hand to keep those jaws moving.

I feel guilty that as a first time dog owner in my 30’s I fed my 2 pittie sisters rawhide when they were younger. I never knew how bad it was for you at the time. Thankfully rawhide never caused them any real issues – but once I learned about what can happen with rawhide chews I promised I would never feed a dog rawhide again.

And I have kept my promise!

But when you have a power chewer it is important to keep their need to chew satisfied. I cannot tell you how much money I have spent – and wasted on various dog chews to find ones they would like. There are a lot of options out their which we are going to talk about below.

What is rawhide?

Rawhide is made from the inner layer of horse or cow hides. The hides of the animal are cleaned and cut or ground then pressed into a variety of shapes for your dog to enjoy. This cleaning process can include chemical processing to remove the hair and flesh from the hide, which some dogs can be sensitive to.

Many different rawhide manufacturers will add flavoring like chicken or beef so your dog shows more interest.

Is rawhide bad for dogs?

While some will say no it is fine, there are issues with rawhide for dogs. It also depends on your dog as well! Some dogs may be just fine with rawhide – others not so much, let’s talk about the different scenarios so you can determine if this is something you want to give your dog.

Potential issues for dogs who chew rawhide.

  1. Blockage – Power chewers like Pit Bulls or Cane Corsos – even some Labradors tend to chew off bigger pieces of a rawhide and swallow them without chewing. This can cause major issues because these pieces can get lodged in the throat or stomach and your dog may have trouble passing it causing more pain and possible damage.
  2. Digestion Issues – Big pieces of rawhide that make its way to the stomach may not be easily digested or broken down. While stomach acids can break down smaller pieces of rawhide – big pieces will be much more difficult and can result in blockage.
  3. Contamination – Because the rawhide is usually treated with chemicals in the cleaning process there could be small amounts of chemicals left that your dog can ingest. There is also a risk of salmonella and e-coli as well.

Signs something is wrong after chewing rawhide.

If you have given your dog rawhide for the first time or the thousandth time, you should keep on eye on your pet for signs something is wrong. Whether they have a potential blockage or an allergy – eating rawhide can pose risks and the signs below can let you know when something may not be right. On rare occasions you may even see your dog do something called dog scooting, which is when they drag their butt on the ground. This could be sign of a little constipation or discomfort in the belly too.

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Gagging
  • Panting or crying due to pain
  • Refusal to eat

If you notice any of the above either right after your dog eats rawhide – or within a few days, a veterinarian visit is highly recommend to ensure they do not have a blockage or are having a toxic reaction to something in the rawhide.

What rawhide makers do not want you to know!

There are some things we found that kind of make our skin crawl in the creation of rawhide bones and we wanted to make sure you were aware of them so you can make a final decision as to whether you want to give your dog rawhide treats or not.

  1. The chemical commonly used to clean the cow hides is called “sodium sulphide liming” and is so toxic that tanneries that use it and are sometimes where these hides come from are on the U.S. Superfund site listings.
  2. If your rawhide has been imported from China – your dog may in fact be eating dog hide mixed with cow hide.

You can see in this FDA recall that rawhide bones made in Mexico and Colombia were using an unapproved cleaner called quaternary ammonia compound to clean the rawhide. While this is approved in the US for cleaning equipment it is not approved in the production of rawhide. This is just one recall of many for rawhide bones.

Here is a great video about how rawhide is made to help you see the exact steps and process – it is hard to imagine that you would want your dog to eat rawhide after watching this!

What are some rawhide alternatives for dogs?

As I have found, there are a lot of great alternatives out there now that my dog absolutely loves. The items below I have fed to my girl Cleo and also seem to be great alternatives to rawhide.

But it is IMPORTANT to note that dogs are all different – as are people. While most dogs my have no side effects from any of these options, your dog might. They might have an allergy, an underlying condition or illness or may just have an upset belly to start. On rare occasions treats can damage teeth too so keep an eye on your pets mouth too!

It is  important to keep an eye on your pet any time you feed them something new!

Bully Sticks

These things stink – I will warn you of that first, but man they make dogs happy! So a bully stick if you do not know is basically the inner tendon of a bull penis. Dogs can digest them easily and I have yet to meet a dog that does not love them. Typically a bully stick will keep my dog busy for around 20 minutes or so and she is a pretty powerful chewer.

Make sure you buy bully sticks that re made in the US as the preparation requirements are stronger here than in other countries. Do NOT buy them from India or China.

The only downside to the bully sticks is that they are high in calories – but if you have an active dog that is a non-issue! For dogs that are less active you may want to limit the amount of bully stick treats they get.

Our recommended store for USA made bully sticks is Best Bully Sticks.

Himalayan Dog Chews

A great option that is yummy for your pet and high in nutritional value. These treats originated from Nepal and are usually made by boiling yak and cow milk and then allowing that mixture to dry which turns it into a hard chew. When your dog chews it – it will begin to soften which will then allow your dog to taste all the yummy goodness.

These are an all natural treat that have no additives! The Himalyan Yak chews I give my girl are available on Amazon and she loves them.


There are several different types of hoove options for your dog to chew. Cow, pig and horse are some of the most common. They offer your dog a unique shape and texture that they will love and engage with for quite a while. The key is to finding a hoove that has no chemicals or preservatives to ensure your dog has the healthiest chew option.

While hooves are great you should be nearby when they are chewing them. Pieces can break off on occasion and if they chew down too much you should take it away to ensure the small piece that remains does not become a choking hazard.

These hooves are made in the USA and are FDA, USDA and 3rd party inspected and approved. This is the brand I give my girl because they do not add any hormones, artificial ingredients or chemicals. They also offer versions that have fillings as well which can add a bonus fun way to keep your dog busy.

Marrow Bones

Visiting your local grocery store or butcher may offer some great rewards for your dog too. Marrow bones are larger bones like the femur or hip bone and make chewers happy. Put them in the freezer for a great summer treat too!

When they chew these bones they can get to the center which will have the delicious marrow, which is high in fat so you will have to limit these treats. Also be sure to keep an eye on their chewing as well since these types of bones can splinter.

Knee Bones

Another great USA made rawhide alternative that will make your doggy dance with joy. These Kneecap bones from Pawstruck are rawhide free, made in the USA and have no preservatives or chemicals leaving you feeling like you are doing something good for your fur friend. The bones come in several varieties and are great for keeping your dogs teeth healthy and fulfilling their need to chew. You can learn more about Pawstruck here.


My girl LOVES antlers. It is one of my go to treats for her when I need her to be quiet when I am working because they are long lasting and keep her busy. No animals are hurt in the antler process as these are naturally shed from animals like elk or deer.

They typically do not splinter but they are super strong and some dogs may get so into it they risk a tooth breaking. Thankfully that has not happened here, but we are always on guard just in case! We get ours from Big Dog Antlers.

Rawhide Alternatives & Guide For Power Chewers

Jill Caren

Jill Caren Bio Logo

Jill Caren

Jill is the owner and creator of CharityPaws and has been involved in animal rescue for over 12 years as a volunteer and board member for Jersey Animal Welfare Society. You can read all of her articles here.

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