Rawhide Alternatives


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Dogs have a natural desire to chew. And to help satisfy this behavior, many pet owners turn to rawhide chews. But are rawhides actually safe for your pet, and are there alternatives to the traditional rawhide product?

A rawhide is the tough inner layer of bull, cow, horse and water buffalo hides (skins) — a byproduct of the meat industry. Chewing on rawhides and similar products can help decrease tartar, plaque and gingivitis in your dog’s mouth. Chew toys and rawhides help alleviate boredom by occupying your pet in a healthy, natural manner.

But not every pet owner feels comfortable giving their dog a rawhide. When swallowed, this tough material can potentially cause choking or critical gastrointestinal blockages. And even though rawhide chews are considered a consumable pet food item by the FDA, David A. Dzanis, D.V.M reports that “as long as the label for the chew does not include any reference to nutritional value (such as ‘high protein’), it may not have to follow the AAFCO pet food regulations.”

Some veterinarians say that rawhides are perfectly fine to give to your dog as long the rawhide was air dried naturally (versus with chemicals) and made without bleach. Additionally, it’s recommended that the rawhide be taken away from the dog when softened to the point of tearing apart.

The good news is that there are plentiful rawhide alternatives available to consumers, should you feel uncomfortable offering your dog a traditional rawhide. Products like Nylabones, bully sticks (these are often made from soft animal tendons, bones or intestines), Greenies, Kong toys and Healthy Edibles are usually safe chewing options. These products, below, are options available at PetSmart, and can provide your dogs with hours of chewing enjoyment for relatively little money.

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Look for products that are all-natural, minimally processed, 100% edible and digestible, and made in the USA. Additionally, read the nutritional content label and choose items that are void of sugar, salt and preservatives. If you are considering a rubber chew toy option, verify that you are purchasing a product that compliments your dog’s chewing style, breed size and individual personality.

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As always, chew toys should be given to dogs in a monitored setting and taken away immediately if chewed down or torn apart. But when used correctly and safely, these products can promote the health of your dog’s teeth, satisfy their natural chewing desire and make for one happy pooch.

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When in doubt, talk with your veterinarian about the safety of a chew toy or rawhide before giving it to your pet.

Check out a variety of rawhide and chew toys available for purchase at PetSmart and other pet retailers.

Have a favorite rawhide alternative product? Jump over to the DOGS forums and share with other dog owners!