4 Alternatives to Giving Your Dog Rawhide

While rawhide is a classic dog treat, it poses many health hazards. Some alternatives include chew toys, puzzle games, and DIY snacks.

Jan 14, 2024By Jessica Montes
alternatives to giving your dog rawhide

For years, rawhides were a staple treat-toy combo for dogs, but they have hidden dangers that make them harmful. In this article, we’ll discuss why dogs like rawhides, the possible benefits, what makes them dangerous, and safer alternatives to keep your canines entertained.

Why Do Dogs Like Rawhides?

Photo courtesy of Aditya Joshi

Dogs have powerful teeth that they inherited from their wolf ancestors. These canines’ canines are meant for biting through meat and crushing bones, something they still do in the form of constant chewing. Your doggos fulfill this ancestral need by munching on rawhides, toys, or any crunchy item they see lying around. Certain rawhides may have an added animal-flavored strip, making them more enjoyable to eat.

Chewing keeps them occupied and also reduces their stress. While natural chewers, dogs are more likely to gnaw as a way of self-soothing when feeling anxious, uncertain, or confined. A long-lasting rawhide can help calm a dog for hours if an unknown person is visiting, they are in a new environment, or their owner steps out to run errands.

Why Do Owners Like Rawhides?

Dog smile
Photo courtesy of Paulius Dragunas

Rawhides are a classic dog treat. They are inexpensive, and they’re found pretty much anywhere that sells pet care supplies. Unlike other toys such as frisbees and balls, owners don’t have to engage with the dog by constantly throwing the item. Dogs can sit and chew, chew, and chew for long periods with little attention from their pet parent.

While having a pacified dog is a good thing (especially if you work from home), rawhides pose many hidden threats. A dog parent might like rawhides for the hours of silence they offer. Yet, they might change their mind if their dog chokes or accidentally swallows the treat whole.

Rawhides Have Harmful Ingredients

Warning sign
Photo courtesy of Mikael Seegen

At their core, rawhides are made from the skin of cows and horses. They are cleaned in the production line and then formed in shapes like the classic dog bone. Sometimes, companies will add animal flavoring to make it more appetizing. However, this is where the ingredients become suspicious. Toxic chemicals or bacteria can unintentionally find their way inside the toys during manufacturing. Once rawhides become contaminated, they can make a dog and their owner sick.

Other dogs are allergic to animal products or added ingredients in rawhide, increasing the chances of an upset stomach or irritation.

Rawhides Pose a Choking Hazard

Sad dog
Photo courtesy of Neil Cooper

The biggest potential problem with rawhide is the choking hazard. As your pup chews and wears down the edible treat, large parts break off and increase the chances of choking if eaten. Depending on your dog’s size, the piece can become stuck in the esophagus or somewhere in the digestive tract. Even if the dog swallows a rawhide chunk, bowel movement blockage is still a fatal concern.

If you suspect your furry friend ate rawhide, take them to the vet. For item removal, vets may perform abdominal surgery. To prevent your furry friend from choking on a rawhide, avoid giving them this treat altogether.

Your Dog May Enjoy Other Edible Treats

Dog  treat
Photo courtesy of Tamara Bellis

There are tasty treats that help your dog with their chewing habit and have a much lower choking hazard risk than rawhide. Doggy biscuits are wonderful because of the crunchy texture that breaks apart with saliva. For canines who could use fresher breath, try dental sticks that are digestible and promote oral health.

If you want a one-ingredient snack, look for sweet potato slices. These treats are made from nutrient and fiber-packed sweet potatoes, making them a naturally sweet, allergy-friendly option.

Keep in mind that although these treats are safer, accidents can always happen. Make sure your pet has access to clean water, supervise their eating habits, and remove any chunks that break off and can be accidentally swallowed.

You Can Make Your Dog Tasty Treats

Dog biscuits
Photo courtesy of Daniel Álvasd

Here’s an option for owners looking for budget-friendly treats or those who enjoy cooking and baking. You can make DIY snacks to replace rawhide. Some of the healthiest foods for dogs are fruits and veggies. Dogs can eat reasonable amounts of:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkins
  • Cucumbers
  • Green beans

Wash and dry your chosen produce and cut the larger fruits into bite-sized pieces. Veggies can be cooked or boiled without added oil or seasonings. That’s it!

How about getting creative and making DIY treats by mixing dog-safe peanut butter with plain, unflavored oats for biscuits? It makes crispy clusters that are also human-approved!

Although delicious, remember that these indulgent treats are okay in moderation. They shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s diet and servings will vary based on your pup’s size.

Inedible Chew Toys Your Dog May Enjoy

Dog Kong
Photo courtesy of Taylor Sondgeroth

For a reusable and inedible toy, the classic Kong will satisfy all your pup’s chewing and snacking needs. The red snowman-shaped toy can be thrown, rolled, bounced, and used during independent playtime as well. Fill it with treats to keep your dog engaged for even longer. Kongs are made based on your dog’s size and increase in sturdiness for the most extreme chewing habits.

Other durable chew toys include the Nylabone Flexi Chew with nubs that help clean gums and the West Paw Zogoflex Hurley, a bounceable bone-shaped toy made from durable materials.

Dog Puzzle Toys Promote Mental Stimulation

Puzzle dog
Photo courtesy of Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound

How about a non-edible option that keeps your dog entertained and builds their problem-solving skills? Your furry friends will love puzzle toys because they provide mental stimulation with the reward of a tasty snack at the end. The goal is for your dog to find the treat hidden in the toy.

Puzzles range in levels of intensity from beginner ones, where treats are hidden under flippable lids to advanced options, where dogs must use their paws and noses to slide open compartments. Change the number of treats and the locations each time so your dog can’t predict where it's hidden.

Depending on your pup’s attention span and commitment to finding a crunchy snack, this can keep them entertained for much longer than simply handing them a treat.

Jessica Montes
By Jessica Montes

Jessica is a California-based writer, journalist, lover of animals, and vegan of 17 years. Growing up, she owned parakeets, fish, a rabbit, and a red-eared slider turtle. She currently has a black cat named Marty and a tabby named Jellybean. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, camping, and roller skating to funky tunes.