Any dog owner who’s come home to fluffy bits of sofa on the floor, or shoe laces permanently separated from shredded leather uppers knows just how valuable a good diversionary tactic can be. Not all doggy diversions are created equal, however, and one of the most popular — rawhide chewsare dangerous for our dog children.

Toxic manufacturing: Reason numero uno why rawhide is bad for dogs 

Given the blissed out look on a pup’s face when given one to chew, rawhide and dogs seem to go together like PB&J for the canine set. Unfortunately, the icky, chemical-laden way most rawhide is manufactured makes it a poor choice for your favorite four footer. 

The nose-wrinkling backstory on most rawhide is that it is made in China from animal hides the leather industry discards. Those hides go from slaughterhouse floor to high-salt brine, which slows decay and gives the hides time to reach the tanneries that will complete the manufacturing process. 

Once there, hides are treated with lime and chemicals that help fat separate from skin, and enable hair to be removed. Oftentimes, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, and artificial colors and preservatives like sodium benzoate also are used in the process of creating the chew that winds up in your beloved’s mouth. Ew.

Poor digestibility: Reason numero dos why rawhide is bad for dogs

In addition to the yuck factor, the digestibility of rawhide chews can be bad for dogs. If you’ve ever seen a soggy rawhide in the process of being destroyed, it probably won’t come as a surprise that the chew itself doesn’t really break down. 

When a pup chomps off and swallows bits of rawhide, they don’t pass through the digestive system easily. Too big a bite might even obstruct a pup’s system altogether, making rawhide often dangerous for dogs. Even if not, when a pup swallows a big chunk, it can hang around for months in the tumtum, wreaking all sorts of gastrointestinal havoc.

Protip: If, in a moment of weakness, you allow Great Aunt Rochelle to give your baby a rawhide treat next time you get together, keep an eye on things and toss out a well-chewed rawhide before it is actually ingested. 

A dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do: understanding the urge to chew

It is totally normal for doggies to chew on stuff — it’s one of their methods of exploring the world. HOWEVER. There are many motivations for chewing, and insight into why they’re doing what they’re doing is very useful information. 

    1. Boredom stinks — Entertainment is life! Well, maybe that’s a little overstated, but dogs need mental stimulation just like people do. In short, a bored dog is very likely to become a dog prone to destructive chewing.
    2. Teething hurts Ouch! New teeth really hurt when they come in, and puppies instinctively want to chew on stuff to relieve gum pain.
    3. Energy must (and will) be burned one way or another — All rest and no play make Fido a really dull boy. And a chewy boy. Walks and doggy play dates are way better ways for your pal to exercise than chewing on strewn about trash, so get out there in the wild!
    4. Anxiety is rough — Sometimes, pups get super anxious when their people leave them home alone. Separation anxiety often manifests in the form of very destructive chewing.
    5. #Selfcare — Grownup pups chew to maintain strong jaws and healthy teeth. You've gotta be supportive of your dog’s self care instincts, right? Healthier teeth also mean better breath, so it’s you-care, too!

It’s so diverting! Healthy ways to sidetrack your pup

Now, the function rawhides serve for dogs — keeping them entertained and well behaved — is totally legit. Knowing what we know about how bad rawhide can be for your dog, however, a worthy goal is finding a healthier, safer alternative to keep a pup pal busy, engaged, and satiated. Here are a few great ideas:

  • Fill a dog toy such as a Kong with a little scoop of A Pup Above or peanut butter. Your pup will be thoroughly entertained and preoccupied working out how to get the goods. For an extra fulfilling challenge, freeze the entire works.
  • Hook up your pup with a seek-a-treat toy. A little more complicated than a Kong, these interactive puzzles will keep your pup busy trying to find a treat hidden behind doors and sliders. 
  • Head to the kitchen for various options you can whip up for your pup. An oven-dried sweet potato, frozen carrot, or raw meat bone makes for great chewing with nutritional benefits. If you’re going the bone route, use a large, raw hip or femur bone — cooked bones shatter and cause choking hazards.
  • Bully sticks are a single-ingredient, easily-to-digest chew treat made from beef muscle. Talk to a quality pet supply store about other rawhide alternative treats ranging from antlers or venison ears to fish-skin jerky and harder-to-find Himalayan chews. 
  • Take your pup on an old-fashioned walk around the block. One of the very best diversions for your pet is, well, sound sleep. Making sure your pal is worn out before you leave them at home alone is a super healthy way to keep a pet safe and happy.

There are lots of great reasons to be well-versed on diversionary tactics that keep your precious pup happy, engaged, and stimulated. Understanding that rawhide dog chews can be dangerous for your dog, and choosing tactics that are safe and healthy for your pet is just one more way to show off your super-stellar pup parenting skills.