When it comes to treat time for your pooch, the choices are limitless. There are training treats, dental treats, long-lasting treats ... the list goes on. A popular go-to for doggy mums and dads are rawhide chews. They're tough, chewy, and can be a good way to distract your pooch ... but are they actually good for our doggies, and do they help with oral care? We'll uncover what exactly is in a rawhide chew and if rawhide for dogs isn't the way, will the real healthy dog treats please stand up.
What are rawhide chews?
Rawhide is typically a byproduct of the leather industry. The chews or treats are made using the inner layer of skin or "hide". This can come from cows, pigs, and horses, with cows being the more common.
From an animal's skin to the alabaster white chew you see shaped into everything from a bone to a Christmas stocking, there's a fair bit of processing to get to the final rawhide treat. It's slightly different from how we make our natural dog treats...
How to make rawhide treats:
First, the skin is put into a highly concentrated brine to try to prevent decay during transportation to the tanneries.
After this, the hide is washed, the fat separated, and hairs removed. To achieve this, detergents, degreasers, and harsh chemicals like sodium sulfide are used.
To get to an aesthetic white colour... this is achieved by dipping the hairless skin into hydrogen peroxide.
Finally, chemicals like arsenide, formaldehyde and, glue are used to manipulate the hide into a shape as dissimilar to animal skin as possible.
Beefhide vs rawhide, same same but different?
Some dog treats are labeled as beef hide, but these are one and the same as your (cow or other animal) rawhide chew.
Are all rawhide chews the same?
Like any product, not all rawhide treats are made in exactly the same way. It's important to look at the provenance of the rawhide treat to give an indication of the quality. Different countries also have different rules. What's acceptable in one country, isn't ok in another - different levels of quality, different levels of leniency on the use of certain chemicals, etc.... So it's important to understand where your dog treat has been made. China is the most common place where rawhide dog treats are produced and in comparison to the UK, quality standards are less strict.
Often treats won't even call out that they're rawhide. Labeling themselves as "chewy dog sticks" or "long-lasting chews". However, if you ever spot that white, hard material, chances are it is rawhide, so check the ingredients list on the back to know for sure.
The risks of rawhide for dogs
Not all rawhide treats are the same, nor indeed are all dogs! However, we still recommend avoiding them as there are lots of risks involved:
1. Rawhide treats are indigestible.
We've seen many questions like "is rawhide digestible?". Did you know that your pooch's tummy can hold rawhide remains for months! It's not just the raw materials themselves that are indigestible but equally the impact from the harsh processing. Be kind to your dog's tum tum and choose a dog treat that supports digestion.
2. Rawhide is a potential choking risk.
Depending on the size of your dog, their chewing style, and the size of the chew, rawhide treats can be a choking hazard. Given the density and texture, if a large chunk of rawhide comes off and your dog swallows it, it can easily become lodged in your their throat. And if this piece has sharp or jagged sides, even worse
3. Rawhide can swell in tummies.
The process for making rawhide treats involves intensive drying. Once in the tummy, they'll absorb liquid and can swell by up to four times. A rather uncomfortable affair, that can even result in pancreatitis for dogs.
4. Regulation for rawhide treats is lax.
The standard regulations for processing and labelling don't apply. This is because rawhide isn't considered as food but a "chew". The PFMA doesn't even refer to them. This is why if you look at a label for a rawhide treat, you won't see all the chemicals used to process them, you'll simply see "rawhide", which can misleadingly imply they're an all-natural product. In some cases improper animal hides have also ended up in rawhide products, in one case even the skin from dogs!
5. Rawhide provides little nutritional value.
Rawhide treats contain little to no nutritional value for your pup. Although, of course dog treats are supplementary to your dog or puppy's diet and therefore don't need to require all the nutrients for your dog to thrive.
6. Rawhide treats can damage teeth
There are a lot of "claims" implying rawhide treats "can help clean teeth and promote oral health". There is no scientific evidence or research behind these claims. If your pooch has sensitive teeth or chews on their rawhide treat incorrectly, similar to antlers, they can actually cause dogs to break and fracture their teeth. Especially puppies with weaker teeth and smaller jaws.
Alternatives of Rawhide for Dogs
If you're looking for alternatives to rawhide treats, boy have we got some tasty options for you.
Dental treat alternatives
For pooches looking for dental care, our award-winning Gnashers Dental Bones are for you. We gently hand-bake these in the UK and pack them with all-natural, highly-digestible, and gut-friendly ingredients. We've also recently launched them in a miniature version. The perfect dental treat for small dogs, puppies, or pooches that simply prefer a smaller bite.
Training treat alternatives:
If you're looking to school your dog on walkies or at home, look no further than our Softies range, in Plant-Powered or Chicken & Duck, designed for training. Shaped like a giant chocolate button, with a soft texture that's easy to eat and break apart during training.
Calming dog treats:
Last but not least, there's our Nibbles Calming Dog Treats. Turkey-based, and packed with soothing chamomile and lemon these are great for calming. We use these as a bedtime biscuit, during fireworks, or for long car journeys!
Are there any natural long lasting Dog treats?
For those of you after a longer-lasting treat, it's a difficult feat on the natural dog treat scene. The best option is to combine a tasty, healthy dog treat like Scrumbles with a chew toy to give your pooch endless minutes or even hours of fun. A safe chew toy should be larger than your dog's mouth, to avoid choking and we'd recommend opting for rubber over nylon, which continues to divide the vet community!
We serve all our treats in compostable bags, make them in the UK, and they're suitable for all breeds and life stages from 3 months+. Like our full range, we specifically design all our dog treats with gut health in mind. Adding our tummy-soothing superfood Slippery Elm, as well as avoiding any added sugars, salts, or preservatives to ensure they're as easy to digest as can be. So take your pick, and please do let us know what you think!
Rawhide treats are not all the same. An unbleached, more naturally made rawhide, given in very small quantities, AND one that your dog doesn't actually swallow any of can be okay. However, on the whole, due to their indigestibility, harsh processing, and lack of nutritional value, they're not something we'd ever give our own pooch Smudge. Nor are they something we'd ever produce at Scrumbles.
Ultimately, the decision to feed rawhide treats is down to you and your pooch. Just make sure to equip yourself with plenty of info, which, hopefully, this blog has helped provide. As well as ensuring your feeding a complete healthy meal like our chicken and rice dog food or grain free chicken dog food at mealtime!