Why you should avoid giving your dog rawhide this Christmas.

Rawhide is so commonly available in so many stores that we just tend to assume that it is a safe chew for our dogs. Whilst rawhide can be unsafe during the rest of the year, it’s at Christmas time that it tends to be shaped into even more unsafe shapes and coloured with bright, unnatural colouring.

Choking Hazard

Rawhide is made from the discarded skin of the leather making process. Whilst the top part of the skin goes into making leather, the inner layer is mostly used for making these chews. Whilst these chews are hard to begin with, they tend to soften when the dog chews. If your dog swallows these in large pieces it can cause an obstruction in the oesophagus. Blockage of the oesophagus can cause your dog to have trouble swallowing and trouble breathing.  At Christmas time it is very common to see rawhide shaped into small balls (maybe to represent spouts) and rawhide shaped Christmas trees with very sharp edges making them even riskier than usual.

Intestinal Obstruction

Rawhide can not be digested by a dog’s digestive tract. Most commonly rawhide can cause a gastric outflow obstruction. This means that the obstruction impedes the normal emptying of the stomach. If food or water cannot move through the stomach it can cause the stomach to regurgitate causing chronic vomiting. This can lead to dehydration and if the obstruction is not cleared, could easily become fatal.


Whilst the UK, USA and Europe have somewhat strict regulations on the manufacture of pet treats, unfortunately many rawhide chews are manufactured in China, who do not appear to have the same regulations. The slaughterhouses can contain dangerous bacteria like e-coli and salmonella. Some strains can make our dogs very sick and if we are handling the chews they can pose as a threat to us too. Dogs are exposed to this bacterium the more they lick and chew the rawhide.


Rawhide used for the pet industry are sold without the fat and hair. To remove the fat and hair from the hide, it is most commonly soaked in sodium sulphide which can be toxic. To give the rawhide a ‘clean’ look and to prevent spoilage it is then usually cleansed with hydrogen peroxide. Once the chew reaches the consumer it is possible that the chew is contaminated with a concoction of toxic chemicals. Whilst some dogs may not show any effects from these toxins short term, they can have a long-term impact on the liver.

The chews are usually coloured in festive colours such as red and green at this time of year. These are usually synthetic colours. Some synthetic colours have been linked to allergies, behavioural problems and some are even known carcinogens.

Which products contain rawhide?

Some chews are obviously labelled rawhide, however it’s worth being aware that some will also be labelled as munchy chews or dental chips. Always check the ingredients before purchasing.

Alternatives to rawhide

Whilst it is extremely important to supervise any chew we give our dogs, there are some safer alternatives that we can offer. Opting for chemical free, colourant free and unprocessed chews are a good idea.

  • Beef Scalp– Made from 100% fresh beef skin that is naturally dried.
  • Coffee and Olive Wood Chews– Natural, sustainable and long lasting. Gently wears down and does not splinter.
  • Tendon Chews– Ostrich and beef tendons are made from the fibrous collagen attached to the muscles. This gives them a great but safe texture as a dental chew.
  • Beef Gullet– High digestible and great for keeping sensitive dogs busy.
  • Fish Sticks– The scaly texture is great for teeth cleaning and the scent makes it good for fussy dogs.
  • Rabbits Ears– Extremely low fat, soft but super chewy.

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