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Rawhide, Cow Hide – Are They Good or Bad for Your Dog?

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Rawhide is the inner layer of the hide usually from a cow. Many people give pieces of rawhide to their pets as toys (often to keep them busy) and to help their teeth. It is theorized that dogs like rawhide due to their natural instincts as wild dogs. Historically, wild dogs attacked and bit their prey, sank their teeth into the animals flesh and pulled away on the hide to obtain the meat.

General Information on Rawhide

  • Rawhide may serve as a simulation to this wild instinct. Many dogs, especially young dogs, have the natural instinct to chew. Rawhide may give dogs and puppies the ability to chew an acceptable "toy," while benefiting from the mechanical action of chewing, which applies pressure on the gums and teeth and scrapes the teeth while chewing.

  • It is important for a dog not to be able to chew off and swallow large pieces as this may cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. It is also important that the rawhide be large enough that the pet cannot swallow it whole. If a large piece is eaten, it is usually digested with time and rarely causes a surgical problem; however, it can make your pet uncomfortable.

  • When the rawhide gets small enough that it can be swallowed, it should be taken away from your pet.

  • There are calories in rawhide. There is also protein and it is digestible but is not considered a "food" item. Rawhide should only be offered in addition to a balanced diet. Although there are mentioned benefits of rawhides, the calories can add up. Moderation is the key. Some suggest that two hours worth of chewing a day is adequate for most pets.

  • Pets with a history of vomiting, diarrhea, allergies and who are on a special diet should not have rawhide until you check with your veterinarian. The material in the rawhide probably is not a problem for most dogs, although some can be allergic to it. The real problem is that some dogs have a tendency to swallow too large a piece of the rawhide and it can get stuck in their esophagus, stomach or intestines, and require surgical removal.

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