By Dr. Laura Noaker, VERGI Emergency and Critical Care Hospital

As a pet parent, you might have heard that rawhide is good for your dog’s teeth and helps with their natural instinct to chew. Most pet owners have given their dogs raw hide chews at some time or another simply because dogs seem to like them, it keeps them busy for hours and they tend to last a long time. However, there could be drawbacks to giving your dog these treats.

First, rawhide treats come from the inner layer of cow or horse hides. During manufacturing, the hides are cleaned and cut or ground. Next, they’re pressed into chewable dog treats of different shapes and sizes. To make them more appealing for dogs, some rawhide treats contain beef, chicken, or liver flavorings.

But here’s the problem. Rawhide chews start out hard, but as your dog works the chew it becomes softer, and eventually they can unknot the ends and the chew takes on the consistency of a slimy piece of taffy. By that time it becomes addictive for your dog. Once the hide has turned soft and gooey, there’s no longer any dental benefit to the chew and it has turned from a treat into a choking and intestinal obstruction hazard with potential choking risk. Plus, there are other risks associated with this treat.

Here are 3 of the most common rawhide risks:

1. Contamination.

As with pet toys, rawhide chews can contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. And, as with other pet (or human) foods, Salmonella or E. coli contamination is possible. Even humans can be at risk when coming into contact with these bacteria on rawhide treats.

2. Digestive irritation.

Some dogs are simply sensitive or allergic to rawhide or other substances used in their manufacture. This can cause problems, including diarrhea.

3. Choking or blockages.

Rawhide bones and other edible chews can pose a choking and blockage risk. In fact, this is a much bigger risk than contamination or digestive irritation. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract.

If you decide to offer your dog rawhide, you can take certain precautions to make them safer.

Ask your vet about how much is safe for your dog. The general rule is the smaller the dog, the fewer the chews. A great way to help protect your dog is by taking the rawhide away once it’s small enough to swallow whole.

No matter if your dog has problems with rawhide chews or not, you might want to try a variety of other chewing treats or toys, including natural marrow bones or hard rubber toys, like a Kong stuffed with a healthy treat, to fully satisfy your dog’s chewing needs.