Dogs, Chewing and Rawhides. What’s the Stink About?

Danger Will Robinson! (Aka: Dear Reader.)

Rawhides… Disgusting, gooey, slimy things. They’re fine before a dog gets a hold of one, but 10 minutes in… Uck.

I have avoided feeding these things to my dogs for years. I have one dog, Max, that always vomits repetitively if he chews on one for mere minutes. My other dog tends to bite off big pieces and try to swallow them whole. Rawhides are no longer allowed in my home. That decision came long before I read about how they are manufactured.

Maxshadow's crocodile smile

Maxshadow in 2009 when he was a spry 11 years old. He turns 17 this year and he’s still going strong!

IMHO, no one’s dog needs a chemically treated, bleached, basted, painted, titanium coated or dyed, a piece of long dead, probably contaminated, bloated and decayed, animal dermis to CHEW on. To top it off, these things have absolutely no nutritional value. But apparently, they offer a very satisfying chew. Don’t underestimate the appeal of a “Good Chew,” to a canine. More on that later.

Rawhide Chews were developed as another way for the leather industry to dispose of byproducts they didn’t want to pay to have hauled away. A good portion of corporate America (including the dog food industry itself,) is founded on this very principle; someone looking to turn a business expense into a revenue-making marvel. When I find a way to turn dog poop into dollars, I’m an instantaneous millionaire! (Fluoride in our drinking water is another one of these profitable scams gone horribly wrong.)

I’ve expressed my personal opinions on rawhide chews. Now it’s time to tell you how to pick the best ones for your dog. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my opinion, just know it’s conceived with love and move on with it.

Choosing a good chew.

If choosing a rawhide to feed your dog, Pig based rawhides are more digestible than beef rawhides and probably the way to go. Pig rawhides digest at least partially in the stomach, cutting down on the risk of intestinal blockages and expensive surgery. Rawhides sourced and manufactured in the USA are likely to be thicker, due to climate and less chemically saturated, due to processing, than rawhides from other countries. I still think there are better options out there for a dog in need of a satisfying Chew, but I have no desire to rule your world, just educate you a tiny bit. Maybe someday you can return the favor.

So Mrs. Alpha Dog, what are these satisfying and safer options?

Let me preface this by saying, “Anytime a chew toy or treat gets too fragile, breaking apart easily or breaking into small enough pieces to be swallowed whole, it’s time to take it away.” This rule applies to plastic dog toys like Kong’s and Nylabone’s, in particular. That stuff WILL NOT DIGEST. Any damaged ball or chew toy should be taken away, even if it’s a favorite. Your dog’s life is worth more than any toy and for the cost of a surgery to remove an intestinal blockage, you can buy a dog a lifetime’s worth of toys.

Sunset over the dog ranch

Dreaming of good eats

Unlike the human goal of eating, (a full tummy,) the fun in recreational chewing, for the dog, is in the chewing, not the swallowing. Chewing releases all kinds of feel-good chemicals: Serotonin, Dopamine and maybe even some Oxytocin. The first two are hormones that keep Heroin addicts searching endlessly for their next fix. Oxytocin is the hormone that in humans is the bonding hormone. All 3 hormones help to shave the rough edges off of high adrenaline levels, diminish Cortisol levels and in other words, decrease stress in both species.

Mothers of newborn babies ooze Oxytocin, (the love hormone,) as do newlyweds. Gazing into the eyes of either humans or canines will profoundly improve your emotional connection with the other party, provided it’s not a stray dog intent on ripping your face off. (A whole different technique is prescribed, in that case, which includes avoiding eye contact, turning slightly away, never turn your back on an angry or fearful dog, and backing away slowly. )
Providing your dog with a good chew at least every once in a while, be it once or twice weekly or monthly, may just make them love you, even more.

Now for some better suggestions:
Pig ears are an inexpensive option. Other dried tendons, ligament, and bone products tend to cost significantly more. Choose these products wisely, taking care to avoid those that can rapidly become a choking hazard, depending upon the size of your dog. Salmonella is a concern if there are small children in the household, whom may handle the toy without immediately washing their hands afterward.

Deer or Elk Antlers are great, IMHO, (Especially if naturally harvested.) Deer and Elk shed their antlers annually and there are enterprising folks that wander through the wilderness and pick these up and turn them into everything from dog chews to knife handles and intricate, artistic carvings.) Unfortunately, antler bones don’t seem to fascinate my dogs the way something a little stinkier, does. Your mileage may vary.

Pizzles and bully sticks are probably fine for the most part, especially if sourced and manufactured in the USA, but can be high in calories and these also have the same salmonella/bacterial concerns that I expressed earlier. If given, they should be used as an occasional treat, not a daily one or saved for times when your dog is really stressed out and in need of a good chew. I tend to shy away from these pizzles or bully sticks out of respect for the male species. (If you don’t know what a Pizzle is, Google it. I’m not telling.)

Raw Turkey Necks, Beef Kneecaps and carefully sliced marrow bones are other nutritious options. Raw Turkey necks and raw chicken wings or chicken backs can be a regular part of a healthy dogs’ diet! Turkey necks and Chicken backs are intended to be eaten in their entirety, but can be messy. Raw chicken can harbor salmonella although it is not likely to harm a healthy dog’s digestive track, (the acid in their stomachs kills salmonella,) but the 2 legged members of your family can easily pick up salmonella or other nasty bacterial infections. Please keep this in mind and feed these kinds of things in an area that is easy to swab down. Don’t allow children to give doggy kisses for at least 20 minutes after feeding.

Feed these items only under direct supervision and with dogs that don’t tend to swallow things whole. Consult your vet if you have concerns, and always introduce dietary changes on a slow, graduated and metered transitional diet schedule.
Finally, I wanted to suggest that not all chew treats need to be animal based or commercially manufactured. Granted our canine best friends are carnivores by nature and need a certain amount of protein, (traditionally, animal proteins,) to survive. A good chew doesn’t always need to be an animal product. I know a few dogs that love to chomp on carrots. (My dogs? Not so much. Java will eat a carrot, but only if it was cooked next to a pot roast or dipped in ranch dressing.) Although a bone will generate a big toothy smile on every dog that I know. Certain treats like a Kong stuffed with frozen Mac n cheese will also get you a big wag. Dehydrated Sweet potato treats seem to be popular here at the dog ranch. I’ll post a link to creating your own in the links section below.

Keep your minds and hearts open until next time…

Kerri   aka “Mrs. Alpha Dog”

For more info: here’s a couple of links I used to formulate this article


A yummy DIY dog treat for the senior crew… not necessarily a good chewy.

A simple, chewier sweet potato treat.

For additional horrifying information on rawhides and dog treats, you can read this link too.


About adventuredogs

I'm the "Alpha Dog's" wife... Life Partner and Co-owner of Adventure Dog Ranch, The Vacation Destination for Dogs! A place where canines socialize, exercise and have fun. You don't have to feel guilty when you take a vacation, your dog can have his very own vacation with us!
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