21 healthy alternatives to rawhide dog chews

4 CommentsWednesday, 24 October 2018  |  Kate

All dogs need to chew, it’s part of a dog’s normal behaviour. Chewing relieves anxiety and stimulates your dog. A good chew can occupy a happy dog for hours, and save your beloved shoes or soft furnishings from certain death. But are rawhide chews the answer or is there a safer alternative?

How is rawhide made?

Rawhide is made from the inner layer of animal hide; beef, and now lamb being the most popular in the UK. 

This hide layer is washed in a light chlorine solution to clean it of any harmful bacteria then it is cut into the required lengths and made into shapes: rolls, knots, doughnuts and plaits for example. The rawhide is then dried, sent through quality control and it’s ready for the pet shop.

Added colours, flavours and preservatives

NONE of My Itchy Dog's rawhide contains artificial colours, flavours (smoked or bacon flavoured anyone?) or preservatives. If your dog does eat rawhide I would definitely avoid.

The benefits of rawhide

Before we come on to the hazards, many dogs eat rawhide without issue. Puppies need to chew and as we’ve already established a good chew can save your soft furnishings.

Chewing something hard keeps a dog’s teeth clean, their jaw strong and can help to freshen their breath. Although so can a raw meaty bone.

We do sell rawhide at My Itchy Dog but it took us a few years to find a product we were comfortable selling. Our rawhide is processed immediately, meaning it only needs a clean before it’s rolled, shaped and dried. There are no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives in any of our rawhide and we know where it all comes from. None of it comes from China. As much as possible we offer great alternatives too (see below).

The Hazards of rawhide

Choking and blockages

Are the main risks of feeding rawhide dog chews. Many dog owners avoid giving rawhide chews to their dog for this reason alone. The simple fact is that anything hard like this can pose a choking risk and you should always supervise your dog if they’re working their way through a rawhide or fresh raw bone.

If your dog swallows a large piece of rawhide it can get stuck in their throat and anywhere on the way down the digestive tract causing a blockage.

  • constantly trying to swallow
  • throwing up
  • has diarrhoea
  • or constipation
  • has abdominal tenderness or pain
  • or a lack of appetite
  • is lethargic
  • or their behaviour changes on being picked up – growling or biting for example

Get to the vet immediately.

Digestive issues

Dogs who have a sensitive gut, colitis for example are best avoiding rawhide. The last thing they need is a piece of slow digesting, hard dog treat containing artificial flavours and colours breaking down in their gut. This can cause them to constantly throw it back up only to re-eat it (peristalsis) and diarrhoea.


If rawhide isn’t processed scrupulously it may contain toxic chemicals, salmonella or E. coli. This isn’t good for anyone, dog or human, especially those with a compromised immune system.

Dogs who should avoid rawhide

If your dog has a history or diarrhoea, a sensitive digestion, food allergies or intolerances I would avoid feeding your dog rawhide.

If they like to tear strips off something and swallow it whole, or bear down hard and bite off large chunks I would look for a rawhide alternative (see below for chewy rawhide alternatives.)

Are raw bones better than raw hide?

Some would argue that a raw meaty bone is a perfect alternative to a rawhide bone, and to an extent they would be correct. But I would argue the same rule applies for both: only give it to a dog whose digestion is rock solid who won’t swallow it whole. Make sure they’re eating bones (soft and pliable – chicken for instance) and not weight bearing play bones (pork or beef knuckle), and always supervise.

What is a good rawhide alternative dog treat? 

If you have a dog that loves to chew there are plenty of hard, healthy dog treats that will suffice. Choose a rock hard treat or a tough, chewy treat depending on what your dog likes the best.

My Itchy Dog now has a treat section dedicated to great alternative rawhide dog treats and chews.

Rock hard treats:

Chewy chews:

Any of these will do the same job as a rawhide treat: stimulate your dog, relieve boredom, stress and anxiety, help keep their teeth clean and help freshen breath.

Truly appalling alternatives to rawhide.

Beware of unhealthy dog treats trying to sell you a decent rawhide alternative. I was given a box of SmartBones in error, by a supplier, recently. I was going to give them to a rescue until I looked at them closely. The label was so confusing: made in PRC (People’s Republic of China), registered in the EU in the UK, with an Italian barcode number. Watch the video to see what I thought of the ingredients. Needless to say I was less than impressed.

Just remember to add healthy dog chews into your dog’s daily ration so you’re not overfeeding them and always supervise your dog while they’re eating.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018  |  13:10

My dogs love them and either way they are much better than Rawhide.
I know loads of pet owners that are giving them as treats maybe once a day and the dogs are loving them .
There are hundreds of much worse products on the market and these are just a nice product at the right price

Friday, 15 March 2019  |  9:58

You have mentioned some nice alternatives against the rawhide dog chews that surely going to set well with any pet daily routine...

Wednesday, 17 July 2019  |  16:35

Are your products made in the UK

Thursday, 18 July 2019  |  11:08

Hi Sandra

All of our products are made in the EU.