5 Safe and Healthy Alternatives to Rawhide Chews for Dogs

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Did you know that rawhide chews are mostly indigestible?  Did you know that rawhide chews can be dangerous to our dogs?

The benefits of rawhide chews…

Our dogs love to chew and rawhide chews have been great for their teeth, for  boredom, and to alleviate anxiety.  Rawhide chews keep our dogs’ jaws strong, their teeth clean, and their breath fresh.

What are rawhide chews made of…

The ones we’ve purchased are made of beef hide.  They’re spun in circles and dried and if you look closely they’re held together with adhesive (should our dogs be consuming this?).  Some rawhide chews are flavored, but Rodrigo doesn’t do well with the flavored ones, so we’ve just purchased the plain ones.

What are the risks of rawhide chews…

There is a real risk of blockage.  Our dogs sometimes swallow entire chunks at a time and since they’re largely indigestible, these can get stuck in their intestinal track.

There is a risk of contamination due to the chemicals used to create them (remember the glue I mentioned?).

And they can cause an upset tummy. Like I shared, Rodrigo can’t handle the flavored ones; there are other dogs that have shown that they’re allergic to the ingredients used to create the rawhide chews.

So what are our options?

This was an amazing discussion that I had in a LinkedIn group and I was skeptical about some of the recommendations, but then I tried them out and was happily surprised.

1) Bully Sticks – some people believe that these are no better than rawhide chews, but I disagree.  Our dogs love these and I buy them in bulk.  They smell awful, even the ones that are “low odor”  bully sticks.

Bully sticks are also expensive.  Recently, Costco has been providing a package of 12 long bully sticks for $25 – we would buy a package and cut them in half making 24 – our goal was the make them last longer, but with three dogs, that’s not a possibility for us.

Update: We no longer feed bully sticks to our dogs, because of the odor.  Having three dogs chowing down on bully sticks is heaven for me, because it guarantees and expended period of peace.  My boyfriend put his foot down, because he hated the smell.

2) Carrots – my dogs have never shown any interest in carrots and I thought the small, snack ones would be a choking hazard.  Someone suggested I try again so I picked up a few full size carrots and they love them.  This is a healthy, affordable snack that our dogs love.

Our dog, Sydney, needs to lose 5 pounds.  Giving her carrots satisfies her need to chew without giving her the extra calories that she doesn’t need.

3) Raw Bones – we just started buying raw bones for our dogs.  Little Riley loved her bone and I smile whenever I remember her going at it with gusto.  There are cooked bones at the pet store – avoid these – cooked bones can splinter and wreck havoc on your dog’s intestinal track.  They can also break your dog’s teeth (just learned this one recently from an unhappy dog owner).

We buy our bones from our local pet stores; they have freezers to store the bones.

Update: We no longer feed our dogs raw bones.  Shortly after this article was published, our dogs started getting sick (vomiting) from the bones, which showed us that raw bones weren’t a great choice for our dogs.  We do give our dogs raw meaty bones, but takes the treat away when they work away the meaty part.  We also feed our dogs knuckle bones, which they can chew on for a longer period.  We do not give our dogs weight bearing bones; imagine the strength to hold up a 2 ton cow.

4) Life’s Abundance Pork Treats –  Life’s Abundance Porkhide Bones are gourmet chew treats made with 100% natural pork skin and have a lasting, mouth-watering flavor that our dogs love! These yummy treats are naturally high in protein, low in fat and are highly digestible.  The shape of the bone fits inside the mouth for maximum contact, which helps promote healthy teeth and gums. And they are safe for dogs of all ages. Your dog will love these safe, healthy and delicious treats!

There are many treats in the store that look like the Life’s Abundance treats (I found some at Target), but they’re made with the chemicals that Life’s Abundance avoids.  You can order these treats (and other great products) through our rep, Keil Family Farm, at Pure American Pet Products.

5) Dear Antlers – I’ve read that deer and elk naturally shed their antlers every spring an those naturally shed antlers ae gathered, cleaned, cut to create a great option for strong chewers.  I always buy the antlers with blunt edges.  Rodrigo was able to easily chew threw the ones with sharp edges, but we’ve had blunt edged ones for a year now with barely a dent.  All three dogs love them.

Nicole of Bright Eyes Pet Wellness (where we purchase our non-toxic flea and tick treatment) recommends Scout & Zoes Natural Antler Dog Chew.  This is a company that uses antlers that are naturally shed.

Update: We stopped giving our dogs antlers when they started breaking them down quicky; they don’t last as long with our chewers and I was worried about broken teeth.

Now it’s your turn to share your tips – what do you give your dogs to satisfy their instinct to chew?

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46 Comments

  1. I buy Jones Natural Chews Slammer Bones for my boy. He loves em, they keep him occupied, oh did I mention, he loves them? He doesn’t get them unsupervised though as they have knuckles that I take away from him.
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    • Thanks for the tip, Brenda
      I’ll look those up. In this world of recalls and crappy ingredients, I’m finding that the best tips are from other dog lovers and our veterinarian. Thanks so much!!

      Kimberly
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      • To be honest, I don’t even trust the vets anymore. I love mine dearly but they push Science Diet food, which imo is crap food. Tears my pittie up terribly! I try to stick with all natural-grain free stuff. He eats Nature’s Variety kibble and Taste of the Wild Can. The only raw hide he gets is a baby Dingo bone. :)
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        • The reason I love our vet is because he seems to love animals more than he loves people. I’m not into Science Diet. We’re a Life’s Abundance family until we find something better.
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  2. I think a lot of dog owners should be aware with this because it can cause something bad for their dogs.. This should be shared..
    Meygann recently published..GoPro HD Hero Fan VideosMy Profile

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    • Thanks, Meygann
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  3. I love my rawhide bones. But I’m going to ask Corinne (of Everyday Gyaan, remember?) to try out the carrots. I think I’d like that – safer too.

    PS: I confirmed that I’m human – we boxer dogs are!!
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    • Thanks so much. Four paws = human to me! Our dogs love their carrots. I was skeptical when someone recommended them, but now they understand the word and it’s really easy clean up and good for them. They don’t last as long as a rawhide, but that just means we get to do more active stuff. They’re herding dogs, so they prefer it that way too.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Kimberly
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  4. The bully sticks are great but they are expensive and stinky. Our Speckles goes through one in half an hour. She also has a bone filled with flavored stuff, which has been long gone. I’ve been meaning to try the antler but haven’t yet. Great suggestions – never would have thought of carrots!
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    • Thanks, TerriAnn
      When Blue joined our family, the smell of bully sticks was overwhelming and we were buying 4 bags a month ($100) and they didn’t last us the month. We had to find another way to satisfy their need to chew :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Kimberly
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  5. Thanks so much for the info. No more rawhides for my little guy!

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    • Fantastic!
      It sucks, because they do keep our dogs occupied, but the idea of them swallowing something that’s not good for them when there are so many alternatives out there is tough for me to swallow.

      Ahhh, I made a joke. I think.

      Kimberly
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  6. lol, too tough to swallow! Nice!

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  7. I have a border collie and at one point during his adolescent period we thought we were going to lose our minds keeping him calm and busy. We found out rawhide gave him tummy troubles and were directed to Bully Sticks. Unfortunately, one day of working on that thing sent us to the vet for his uncontrollable diarrhea…he wound up on a prescription to stop it. My husband was so enthralled with how busy it kept him that he chalked it up to a fluke and tried a bully stick again a month later only to find the same results. Anyway, we find that his tummy can handle Pork Skin Chews, carrots (which don’t keep him busy but he likes them) and deer antlers (a Godsend!). I am going to look for raw bones now that I’ve seen your post…I’m sure he will thank you for it, lol:)
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    • Hi Amy – bummer about the bully sticks. Our dog Rodrigo had loose stool at first, because he has a sensitive stomach. I think it was the brown stuff on the first bully sticks we bought, because they were “flavored.” The raw bones are great, but I would start with one and see how your pup does with it. We give the dogs bones under supervision (accept the puppy, teeth aren’t strong enough). We don’t give them bones after they’ve eaten a meal, because it’s a little too much on their tummy. It’s more of a mid afternoon snack once a week.

      Before you pick them up (in our area, the local pet stores have them in their freezer), I would double check with your vet to make sure that the marrow won’t cause tummy issues.

      I hope your dog likes them.

      Kimberly
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  8. I just wanted to say I recently started my own blog (much smaller more focused audience than this one though), but I LOVE THIS BLOG!

    Onto the topic: I use Moozles. They are a dried cow snout made by Merrick. For smaller dogs they make Snoozles (dried pig snouts). They don’t last quite as long as a big rawhide, but are digestable and the dogs like the flazor much better. I will mention that I have found that dried pig ears are just as dangerous as Rawhides.

    Also if you are using bones, like mentioned above make sure they are RAW! Cooked bones splinter and can puncture the digestive tract, which can quickly become lethal for you pet.

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    • Thank you so much, Amanda!!! You’ve now made my week!!!

      I’m in talks with Merrick about writing about their products and just sent an email to their PR rep about the Moozles. This is one of my favorite posts and I’m going to write more about safe chews, because our dogs love them and it’s so important to let dog owners know that just because you can buy it in the pet store doesn’t mean that it’s safe for dogs.

      I love raw bones. They keep the dogs occupied forever! Our puppy is almost old enough for them and we can start buying them again. Such a great treat plus they keep the teeth so clean.

      Anytime you’d like to submit an article, please shoot me an email :) I love hosting other dog lovers on Keep the Tail Wagging!

      Kimberly
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  9. Now I am really confused. I have read numerous articles that say bones are terrible for dogs because they can splinter and puncture the dog’s intentional tract, etc. Vets even say this. Your take on this?
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    • I know what you mean, Deb – so much information out there and it seems to be all contrary. Cooked Bones are bad for dogs. Those are the ones that will splinter. You see them in pet stores, they’re smoked and not a good idea. I’m surprised that they sell them. But they sell rawhide too. I buy raw bones from a local pet store with a freezer section. The Petcos and Petsmarts in our area don’t have raw food/raw bones; but the neighborhood pet stores do. The raw bones are really inexpensive and they give our dogs hours of enjoyment.

      For our dogs, I have to limit their chew session to an hour, because they’re not used to the bones (they took a break when we got a puppy) and they tend to upset their stomach until they get used to them again – I think it’s just too much marrow. Our puppy isn’t allowed raw bones until he gets his adult teeth (which just came in), because puppy teeth are too soft and will break off.

      Hope this helps, Deb!

      Thanks for the question :)
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      • Thanks so much for helping clear up this ‘bone’ issue for me – I don’t know of a local store that carries raw bones. Do you buy beef bones, pork, chicken bones?

        Thanks!
        Deb
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        • Great question! So far, I only buy them Beef or Bison bones. A local breeder gives her dogs raw chicken thighs and they’re fine; I’m not ready to do that yet.
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          • Thank you so much for the replies!
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  10. We don’t use any skin-based chews, since they all tend to have the same issues. We’re huge fans of antler chews and all three Casa de Kolchak dogs LOVE them. We’ve also used tendon chews, trachea chew and hoof chews (LOL, often directly from our horses after the farrier has come!).

    Our dogs do love bully sticks. I have found that the cheaper bully sticks smell AWFUL. The organic, non-medicated ones I buy aren’t terrible (though I do tend to lock the boys in the yard or in the dog room to enjoy them. Not on my couch, thankyouverymuch) I’ve also found that the buffalo and bison ones don’t seem to smell as strongly, plus, they’re great for my Felix and his allergies!
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  11. I buy Bone Marrow Bones from Publix (local grocery) in the butcher meat section. It’s a cow’s femur with a little meat still on it. Boil it for 20 mins and let it cool. My dog loves them, and this bone never splinters.
    I am going to look up and order Life’s Abundance chews and the antlers soon. Thanks for the tips.

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    • Thank YOU for the tip. The antlers are awesome and although I don’t buy LA food, I love so many of their products. They’re a direct marketing company, but their sales reps are amazing if you just tell them you don’t want to buy into their business. They’re just happy to provide our pets with cool stuff. Every year, I buy their Bath Fresh Mist – 3 bottles. Wet dog smell sucks.

      I just started buying our dogs rib bones from the grocery store – they love them. And then elbow bones from Vital Essentials. I was worried about broken teeth (even wrote about it here), but no problems at all.

      Thanks for stopping by!
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    • Thanks for the tips! I became uneasy with the raw bones discussion, because in my family we’ve always, at least made them some tasty soup.
      My previous chow-lab mix had food allergies. So, at the behest of our vet, we had to start with feeding her just ingredients…starting with simply boiled lamb bones and then, if no.reaction, we added brown rice and sime protein suplements from vet, until we figured out that she was ok with these meals, we switched to Nutro brands and.i’ve neen a lifetime believer in that food. It’s mild to their tumnies and non-allergenic, even the waste levels are small and low odor.
      Now, our 6mo german shepperd/collie will start trying carrots.too!

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  12. Thanks for the tip about the full sized carrots – I can’t wait to try them with my incessant chewer (fingers crossed)!

    I did, however, wan’t to share a word of caution about the antlers. [As an important disclaimer, I don't have ANY personal experience with the antlers, so you may take this warning with a grain of salt.] I was really excited to try antlers with my pup after reading about them in this article and immediately rushed off to amazon to scope out the various available types, brands, etc.

    Unfortunately, I found some horror stories that changed my mind about letting my dog gnaw on antlers; in reviews for several top-ranked antler products, buyers claimed that the antlers were so hard that they had actually fractured their dogs’ teeth, apparently costing the owners exorbitant chunks of change in vet bills for oral surgery / tooth extraction (and presumably causing the pups a fair amount of pain as well).

    I’m sure that the potential for tooth damage depends largely on the situation (the dog’s size/breed/age/health, the brand/size/shape of the antler, amount of supervision, yada yada yada), and antlers are certainly not the only dog chews that have been claimed to damage teeth, but I decided the risk was not worth the potential payoff.

    I would urge anyone debating switching to antlers to read some of the reviews on amazon
    (like this one http://www.amazon.com/review/RMDRFRA45ZRBB/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0053WMOKE&nodeID=2619533011&store=pet-supplies#wasThisHelpful) Again, I’m sure antler are perfectly safe and wonderful for many dogs, and maybe some of these reviewers are simply being melodramatic or misplacing blame, but I read enough reviews and comments to scare me off.

    Thanks again for for compiling this list – It seems pretty impossible to find even one quality rawhide alternative (no thanks to naysayers like me, butting in and raining on everybody’s parade) so kudos to you for coming up with five :)

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    • Thanks for the link to the Amazon page. We no longer give our dogs antlers and I miss them. Rodrigo and Sydney used to be to chew on them safely, but Rodrigo is now and adult and a very strong chewer and although we’ve never had an issue, I just wasn’t really willing to risk a broken tooth, so they went off the shopping list.

      We give our dogs Nylabone toys, the type that can’t be bitten down quickly, carrots, and sometimes yams or sweet potatoes.

      Thanks again for weighing in!!!
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  13. We get our antlers from Peak Antler in Colorado. He makes antler furniture, etc and sells the smaller sheds. http://www.peakantler.com

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  14. My vet told me not to give my dog the deer antlers because of the chemicals on them.

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  15. I’ve read all sorts of things about how rawhide can lead to pancreatitis in my dog’s breed (maltese+yorkie), but it’s the only thing that will keep my dog occupied while my wife and I eat our people food.

    I’m definitely going to try carrots though. I also read that bananas are good for dogs too, but seems like they’d be messy.

    My vet recommended C.E.T HEXtra chews because they have ingredients in them to help with dental health. My dog loved them at first, but now he’s rarely interested. But once he starts chewing on it, he won’t stop chewing until I stop him. Again, these don’t last as long as rawhide.

    Thanks for the blog post!

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  16. Seamus loved his Antler when we got it for him… and they last forever. But!…

    a few months ago, Seamus broke off his lower, left Canine tooth. It cost us about $2500. for a root canal, as we believed it would be best for him. (btw, we finally have pet insurance). Anyways, while having our chats with the doggie dentist, we found out a few things when it came to chewing toys, etc.

    Antlers are not good for their teeth. yes they love them, and they last forever, but being so hard, they only help to wear down your dogs teeth.

    the nylon dog bones are also not the best for them. I know this from personal experience, as one day I noticed that as Seamus’ big strong jaws allowed him to start making marks on the nylon bone, the indents he was creating, were sharp and cutting his mouth. I have since removed it from his toy collection.

    I should be more clear… he didnt break his canine on an antler or a Nylabone… he broke it while at the beach, chasing sticks… God knows how! we found out about the nylabone and antler issues while visiting with the doggy dentist.

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    • Great to know and than you for the comment. I was able to update this post. We no longer give our dogs antlers, because they would break them down quickly. I was worried about broken teeth, shards in their digestive system, plus they smelled awful.

      It’s interesting that it wasn’t the antler, but the wear and tear of chewing on such a hard surface. Thank you for sharing that!
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  17. My Jack Russell mixes have chewed my furniture, window sills and muntons, cabinets, a cd, and various cords. I needed chews to save my house! My vet gave them Petrodex chews and Hextra chips at visits so I started with those then went to rawhide rolls from Costco (made in Mexico) bc they liked the taste better. I also use Dentleys bones and chews. With 3 dogs I couldnt afford not to use rawhide and it is the only thing my constant chewer doesn’t destroy. I’ve given baby carrots but full size is a great idea. My one likes ice cubes so worrh a try. I also use Smartbones which are expensive (and made in China) but they love. Also Tru Luv chews which are nonmeat and $10 for 2lbs. Nylabone makes an edible chew which is good but way expensive. I have read bad things about most dog chews but i avoid bones (splinters), Nylabones(shards), Greenies (digest slowly) and chicken treats(salmonella). My guys didn’t like Nylabones, Kongs, Antlers, or stuffed femurs. Yes, I have tried most things…

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    • I have heard from so many people who have chewing machines at home. I thought Rodrigo was bad, but he’s never destroyed anything other than stuffed dog toys. Thanks for your list of items, because I’ve never heard of some of these things.
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      • You’re welcome. My one has also chewed a hard plastic cordless phone up and eaten plaster that happened to pop off the wall. I almost forgot my daily go-to are Purina Busy Bones -;$12.00/2 lb at BJ’s Warehouse Club. I buy most treats in the largest size and cut them with handheld tree pruners bc that is the least expensive way to go in general. For Smartbones the minis are the least expensive at about $1/oz mail order or medium size 6 packs on sale at Petsmart for $12/11 oz. I also tried Zuke’s which are all natural but left red stains everywhere.

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  18. I recently discovered Himalayan Dog Chews, made out of yak and cow milk, with no chemicals. They remind me of smoked gouda, both in smell and appearance (no stinky bully stick odor.) I gave one to my 7 month old Jack (after researching that rawhide and Petstages’ Dogwood are not the best things for him) and he seems to love it.

    They are pricey, but he’s gnawed on it for a few hours and you can’t even tell. Plus, you can microwave it when it gets small to make it big again, but you should supervise when that happens.

    http://www.himalayandogchew.com/

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    • I was introduced to these last summer. They are so expensive, but I understand why. Sadly, they give our dogs diarrhea – I was so bummed!!!! They can handle raw goats milk, but apparently not yak milk – I wonder if it’s because during the creation of the chews, the lactase is removed so only the lactose is left behind.

      Just me thinking out loud (with my fingers).

      Thanks for adding this one. I know lots of people who are fans. They last FOREVER!
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  19. Thanks so much for this info!! I had heard about the rawhides being indigestible, but sort if brushed it off…but my big guy (120 lbs) got x-ray’s yesterday for his hips and the vet asked me if he eats rocks… Nope, it was the rawhide. All 3 (and if you don’t have 3+ dogs, the expensive treats just aren’t a cost efficient option!!) get a chew after breakfast… The rawhides only last about 10 mins, but they’ve gotten used to something after eating. The antlers were rather expensive and they lost interest after a few tries (plus, I had to keep finding them and bringing them inside so they wouldn’t disappear!) I do give soup bones from our grocery store (usually once a week, so I can keep the broth for their food). Make sure they’re round and solid (they got flat one for sale which do splinter). I boil those for 10 mins and let them cool. If you prepare ahead of time, throw them in the fridge…the marrow hardens and it lasts longer :) I’ll def pick up some carrots today and see they’re reactions, I’m skeptical though!! Haha So, what to so with my 5 lb bag of rawhides now? Hmmm… I’m going to try LA pork treats and see – are they expensive?? It’s fair to say I’m willing to spend about $40/mth on “treats” can I do that for 3 dogs?? Keep ya posted!

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