The Hidden Dangers of Rawhide Chews, Jerky Treats + Ribs for Dogs

Rawhide chews are a super common, popular dog treat. I bet your dog loves them too!

What you love isn’t always good for you though, with rawhide chews, jerky treats and soft bones all carrying hidden dangers!

ribs, rawhide chews and jerky treat dangers

Can I safely give my dog low-treated rawhide? It is a chemical hair removal, but no bleaching or splitting. What about pizzle sticks and other dried meats or chews? How about softer bones such as lamb ribs? - Sophia

Should You Feed Your Dog Ribs?

I'll take that last one to start with. Softer bones are unlikely to cause fractured teeth compared to the weight-bearing long bones of cows and sheep. If they are raw though, then they are still going to be an infection risk.

If you're thinking of feeding raw in general or simply giving the occasional raw bone to your dog, then check out my free ebook which discusses whether an infection is the only risk to consider and whether the benefits of raw feeding outweigh the risks.

If you are giving cooking bones instead, there is not the same risk of infection with raw food. The ribs though are still going to be brittle, and there is still going to be a chance of blockage and perforation of the intestines.

Bones are not something that I would tend to recommend at all.

Rawhide Dog Chews

Rawhide chews, let's move on to those. They are made from processed skin, generally of cows but could be of sheep as well. They are typically a byproduct of the leather industry, not the meat industry. There are various ways that the rawhide are produced, but generally, they do involve a lot of scary chemicals to separate out the hide layers, to preserve them, to cure them, to flavor them and color them as well.

Rawhide Processes

Sophia is talking about low-treated rawhide. It really depends on what is used to treat the hide, to remove the hair, to preserve it, to keep it fresh before it is processed. There is quite a lot there.

That is really going to depend on the source and on the specific manufacturer as well. If it comes from a long way, if it is shipped in from China, which is where a lot of them are produced, then really they are probably going to have had many chemicals to process them and to get them to you.

If it is a local manufacturer, then you might be more aware of their process and you can make that decision for yourself. Be aware though that “low-treated” may only be a marketing phrase and not actually mean anything at all. It’s use bearing no reflection on the actual production of that rawhide chew.

Rawhide Risks

If we think of rawhide chews in general, apart from all of these chemicals, what are the other potential problems with feeding them because a lot of dogs will really like them?

They do still have a risk of obstruction. I spoke about the risk of bones getting swallowed and then stuck in the intestines. Rawhide chews have that same risk, especially if large chunks are swallowed.

This is going to be more of a concern if your dog is a real power chewer. If you've got a dog who really goes for it when they chew and they are able to bite off big chunks, even the whole knotted end.

If we think of a rawhide chew, a lot of them will have a knotted end that makes them look like a cartoon bone. If a dog is able to bite that off and swallow it, there is a real risk that it can cause an obstruction later on. It could get into the stomach and squeeze its way into the intestine where it can be stuck. Even if that does not happen and it stays in the stomach, it can take a long time for the rawhide to be broken down in the stomach.

That can cause long-term irritation, vomiting, or diarrhea. That is definitely something to think about in any dog, but especially if you've got a power chewer.

Jerky Treats

We move on to raw meats and jerky treats. There have been concerns with some jerky treats causing kidney failure and death in some dogs. The cause of this is unknown. It does seem to involve treats that have been imported from China.

There were similar problems when there was melamine contamination in some pet foods back in 2007. Melamine has not been implicated in the problems some jerky dog treats are causing, but there are clearly other factors that are causing kidney failure.

I think it just highlights that with these things, there is potentially something that we need to consider that may make it dangerous. That's not to say that all of these treats are dangerous by any stretch of the imagination.

Again, if you've got a locally-produced or minimal chemically-produced dry treat that you want to feed them, fantastic. You can make jerky treats yourself if you are that inclined. Then, you know exactly what has gone into it.

Alternative Treats

As an alternative to all these things, what can you give your dog instead to keep them entertained, to keep them happy, and to give them a rewarding treat?

Consider using a Kong, the big rubber toys that you can fill with food or you can smear with a flavor, such as peanut butter, to coax your dog to chew away and to also get a tasty treat reward.

You can use snuffle mats (like this wooly one) rather than a bowl to feed your dog at mealtimes (just be sure to supervise them though). You could use food puzzles and Licki pads.

There's a number of other fantastic food puzzles and toys that we can use to keep your dog entertained. It will provide them with a food treat, but will also provide a good level of mental stimulation which is very important for the well-being of our dog.

Rather than rawhide or some of these other treats, especially if they came from more uncertain, less local sources, consider whether they are the best thing to feed your dog.

You can find all of my recommended feeding toys here on my Amazon page.

The other thing to think of if we are giving food treats is, treats are great to give, but rewards for our dogs don't have to be food.

It could be just your attention. Rather than giving them something tasty to reward them for being good or as a display of affection, give them your attention instead. Play with them. Take them for a walk.

If you are giving treats, also consider how much you're giving, because if you're giving a lot of treats, then the chance of obesity developing is going to be much higher. Obesity is a massive problem in our pet population that has a really significant knock-on effect on their general health, their well-being, and also their life expectancy.

Consider giving a healthy, low fat, low energy treat instead of that piece of cheese or sausage!

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

If you would like me to answer any question you have about your pet’s health, simply fill in this form and I’ll try and get you the information that you need. It’s that simple!