• Jessica Desrosiers

Are Bones and Rawhide Dangerous to My Dog?

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

Bones and other rawhide chews have long been a popular treat to give to pets featured in popular media and at home in many households. However, these delicious treats can also have some severe setbacks if your dog accidentally chokes on or swallows a large piece of this material. Read on to learn some more issues with feeding rawhide and bone treats, and some safer alternatives that can satisfy your dog’s need to chew.

Common Uses for Bones and Rawhide

Like many chew toys, bones and rawhide help satisfy your dog’s need to chew. The act of chewing can help get out energy and frustration in a safe, controlled manner, and the act of chewing can scrape teeth to keep them clean and healthy. There are, however, many hazards to feeding a bone or rawhide chew:

  • Choking: Oftentimes, these chews provide a choking hazard as they cannot easily be broken down into smaller, easy to swallow pieces. They also have the potential to shatter, such as with chicken bones, leading to a piece becoming lodged in the throat or airway. Signs your dog may be choking on a chew include pawing at the face or mouth, coughing, gagging, and turning pale or blue.

  • Foreign Body: If your dog does manage to swallow a piece of rawhide or bone, they can become a foreign body. A foreign body is material that is swallowed into the digestive tract that isn’t broken down or properly digested. It can lead to an intestinal obstruction which can block the normal flow of food and digestion. Foreign bodies can also cause the intestines to twist on themselves, or even cause damage leading to bleeding and infection.

  • Gastrointestinal Upset: In addition to causing damage or a blockage to the GI tract, these chews can also cause general digestive upset. If your dog has an allergic reaction to the chew, or has damage to the intestinal tract due to swallowing a piece, it can lead to problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool or vomit, or worse. If you do suspect upset caused by eating a bone or rawhide chew, a trip to the vet immediately is best.

Safer Alternatives

While safer chew toys still need to be given under supervision in case an inedible piece breaks off or some or all of the chew is swallowed, they can be a safer alternative to using a bone or rawhide. Often, these treats are designed to break down and digest in the GI tract, or are harder to break pieces off of — perfect for heavy chewers. These alternatives are also great for daily enrichment, and keeping your dog occupied mentally and physically.

  • Puzzle Toys: Puzzle toys include products such as Kongs, or other toys where you fill them with a treat, and your dog then chews on them until a treat releases from the toy. These are great for keeping your dog busy for long periods of time without filling them up on too many treats at once. If you have a dog that likes to gobble their meals, a treat toy can help ration their food to reduce choking and overeating. They’re also great for stimulating your dog’s brain as they try to figure out how the toy works. These toys are available in a variety of difficulty levels, so they can be set for your dog’s abilities and needs.

  • Nylon Chews: Nylon chews, while not technically edible, are designed to break down into small pieces that will pass through the digestive tract without harm. They are more durable and harder, which makes them similar in look and feel to a bone, without the possibility of the chew splintering into damaging pieces. However, some dogs can still have reactions to these types of chews, so a puzzle toy or edible chew treat may be a better option.

  • Chew Treats: Chew treats are longer-lasting treats designed to be chewed on, swallowed, and digested. They’re often made of ingredients such as fermented yak milk, sweet potato, or easy to digest pieces that are broken down by your dog’s digestive tract. While they aren’t as durable as some nylon or puzzle toys, they can be safely given and completely eaten without causing distress. As with any other treat, however, you should make sure your dog is not allergic to any of the ingredients.

Chew toys are an excellent way to keep your dog occupied mentally and physically. While bones and rawhides were once the preferred choices of chew toys, safer and better items on the market can ensure your dog can satisfy their urge to chew without the potential harm or digestive upset a bone or rawhide may present. Trying out various alternatives such as puzzle toys, chew treats, and more can help you find the right chew for your dog’s needs.

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