You may think that rawhides are synonymous with having a dog as a pet. Think of a pup chewing on a big bone that is as big as he is. It’s an iconic image and an accepted idea. Giving your puppy something to gnaw on serves several useful purposes. Unfortunately, they aren’t the best choice for several reasons. On the positive side, you have plenty of alternatives that will serve the purpose well.
What Is Rawhide?
Rawhide, in its many forms, is merely scrapped leather, whether it’s from the meat or leather industry. It is untanned, so it doesn’t have the supple feel that you may associate with this material. Some manufacturers process the leftovers and create the various shapes and types you’ll find online and at your local pet store. You may wonder if it is a suitable toy/treat for your pet.
Tendons are a type of connective tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone. Think of your Achilles tendon. These structures are equally strong. They typically get a lot of wear with continuous use. You can usually find them sourced from several types of meat, in case your pooch is allergic to beef. We liked the fact that buying these kinds of treats promotes sustainable agriculture where everything gets used.
2. Lamb Horn
This alternative may sound strange, but it’s an excellent choice for dogs that are on a restricted diet. Horns differ from antlers in that they are permanent, whereas the latter are shed each year. This rawhide alternative consists of bone and keratin, both great sources of protein. You’ll find it in several forms in addition to a complete horn.
Unfortunately, this product doesn’t last long. It is a sheath over bone, so it’s naturally thin. We consider it best used as an occasional treat instead of a regular alternative.
3. Chicken Feet
Chicken feet may not be the first treat you think of for your pooch. However, it is both something both for pets and an ingredient in a gourmet kitchen. Along with the bones, there is also a lot of cartilage in them, which provides an excellent source of protein. They can handle the jaws of a hungry pup, but they might border on too fragile for larger dogs.
As for the gourmet part, chicken feet are a staple ingredient for making homemade broth that adds a lot of flavor and gelatin to the mix. If you ask nicely, maybe your puppy will share his treats with you for cooking.
Ears are a yummy rawhide alternative, whether they come from pigs, cows, or even deer. That fact speaks to their value as a substitute to beef if your pup has an allergy. They are softer than some treats, making them an excellent option for smaller breeds. We also love the fact that it is a product of nose-to-tail agriculture.
You can easily find ears sold in bulk or individually so that you can try it out with your dog to see if he likes it. We bet that he will.
Hooves fall into the same eco-friendly choice as several of the products we discussed earlier. That might not be a top consideration when buying foods for your pet, but we like the fact that it exists. Like horns, they consist of keratin and offer an excellent protein source. You can find them sold as-is or filled with other yummy ingredients like peanut butter. It’ll keep your pooch occupied for quite a while.
The rougher texture of hooves makes them a smart choice as a dental treat. It’ll help clean your dog’s teeth and help prevent gum disease. On the downside, they aren’t the toughest material. Larger pups will blow through them quickly.
6. Bully Sticks
Bully sticks are an example of an extreme example of nose-to-tail agriculture. The name is something of a double entendre. The product is the penis or pizzle bone of a bull, hence, the name. You can find several shapes to match the chewing strength of your pup. Unlike a lot of alternatives, what you see is what you get, without the additives often found in other rawhide substitutes.
As an aside, the penis bone or baculum, as it is called, is a common feature in many mammals, including primates with the notable exception of humans. It often occurs in animals where there is a significant disparity between the sexes. Dogs, incidentally, also have a baculum.
7. Frozen Carrots
Carrots are a popular ingredient in many high-quality dog foods. It’s an excellent source of fiber and vitamin A. They are low in sugar and fat, too. When you give your pup frozen ones, you allow him to get more out of this treat. It’ll work his muscles and gums while helping to clean his teeth. If your pup isn’t fond of them frozen, you can also offer cooked ones, instead.
8. Yak Snak
Alternatives to rawhide come in all forms. Welcome the Yak Snak. Unlike other products we’ve discussed, this one is made of cheese. Yes, cheese. Manufacturers make it from cow and yak milk; thus, the name. The process creates a treat that will last longer than the description may imply. However, your medium-sized dog will devour it quickly, which means you’ll have to take it away if it gets too small.
The Nylabone is an innovative way to allow dogs to chew to their heart’s content with a toy that will last for the long haul. You’ll find flavored products to get your pet interested in it. Some pups don’t fall in love with it right away, so that is a good thing. It’s a clean alternative from your perspective. You’ll find many different shapes and flavors to find one that will satisfy your pet.
10. Small Butcher’s Cut Chicken Chews Dog Treats
If you want something that isn’t meat-based, Small Butcher’s Cut Chicken Chews Dog Treats offers a viable option. It is a plant-based product that is flavored to make it palatable for your pet. Unless you regularly feed your pup vegetables, he might experience some GI distress with a new addition to his diet. Without meat or bones, they won’t last long. They don’t fulfill the same role as rawhide.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Providing Chews to Your Dog
It doesn’t take a long time around a puppy to figure out that they like to gnaw on things. Their little teeth are sharp as razors, and they hurt. It’s not your pup’s fault. The fact remains that the behavior is instinctive. Put it down to the process of growing up and working his way to his permanent set of chompers. It also exercises his muscles as part of his development.
One of the best things about these products is that you’re not going to have to coax your dog to chew on them. Some may argue it’s because it taps into his evolutionary role as a carnivore. Your pet can’t get much closer to the bone than a tasty piece of untanned leather.
Rawhides are an excellent training aid. It isn’t enough to reprimand a puppy for going after your sofa or sneakers. He needs an appropriate alternative to satisfy his need to chew. Rawhide provides it. Usually, it’s safe and not an issue. However, all dogs are different, so there are some glaring cons, too.
The Downsides of Rawhide
The most evident problem is the risk of choking. While rawhide is tough, it sometimes cannot stand up to the challenge of a determined pooch. That’s especially the case with dogs that have greater jaw strength like American Staffordshire Terriers. Even if he manages to swallow it, there’s also a chance of a life-threatening bowel obstruction.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Some dogs have allergies to beef. It doesn’t matter what the form of it is. Your pup may have a reaction and GI distress from munching on a rawhide. That precaution also applies to any additives that the manufacturer may add to the product to make it more palatable to your pet.
Of course, any time you deal with animal-based items, there’s always a risk of contamination. Rawhide isn’t immune to those issues. All of these things are valid reasons to look for alternatives that may not have the same hazards. We’ll begin with some options that are still animal-based to satisfy your dog’s meat-eater instincts.
Luckily, you’ll find plenty of alternatives to rawhide if your pet can’t have them or doesn’t like them. Many are equally as nutritious and offer many of the same benefits. The best thing is that you can try a lot of different ones to find the one that your pooch will enjoy. You have the benefit of knowing that you’re giving your canine companion a safe treat that will make both of your happy.
Featured Image Credit By: Tienuskin, shutterstock