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Rawhide vs. beefhide: Which is best for your dog?

rawhide vs. beefhide
(Image credit: Getty)

The rawhide vs beefhide debate is important, as for many pet owners, treats and chews are a big part of the bond they share with their dogs. But because treats are not subject to the same labeling requirements as pet food, many pet owners have no idea what’s in the treats they are giving their dogs. This has left many pet owners asking: is rawhide safe for my dog? Should I be switching to beefhide? Although many dogs enjoy these types of treats, it’s important to know the risks of rawhide before you let your dog chow down. To give you some help when choosing the best dog treats, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of rawhide vs. beefhide treats for your dog.

What is rawhide?

Rawhide is exactly what it sounds like: raw animal hide that has been processed into a dog chew treat for dogs. Many dogs love these treats because they are tasty, long-lasting dog chews, and stimulating to eat. Rawhide treats are commonly made from the softer inner layer of the animal hide. It can be made from the hides of many different animals, but beef, pork, buffalo, and horse hides are the most commonly used. The hide can be sold as strips or sheets, made into twists or braids, or even formed into shapes. Many rawhide products are sold as whole pieces, such as pig ears or bully sticks (beef pizzles). Often the rawhide will be treated with a flavoring agent to make it even more appealing to your dog.

Rawhide vs beefhide: What's the difference?

All beefhide products are rawhide, but not all rawhide products are beefhide. The only difference between rawhide and beefhide is that rawhide can be made from any animal hide, or even a mixture of more than one type of hide. Beefhide, on the other hand, is specifically made from bovine hides. The process for turning these hides into dog treats remains largely the same regardless of the type of hide used. Manufacturers of rawhide chew treats are not required to list the source of the hide on the treat label, so some pet owners feel more comfortable purchasing beefhide treats for their dogs because they know exactly what they are getting. However, because beefhide is still a rawhide product, it has all the same pros and cons as other rawhide treats for dogs.

Pros and cons of rawhide products

Many dogs love rawhide treats because they are flavorful and satisfy a dog’s natural inclination to chew. Providing appropriate chew treats and toys can help curb boredom and prevent your dog from chewing on inappropriate surfaces, like table legs or your favorite slippers. Because rawhides tend to last longer than other treats, they can also be a great way to keep your dog busy and provide mental stimulation throughout the day. Some varieties of rawhide treats are also treated with enzymes to help breakdown plaque and tartar, which can help improve your dog’s dental health even though it’s not a substitute for daily brushing.

However, rawhide and beefhide treats do have some drawbacks. Many dogs experience digestive upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea, from eating rawhide treats. Large chunks of treats that are swallowed may also pose a choking hazard or obstruct the digestive tract, requiring emergency veterinary care. Some rawhide chews are too hard for a dog’s teeth and may cause fractured teeth or damaged enamel, requiring general anesthesia and professional veterinary dentistry to address the problem. Rawhide treats are also a significant source of extra calories, which can contribute to weight gain and obesity.

Rawhides don’t just pose a risk to dogs, either. Studies have shown that rawhide treats can be contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and Clostridium difficile (C. diff). These pathogens can not only make your dog sick, but they have also been associated with illness in pet owners who were handling the contaminated rawhide treats. These findings are particularly concerning for households with young, elderly, or immunocompromised family members who may be more susceptible to such infections.

rawhide vs. beefhide

(Image credit: Getty)

Choosing the best chew treats for your dog

Although rawhides can be great for keeping your dog occupied, they may worsen behavior problems in some dogs. If your dog has shown signs of resource guarding behavior – such as growling, snapping, or trying to keep treats away from other dogs or people – then long-lasting treats like rawhide or beefhide may not be a good choice. In these cases, it’s best to stick with treats that can be immediately consumed so that your dog will not be inclined to guard them.

For dogs that do well with long-lasting treats but cannot tolerate rawhides, there are a number of other options to satisfy their need for chewing and mental stimulation. Another option is learning how to use kong toys or slow feeders filled with some of your dog’s favorite treats or kibble to keep him occupied. Rubber chew toys designed to dispense treats are another great option, and they can be filled with peanut butter or cheese and frozen to make an extra long-lasting snack. Some dogs will even enjoy crunching on frozen carrots or celery sticks in place of their usual rawhide chews! For dogs that prefer more traditional treats, look for products labeled with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal, which ensures that the treat will prevent plaque and tartar formation, so your dog will get some dental health benefits in addition to satisfying his snack cravings!

Is rawhide bad for dogs?

Many dogs chew rawhide treats throughout their entire lives without ever encountering a problem, so it’s tough to claim that all rawhide treats are bad for all dogs. However, rawhide and beefhide treats do carry significant risks. If you do decide to feed your dog rawhide or beefhide, make sure you supervise your dog the entire time he is chewing the rawhide to ensure he doesn’t swallow any large pieces. If your dog does develop any health concerns, like digestive upset or dental problems, consult your veterinarian and consider switching to one of the alternative treat options discussed above.

Elizabeth Racine, DVM

Since obtaining her doctorate in veterinary medicine, Dr. Racine has worked exclusively in small animal general practice. Her work has been featured in blog posts, articles, newsletters, journals, and even video scripts.