Rawhide sounds so rustic and natural, doesn’t it?
As the oldest chew on the market, rawhide is frequently on the tip of many owners’ tongues when they think of giving their dogs something long-lasting to chomp on.
But rawhide is something you should never give your Boxer.
This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer here.
What Is Rawhide?
Rawhide is a by-product of the leather industry that is repurposed as a cheap chew for dogs.
It is not made of meat or dehydrated beef.
Rather, it is the inner layer of a horse or cowhide, leftover after the outer portion has been tanned and made into leather goods.
Why Rawhide Is Dangerous For Boxers
There are multiple reasons why rawhide is dangerous for Boxers.
First of all, it is full of toxic chemicals.
Secondly, rawhide is highly indigestible, poses a choking hazard and can cause intestinal blockages.
Thirdly, rawhide is contaminated with bacteria often enough that there have been numerous recalls over the years.
Rawhide Is Full Of Chemicals
Though sometimes marketed as “all natural”, rawhide is highly processed and chemically treated.
Testing has found rawhide contains a toxic cocktail of chemical residues including:
- chromium salts
These contaminants are used in the treatment process, which typically sees rawhide doused with chemicals half a dozen times including:
- a chemical bath to slow the rate of decay during transportation from slaughterhouse to tannery
- soaking in an ash-lye solution or highly toxic sodium sulphide liming to strip the hair and fat from the hide
- further chemical treatment to help split the hide into layers
- washing and whitening using hydrogen peroxide, bleach or something stronger
- painting with artificial dyes, flavorings including the carcinogen FD&C Red 40, preservatives like sodium benzoate and titanium dioxide
- gluing the rawhide into appealing shapes
Rawhide Can Cause Choking And Abdominal Obstructions
Rawhide is folded into shapes while it is wet.
The dried product shrinks considerably.
When it’s rehydrated by your dog’s saliva .. and then again in his stomach .. the rawhide swells back to its original size.
Which, together with its indigestibility, might explain why the labelling on some rawhides openly acknowledges the product is known to cause choking and blockages.
The warning literally says:
Rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.
Sound like a pleasant way for your Boxer to while away the afternoon?
Rawhide Suffers Contamination
Rawhides have been recalled over the years for various problems including:
- contamination with an antimicrobial solution of quaternary ammonia (this was the basis of a 2017 recall by United Pet Group)
In exchange for its risks .. rawhide provides zero benefits to your Boxer aside from occupying him for the time it takes to consume the product.
This can be done with other chews that are much safer, actually clean your Boxer’s teeth and are nutritionally beneficial.
Where Is Rawhide Made?
According to veterinarian Dr Jean Dodds, most rawhides come from:
- Central America
- South America
China is particularly problematic as a source of dog food.
The country has a poor safety record when it comes to the production of pet treats.
In 2007 the US Food and Drug Administration found contaminants in vegetable proteins imported from China and destined for use in pet food.
An investigation resulted in indictments by a federal grand jury over a scheme to import products, said to be wheat gluten, contaminated with melamine.
What is melamine? A chemical used to make plastic plates, utensils and other products.
Other Chews You Should Never Give Your Boxer
Rawhide might be the worst choice of chew for your Boxer but nor should you give him:
- pig ears (also indigestible and a choking/blockage risk)
- dental chews (artificial, highly processed and full of additives, preservatives and ingredients your dog is better off without)
- cooked bones (cooking makes bones brittle and likely to splinter and perforate the gut)
- inedible chew toys (these can be made from nylon, plastic or rubber .. none of which belong in your dog’s mouth)
- bully sticks (pizzles) that are cooked or smoked (dehydrated beef penis is more acceptable, as long as it’s been done 100% without chemicals and preservatives)
Alternatives To Rawhide
There is no need to take the risk of giving your dog a manufactured treat to satisfy his urge to chew.
Nature has done the work for you.
The best chew you can possibly give your Boxer is the one he was, in fact, designed to consume: raw meaty bones.
Raw meaty bones are:
- nutritional powerhouses
- nature’s toothbrushes, shown to dramatically reduce dental tartar by as much as 87 per cent after just 20 days
- safe (raw bones won’t splinter like cooked ones)
- 100% digestible (remember raw meaty bones are what dogs have eaten for a million years and their digestive system is adapted to their consumption, with very strong stomach acid)
- psychologically satisfying (carnivores derive mental health benefits from long periods spent devouring bones)
Your Boxer will never tire of raw meaty bones, for the rest of his life.
You can’t go wrong as long as you opt for non-weight bearing bones, as opposed to marrow bones or soup bones.
Bones like lamb necks are a great choice as they’re softer than weight-bearing bones like femurs and so are less likely to crack teeth.
They’re also far less fatty than marrow bones.
Lamb necks have the added bonus of coming from young animals and so the tissues will contain far fewer toxins than bones from older animals.
Animals store toxins in their adipose (fat) tissue and pass their toxic load up the food chain when eaten, just as small fish pass heavy metals like mercury up the food chain where it builds up in bigger, long-lived fish like tuna.
In a younger animal there’s simply been less time for these toxins to accumulate.
Although not always affordable, buying organic and grass-fed where you can also helps on this front.
See also: Can Boxers Eat Bones?
How To Tell If A Chew Is Right Your Boxer
It’s most advisable to stick to raw meaty bones.
Whenever considering giving your dog a manufactured treat, ask yourself:
- What is it made from? (Make sure you fully understand all ingredients)
- How is it made? (Are any chemicals used and preservatives added?)
- Is it shelf stable? (Chews with long expiry dates are likely artificially preserved in some way)
- Is it cooked? (Dehydrated might be acceptable but cooked food is not biologically-appropriate for dogs)
- Where is it made? (Made in USA is likely to be higher quality. Avoid Made in China. Unfortunately some Amercan-made products still contain ingredients from China)
- Would a dog naturally choose to consume this?
Avoid loose chews in discount barrels that come with no labelling and no way to answer the above questions.
Always supervise your Boxer when giving things to chew.
Dogs need to chew for their mental and dental health .. so there are plenty of reasons to provide your dog with this outlet.
Just stay away from rawhide and other highly processed and indigestible products.
Raw meaty bones carry none of the downsides of manufactured chews .. and offer a host of benefits.
The Problem with Rawhide Chews for Dogs, Dr Jean Dodds, Hemopet, July 13, 2020
Rawhide: The Most Dangerous Pet Chew Ever! Rodney Habib, Dogs Naturally Magazine, June 1, 2020
Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007, Food and Drug Administration, 09/04/2018
Dogs Love These but They Can Crack Teeth and Become a Choking Hazard, Dr Karen Becker, Mercola Healthy Pets, June 10, 2018
Raw beef bones as chewing items to reduce dental calculus in Beagle dogs, FR Marx et al, Australian Veterinary Journal, 26 January 2016
Carcass feeding of captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus): The effects of a naturalistic feeding program on oral health and psychological wellbeing, Julie C Bond et al, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 1990