Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Rawhide Alternatives For Dogs: 10 Healthy & Safe Options

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Frenchi with Rawhide

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. Keep reading to see our 10 favorite healthy rawhide alternatives for dogs!

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.

divider 10

The 10 Best Healthy Rawhide Alternatives for Dogs:

1. Tendons

Pomeranian Eating Tendon
Image Credit: sommart sombutwanitkul, shutterstock

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 rawhide alternatives promotes sustainable agriculture where everything gets used.

  • Tough consistency
  • Affordably priced
  • Supports nose-to-tail agriculture
  • Increased allergy risk with flavored products

2. Lamb Horn

Cockerspaniel Eating Lamb Honr
Image Credit By: Icelandic+, chewy

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.

  • High nutritional value
  • Good for plaque build-up on your pet’s teeth
  • Limited choices
  • Doesn’t last long

3. Chicken Feet

Chicken Feet
Image Credit By: maerzkind, shutterstock

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.

  • Affordable
  • Highly flavored
  • Not appropriate for larger dogs
  • Too close to the bone for some owners

4. Ears

GreatDane Eating Pig Ears
Image Credit By: Christian Mueller, shutterstock

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.

  • Available in bulk
  • Several meat sources
  • Easily digestible
  • Supports sustainable agriculture
  • Occasional foodborne illness issues
  • Can stain carpeting

5. Hooves

EcoKind Dog Filled Hooves
Image Credit By: EcoKind, chewy

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.

  • High-quality protein source
  • Support dental health
  • Breaks too easily for larger dogs
  • Stinky

6. Bully Sticks

Pug Eating Bully Stick
Image Credit By: Top Dog Chews, chewy

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.

  • Excellent protein source
  • Easily digestible
  • Different shapes for all breed sizes
  • Messy
  • Smelly
Dog Watcher
Chewy logo

35% OFF at Chewy.com

+ FREE Shipping on Pet Food and Supplies

How to redeem this offer

7. Frozen Carrots

Dog Eating Carrots
Image Credit By: Bhitakbongse Lee, Shutterstock

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.

  • Excellent nutritional content
  • Readily available
  • Easy to prepare
  • Messy

8. Yak Snak

Poodle Eating Yak
Image Credit By: Jim Hodges Dog Training, Chewy

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.

  • Low-fat
  • Grain-free
  • Supports sustainable farming
  • Expensive
  • Must monitor your pet while eating it

9. Nylabone

Golden Retriever with Rawhide
Image Credit By: Nylabone DuraChew, Chewy

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.

  • Long-lasting
  • No mess
  • Supports dental health
  • Unacceptable texture to some dogs

10. Small Butcher’s Cut Chicken Chews Dog Treats

Dream Bone
Image Credit By: DreamBone, chewy

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.

  • Plant-based treat
  • Highly digestible
  • Not suitable for larger dogs
  • GI issues a problem for some pets

Divider 3

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.

Divider 7

Rawhide Alternatives: Final Thoughts

Luckily, you’ll find plenty of healthy rawhide alternatives for dogs 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

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database