Can Puppies Have Rawhide?

When you adopt a puppy, you take on the enormous responsibility of being their mom and showing them all the things they need to have a good doggy life. One of those responsibilities is feeding your puppy the best food, significantly impacting their health, wellness, and longevity.

Here’s the thing; a healthy puppy fed the wrong food can become a very unhealthy dog with long-term health problems. Feed them poorly enough, and, sadly, they will probably die too young. On the other hand, when fed the right food, a sickly puppy can become healthy, happy, and go on to live a long, beautiful life. 

This makes it essential to get your puppy the right food for their size, age, and breed. It also means giving your puppy treats and snacks that don’t put the hurt on their little doggy bodies. Snacks and treats loaded with salt, fat, sugar, high-fructose corns syrup, you get the idea. 

Giving your puppy the best also includes one item that, while not meant to be eaten per se, often does get et (piece by tiny piece); rawhide bones. As we all know, dogs and bones go together like peas and carrots, and rawhide bones are a canine fave. However, they’re meant for adult dogs, which brings me to a question I frequently hear from readers and followers: Can puppies have rawhide?

From my research, I’ve found that puppies under six months of age should not be given rawhide bones for several reasons. The first is that they have very delicate teeth that could crack or otherwise break from chewing on rawhide, which is very tough stuff. 

Also, with smaller, weaker GI tracts for eliminating waste, even if the rawhide goes into your puppy, it’s going to have a challenging time coming back out the other end. And remember that, even after they’ve reached the 6-month mark, traditional rawhide bones might not be an ideal choice for a growing puppy. (I’ve got some recommendations for alternatives further down.)

Is Rawhide Safe for Dogs?

A growing volume of dog experts and veterinarians say that rawhide bones are not always safe for dogs. That includes the AKC, who say that they are safe for some dogs but very much the opposite for other dogs, depending on their size, how they eat, etc.

The (incredibly gross) thing is that rawhide bones are made from the exceptionally nasty leftovers of the leather industry. The average rawhide bone is made from a cowhide taken directly from a slaughterhouse kill floor. After that, it’s put into a salt brine to slow its inevitable decay and, in most cases, sent to China.

In China, where let’s be honest, the laws are very lax, the leather industry’s cast-off is treated with lime and has all the hair removed with chemicals. Once that’s done, it’s packed up and sent over to America and all of the other first-world countries that typically give their dogs rawhide bones. (So, yeah, really, genuinely gross stuff is done to make rawhide bones.)

What Risks do Rawhide Bones Pose to Puppies?

I talked about the risk of your puppy hurting their teeth or GI tract from eating rawhide bones. There are, however, several other problems that they can cause, including:

  • Most rawhide chews and bones are made with harsh chemicals, preservatives, and, of all things, bleach. Chemicals like these could cause a world of problems for your pup.
  • Choking Is a real and constant possibility with rawhide chews, especially if your pup happens to bite off a large chunk. 
  • Many dogs have suffered gastrointestinal blockages that, unfortunately, were fatal due to a large piece of rawhide becoming lodged in their GI tract and festering.

When Can my Puppy have Rawhide?

Here’s the deal; many puppies over six months old can have rawhide bones, but many still can’t. (Yes, that’s a vague answer, but it’s the best one I’ve got.)  Every puppy is different, and thus you will need to make that decision once you get to it. I recommend asking your veterinarian their opinion before purchasing any rawhide bones or treats for your puppy.

One good rule of thumb is to go by the size of your puppy. Larger pups typically have an easier time with rawhide bones and less risk of choking. That’s not to say that a small but fierce puppy wouldn’t dig into a rawhide bone, but just that their smaller esophagus and GI tract can be problematic.

Rawhide Alternatives for Puppies 

If you want to provide an alternative to rawhide for your puppy, the good news is that there are plenty of them. Indeed, canine health experts recommend a more easily digestible type of rawhide treat, one made without artificial ingredients that will break down more easily than regular rawhide bones. Some of the best alternatives for rawhide bones include the following (some of which may surprise you):

  • Pig and Cow Ears. Usually relatively healthy and safe for puppies and dogs, pig and cow ears are mostly cartilage. That means they can’t splinter like bones, substantially reducing the danger sharp bones cause.
  • Bully Sticks. Made from, yes, bull penis bones bully sticks prove that nose-to-tail agriculture produces some interesting products. 
  • Frozen Carrots. Already rigid, when you freeze carrots, you give your pup a treat that’s healthy and one they can chew on happily.
  • Nylabones. 
  • No-Hide Chicken Chews from Earth Animal. (I like these a lot.) Made from farm-raised chickens that are never treated with hormones, chemicals are steroids; these are an excellent rawhide alternative. 
  • Salmon Skin Bones- Bones made from dried salmon skin would seem to be a no-brainer for dogs (especially dogs who don’t like non-meat alternatives). They’re surprisingly tough and typically last a long time.

Final Thoughts

Can puppies have rawhide is a commonly asked question; it’s true. It’s also true that rawhide bones are one of the most popular treats given to dogs in the United States. Should they be given to puppies? Not to puppies that are less than six months old and, in some cases, not to some puppies at all.  

Rawhide bones pose several health risks for a puppy, including damage to their teeth, choking, and intestinal blockage. Also, if you knew what they made rawhide bones from, you might not want to give them to your puppy or dog at all. 

Also, even adult dogs will sometimes have a problem with rawhide bones, which means you should always stay around and make sure they’re okay if you decide to give them one, at least for the first few times.

I hope today’s blog about puppies and rawhide was informative and answered any questions you might have had. If you have more questions or would like to become a more informed puppy parent, please see my other blogs on the subject. They’re filled with real-world information that you can use to ensure your puppy grows into a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted adult dog.