Rawhide And Your Dog's Health

How your dog benefits from rawhide and how to choose the correct chew for your dog…

For centuries, wild canines and their predecessors chewed on the hides of their hoofed prey. Chewing the tough hide provided cleaning action for teeth, exercise for gums, and a source of sport for the young. Only since 1959 have we recognized the dog’s natural desire to chew animal skin and its benefit to domestic dogs.


What is rawhide?

Rawhide is the inner layer of the hide of any cleft-hoofed bovine livestock. Beef hide is premium rawhide made from cows raised for consumption. American beef hide is derived from corn-fed cows within U.S. borders.

What makes rawhide so tough?

Collagen fibers link to make the hide tough yet flexible. Human skin has the same basic structure, but is much thinner.

Where does it come from?

The quality of rawhide is often related to its country of origin:

Oriental Water Buffalo – Raised to work in the fields of countries like China, Thailand, and Korea, they are a common source of rawhide.

South American Range Cows – These animals are fed on grass and typically have little fat and a rough, fibrous consistency. They are warm-weather animals with a thinner skin.

American Beef hide – Corn-fed beef raised in the U.S. supply a thick, palatable, and high-quality chew. American beef hide is considered “the source” of choice for premium chews.

What is it made from?

The animal’s skin is split into inner and outer layers. The tough outer layer is used for leather shoes, garments, and upholstery, while the softer inner layer is cut and formed into different shapes for dog chews.

How is it processed?
The animal’s hide is transported to processing plants where it is split, washed, and cleaned. The hides are then cut, formed, and dried into the many varieties of rawhide you see in the stores.

In less developed countries, a lack of modern roads and refrigerated trucks often requires the use of preservatives to get skins from some outlying areas to processing plants. In the U.S., fresh beef hides are refrigerated during shipping to prevent degradation and avoid preservatives.

Will my dog chew such a hard rawhide?
When collagen in the skin dries out, it becomes stiff. As your dog chews, the saliva moistens and softens the rawhide. Foreign rawhide is often sun parched, while U.S. beef hide is oven dried to prevent over-drying. Smooth, shiny areas on a chew are a sign of heat breakdown and should be avoided.

How can chews help my dog?

Chews offer two valuable benefits to your dog:

Dental Benefits

Infections, kidney, and heart disease can result when poor dental health gives bacteria a channel to enter your dog’s body.

Bacteria in the dog’s mouth break down food particles and convert them to plaque and excess acid. This plaque can become mineralized to form a hard deposit on the tooth surface called “calculus”. The excess acid damages the gums, resulting in gingivitis. Unchecked gingivitis results in periodontitis, the leading cause of tooth loss.

As rawhide is chewed and moistened, it wraps around the teeth and rubs off plaque and calculi. Wild hunting canines tore through their prey’s skin with their canines (front teeth). Modern dogs chew most foods and beef hide with their molars (back teeth), leaving the canine teeth susceptible to plaque and calculus buildup.

Rawhide’s cleaning effect
New research from Harvard University has conclusively proven the dental benefits of chewing rawhide.

Cleaner teeth mean fresher breath
Most bad breath in dogs is caused by gum disease. Inflamed gums, plaque, and calculus harbor the bacteria that creates mouth odor. Even young dogs need dental care – 85% of dogs two years old or more have some periodontal disease. Ask your veterinarian about a program to keep your dog’s teeth clean.

Veterinarian’s role in dental health
Tooth care is crucial to your dog’s health. Your dog’s teeth should be examined by a veterinarian yearly, and cleaned and polished as needed. Veterinarians recommend daily brushing to prevent plaque buildup. Use beef hide chews daily to supplement brushing. Harper’s Dental Chews are specially formulated to reduce the formation of plaque.

Choosing the Correct Chew

Types of Chews:
Best for:

1. BASTED RAWHIDE/BEEF HIDE
Chicken, beef, or other coatings make chews tastier to your dog. Most of these coatings are water-soluble and do not stain. Very, very choosy dogs
2. GROUND RAWHIDE CHEWS
These chews come in all shapes and colors and consist of ground rawhide held together with a binder.
Choosy dogs, dogs with sensitive mouths
3. AMERICAN BEEF HIDE CHEWS
Made from U.S. feeder cattle. It is the premium chew because of its consistency, softness, and taste.
Most healthy dogs
4. RAWHIDE CHEWS
Made from water buffalo, range cows, and others.
Aggressive chewers
5. PRESSED RAWHIDE CHEWS
Made from layers of skin pressed together by machine. It is very hard.
Very aggressive chewers

Choosing size and shape
Your dog’s preference will vary with different beef hide shapes. Fortunately, chews come in every size and shape imaginable. It is important that the chew be large enough and thick enough that your dog cannot easily chew off and swallow a large piece or the whole chew. Rawhide that requires more than 7 days to chew should be replaced due to dirt and bacteria buildup.

Which dog should not have chews?

If your dog has gastrointestinal disease or is eating a therapeutic diet, you should seek a veterinarian’s approval before feeding chews. Dogs with beef allergies or that consistently swallow bones whole should probably not receive chews.

How often should I feed chews?

Rawhide is not a food, but a safe, chewable toy. It is high in protein, low in fat, and has fewer calories per ounce than a typical dog biscuit. An hour of chewing daily is a good rule for thumb for feeding chews.

Shop for Quality

* Select
Thick rawhide/beef hide that lasts.
* Avoid
Paper-thin, tightly wrapped chews with sharp edges.
* Select
Beef hide with natural color variations.
* Avoid
Over-processed chews with a stark white or whitewashed surface.

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