Rawhide chews do have health benefits for dogs, but there are some dangers associated with them as well. In general, high-quality rawhide chews that have been stored properly are safe and healthy when offered in moderation.
Dogs have a strong instinct to chew, and rawhides can provide a safe outlet for it. Chewing naturally cleans a dog's teeth, which results in fresher breath and fewer dental problems as the dog ages. It also provides mental stimulation, leading to a happier dog.
The most serious risks associated with rawhide chews are intestinal blockages, choking and contamination. Choking and blockages are usually caused when the dog eats the rawhide too quickly or eats too much. Rawhides may not be safe for dogs who gulp down their food. Contamination occurs when bacteria or toxins are introduced into the rawhide during manufacture or storage. Buying fresh, high-quality rawhides from reputable manufacturers can help minimize this risk.
Gastric irritation may be the most common side effect from rawhide consumption. It results in vomiting or diarrhea and can be mild, although it is uncomfortable for the dog. More serious or prolonged cases can result in dehydration or other complications.
These risks can be reduced by only feeding rawhide chews under supervision and removing the treat if the dog is eating too quickly. For households with multiple dogs, it may also be a good idea to separate the animals since resource guarding can cause a dog to swallow too-large pieces.