7 Healthy Alternatives to Rawhide

Dogs love a good chew, but many have issues with rawhide. Try one of these healthy alternatives.

From the moment I adopted my very first dog — or more precisely, about 4.5 hours into the happy arrival — I’ve recognized the importance of keeping canines constructively occupied. Dogs are some of the most loyal, loving creatures around; but they need their fair share of attention and stimulation to thrive. Boredom is bad for a dog, and I’ve found that it can also be horrendous for your personal belongings. Whether it’s cord chewing, blanket bunching, sofa shredding, trash tipping, peevish piddling, cushion crushing, or some creative hybrid mixture, our canines will find a way to communicate their craving for constructive activity. And when they do, heaven help our households.

To me, rawhides always seemed like a convenient go-to option for those times when I couldn’t provide direct, sustained canine engagement. They were readily available at the grocery store, sturdy enough to withstand extended gnaw-time — and in many cases, even promoted as “all natural.” Occasionally, though, I began to notice that some of my dogs would break out in rashes or experience bouts of diarrhea after lengthy chomping sessions. It was only after the vet put one of my pups on a chew-excluding “allergy diet” that I made any sort of connection.

After looking into the manufacturing journey of a typical rawhide chew, I began to search for healthier alternatives. Chews made from rawhide are technically considered “food” under FDA law (so long as the label contains no reference to specific nutritional value). However, suffice it to say that not all manufacturers adhere to regulations we humans would consider entirely safe or wholesome.

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Rawhide chews by Shutterstock.

So let’s assume you’re considering smart, healthy chew alternatives. What are the options? As you probably know, every dog has a different “chewing personality.” Pups like our Grant prefer either meditative munching or outright ingestion, with absolutely no middle ground. Our sweetly winsome Maizy, on the other hand, sports a shockingly heavyweight set of wolf-like chompers that can decimate most objects with mind-boggling levels of speed and precision. Fortunately, there’s a range of options for nearly every pooch proclivity. Here are a few of our household-tested favorites.

1. Carrots

What’s up, doc? Well, for starters, these colorful root veggies are affordable, easy to find, low in calories, and a great source of B vitamins, biotin, fiber, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin K. Dogs often enjoy the mildly sweet taste, and a larger-sized carrot can occupy many pups for up to half an hour or more (unless that pup is Maizy). Keep your carrots in the fridge so they stay extra-crisp, and consider organic brands to minimize pesticide residue.

2. Bully Sticks

These are made from all-natural bull (ahem) parts — just Google it — and they’re not necessarily my favorite due to their relatively strong aroma (which I’ve even detected with the “low-odor” varieties). However, many pups love them — and many pet parents appreciate the lack of preservatives and chemical additives. They tend to last a reasonably long time, unless you have a highly dedicated chewer. In that case, ounce for ounce, supplying your canine can get somewhat expensive.

Tip: We love the bully sticks from this site, since each one sold provides a meal for a shelter pup!

3. Life’s Abundance Buffalo Bully Sticks

These are a leaner alternative to beef, because they’re made from free-range, grass-fed buffalo. This particular brand doesn’t contain additives or preservatives, and I don’t find the sticks to be quite as “aromatic” as the basic beef variety. If your dog really goes to town on the typical chew, however, I’ve seen these leave a bit of residue on lighter carpets.

4. Deer Antlers

Dog chewing on antler by Shutterstock.
Dog chewing on antler by Shutterstock.

I’ve read that deer and elk naturally shed their antlers every spring. Someone, somewhere figured out that those orphaned antlers could be gathered, cleaned, and cut to create one seriously heavy-duty chomping option. So far, Maizy has barely been able to make a dent in these — they’re like the all-natural Kryptonite of chews. If you have a similarly steadfast chewer, I’d suggest buying antlers with smoothed, blunted ends for safety’s sake.

5. Barkworthies Crocodile Dog Bones

Crikey! Behold these natural bundles of glucosamine and chondroitin, which can help support hip and joint health. Croc bones also provide a nice boost of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. They’re sourced from Australia; and they’re free of additives, chemicals, and preservatives. Unlike rawhide, they’re also fully digestible — so they’re not likely to cause intestinal issues if your dog decides to gulp down the entire chew (looking straight at you, Grant the Inhaler).

6. Himalayan Dog Chews

My dogs adore these — and their backstory is fascinating. They’re basically a hardened cheese made from yak and/or cow milk. They’re created using a traditional recipe that’s been chewed by the mountainous people of the Himalayas for generations. Specifically, they’re designed to be held in the mouth without breaking down for extended intervals of time. I appreciate the fact that they’re preservative-free, fully digestible, evidently very tasty, and CRAZY long-lasting. Say cheese? Yes, please.

7. Sam’s Yams Big Boyz

These are simply thick-cut wedges of dehydrated sweet potato, and merely waving the bag in Grant’s vague direction elicits a frenzied, completely unsolicited performance of every trick that crazy dog has ever learned. The texture is similar to rawhide, with the nutritional value of natural sweet potato. The product comes in different sizes, but the Big Boyz version can actually stand up to a typically mind-boggling Maizy chew session. FYI, you can also create something similar at home by cutting a sweet potato in wedges, then baking in a 250-degree oven for roughly three hours. Easy, healthy, yummy.

Do you have safe, natural rawhide alternatives your furry friend seems to love? Share your suggestions below!

Top photo: Parson Jack Russell Terrier chewing a carrot by Shutterstock.

Marybeth Bittel

Marybeth Bittel

Marybeth lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, and her rescue dogs Grant and Maizy — all of them Heinz 57 mixed-breed types. A freelance writer and marketing consultant, she’s been rehabilitating severely abused rescues for over two decades. She’s currently working toward specialized certifications in animal nutrition counseling. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her family Instagram feed.

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