Rawhides Or Antlers: Which Should You Give Your Dog?
There are tons of choices out there when it comes to treats and toys for your dog to chew on, but if your dogs are anything like ours, plastic toys (even the ones claiming to be impossible to tear apart) are out of the question. We have personally seen our husky Mayla tear apart then try to eat some of the toughest toys around, and we aren't going to keep testing to find one that can hold up (unless anyone has a suggestion!). That being said, there have been two top contenders over the years. The expensive but durable antler, and the cheap(ish) and quick rawhide. We have found that most dogs who come to Summit for boarding usually have one or the other, and people tend to have strong opinions about both, so we decided to dive in and do a little bit of research to find the real risks and benefits of both.
So, what really are rawhides?
Rawhide bones are made from the inner layer of cowhides. These layers are then cleaned and cut into the desired shapes, then usually flavored & dried. In the United States, these Rawhides must be washed with detergents and degreasers, sterilized with hydrogen peroxide and rinsed. In other countries, regulations might not be in place to keep these chews safe (but there have been no documented toxic chews since the 1980s). I should also add that the FDA does not regulate the manufacturing of rawhides in the US, so it's up to us consumers to hold these companies accountable for their practices.
The bad, and the ugly
Aside from the fact that there are no regulations on these treats, there are a few more downsides to consider. One of them being that one treat that is approximately 2x6 inches and only an eighth of an inch thick packs 100 calories, and as you could guess that amount increases exponentially with size.
As I previously discussed, rawhides can also be a potential choking hazard for your dogs. If your dog tends to swallow his food or things he chews whole, a delicious tough rawhide may not be the best choice. So make sure to watch your pup next time you give them a rawhide to make sure they aren't trying to inhale it.
Lastly, rawhides can give your dog some GI issues if they eat too much or too frequently. From what I gathered it would be like us eating a large number of cupcakes frequently, and we all know that wouldn't end well.
The good news is that there are some benefits to rawhides. The biggest one is that dogs love them, and who doesn't enjoy giving their dog a nice treat every now and then? Additionally, while satisfying your dog's need to chew they also help keep their teeth, jaw, and breath healthier through chewing and scraping off plaque and tartar.
Despite the upfront cost of antlers, I have found these to be my favorite option for our dogs. The main reason being that it isn't gone in 10 minutes, and you can leave them around for your dog to pick up when they feel like knawing on something. Some sites I read through said they can last up to a year depending on your dog's chewing habits (although ours have never made it anywhere near that mark). Here are the top pros and cons I found on antler chews:
-As I said earlier, they last much longer than the raw alternative
-Antlers do not splinter as easily as most other bone chews (poultry, pork, & any other cooked bone should probably not be given to a dog, as they splinter very easily which can cause significant damage to your dog's mouth, throat, and intestines. If you want to read more about it, here is a good place to start)
-They don't have the potential dyes and chemicals that some rawhides do
-They don't leave a sticky mess
-They are harm-free, as antler shedding is a natural process
-They do contain some vitamins
-They are generally natural
-They are very hard and could end up causing damage to your dog's teeth, gums, and mouth if the dog chews too aggressively
-Although they splinter less, they can still splinter, which can cause a variety of issues for your dog
-They can also be a potential choking hazard
-They are a bit more expensive than other chews
So now what?
At the end of the day, you're going to find varying opinions on any dog toy or chew. Some will tell you that antlers are dangerous or that rawhides will make your dog fat, and most of the information out there is biased towards one or the other. What I gathered is that it is up to you to make sure your dog is chewing the right thing for him/her. If you have a large dog, you should probably give him a large bone. If your dog tends to inhale things, maybe stay away from rawhides, and I'd say it is a good idea to avoid the cheapest version of any dog treat. Just like human food, there are levels in the quality of chew and the process in which it was made, and if you're giving your dog rawhides all day every day, it probably isn't doing your dog any favors. Just like giving a dog who chews aggressively a smaller antler wouldn't be very smart either. My suggestion, find what works for your dog by giving them higher-end products and monitoring them as they chew. There are going to be pros and cons to any dog toy or chew, and if you bring your dog into Summit with either don't worry, we won't judge, we'll just make sure it is safe:).
the top toys/chews for our dogs at summit pet resort
This company has been around for a while, and make chews in the United States with no hormones, dyes, glues, GMO's, etc. These chews make a great occasional treat for our dogs.
The Chuck-It Pro Launcher and Chuck-It Whistle Balls
While the "Pro" model might not be necessary, we enjoy the grip and added tossing power. Our Husky Kubo isn't exactly built to retrieve, and the whistle balls make a loud noise to help him stay on track.
Great chews made by great people, right here in Bozeman. These guys bring their dogs here to Summit and have a huge selection of natural, safe chews so your dog is bound to find its perfect fit. Shop local and check 'em out!