Originally Posted by RufeliRu
a friend of mine who has boxers tells me you should NEVER give boxers rawhide bones as they cant digest them, and was horrified. I felt very guilty as I had never heard this before... is this true?
I'm going to chime in here just because I hear this statement from people all the time and want to dispell some of the myths surrounding rawhide. Rawhide can be a horrible item to give your dog but it can also be a great item to give your dog--it depends on the rawhide and it depends on the dog.
Rawhide comes in three varieties: flat/rolled, chipped, and compressed. Rolled rawhide is flat sheets of rawhide that can be rolled and shaped, often knotted. Some dogs are heavy chewers and can get big hunks of it off and swallow them whole. If they do it can cause obstructions that require surgery. Chipped rawhide is like particle board. It is little bits of rawhide that are moistened and pressed together. Chipped rawhide is easier to chew apart and so doesn't typically last as long but there is less risk of obstruction since it is easier to chew apart and breaks up when in the stomach. Compressed rawhide is the most dense rawhide. It is lots of layers of flat rawhide compressed into the most dense, durable rawhide product. As dogs chew, they moisten the compressed rawhide and end up scraping off pastey bits of it. Compressed rawhide offers the longest chew time.
Rawhide doesn't sit well with all dogs. It upsets some dog's digestive systems and can cause diarhea. All rawhide swells when it wets, so it is usually not advised to allow a dog to ingest great quantities. Too much rawhide can cause vomiting in some dogs.
That being said, rawhide can be a great chew item for some dogs. I had a Lab that was a "nibbler". It would take her a long time to work her way through a rolled rawhide. She would chew some, then leave it, then go back to it. Rawhide was a nice, inexpensive chew item for her that satisified her need to chew, didn't upset her stomach, and kept her teeth clean. My current Boxer mix is a "gnawer" she would make short work of a rolled rawhide but does fine with a compressed rawhide. Because it is so dense, I make sure to take it away when it gets small enough that she might swallow it. Beef rawhide doesn't sit well with her, but pork hide does, so she gets compressed pork rawhide and loves it. When my little Rat Terrier was new to me, I gave him chipped rawhide sticks because he didn't have that drive to chew a denser product. The chipped rawhide was easy enough for him to chew and because it broke apart easier than the denser products, it satisfied his less intense chewing style.
The key to giving rawhide safely is knowing your dog and what type of chewer they are. Pick the product that matches their chewing style. Always give an appropriate sized rawhide and once the dog chews enough so they can fit the rawhide in their mouth, take it away so they don't swallow it whole. Only give rawhide in moderation until you know how it will affect your dog's digestive system. In general, I avoid rawhide knots or shapes that might be easy to swallow whole. I prefer to give sticks or long bone-shaped rawhide. Always supervise your dog when they have rawhide.
To offer a different perspective on other common chew items, my female (the gnawer) has broken two teeth, one on a bone and one on an anter. Both teeth had to be extracted under anesthesia. I knew a dog that once swallowed a Kong--it was an inappropriate size for the dog. I know a dog that had to have surgery to remove pieces of the largest, black (most durable) Kong when he decided to chew it apart and eat the pieces. I knew a dog that got a bully stick wedged sideways between his upper teeth and then got his tongue stuck above it and started gagging.
No chew item is without risk.