A Guide to Dried Beef Scalps for Dogs (by Ruth the Vet)

beef scalps for dogs

If you’re looking for a new tasty treat, you might have come across dried beef scalps for dogs. They are a more unusual snack for our canine friends, and you might have some questions about what exactly they are, and if they are safe to feed. For the answers, read on!

Key facts

Dried beef scalps are made from 100% beef that has been dried and shaped to form a chew. 

Some versions are very low in fat, but some are not. 

The nutritional value of dried beef scalps is low, but dogs often enjoy them, and they may be beneficial for dental health. 

Dried beef scalps should not be fed to puppies under 6-7 months of age. 

The main risks of feeding dried beef scalps are fractured teeth, choking, or a blockage in the intestines.

What Are Dried Beef Scalps?

As the name suggests, Dried Beef Scalps are usually made from beef that has been dried and shaped to form a chew. They can vary quite a bit in size and shape, and may be sold singly or in multi-packs. Some versions are harder than others, and therefore need more chewing!

Provenance

Beef Scalps are made from cow’s skin, usually from over the head but sometimes from other parts of the body. Some versions will also include tendons. These are generally parts of the body that are not used to make human food, but our dogs will happily snack on them!

Individual suppliers will source their ingredients from different places, and you will need to check the packaging to find out the details of your treat. For example, some may be from human-grade meat, or from organic cows, or from high-welfare herds. 

Preparation

The chews are made by air-drying the beef skin in a hot oven. No other ingredients (such as preservatives) are used in this process, so the product is usually 100% beef.  

Depending on how exactly how this process is done, and what meat is used, the chews may be thinner and crisper, or thicker and chewier. 

Some manufacturers will leave the fur on during this process, and you will end up with a chew that is slightly fluffy on one side. This is perfectly healthy for dogs to eat. 

raw feeding

Did you know?

Beef scalps are not a common ingredient in raw diets. The process of making these chew heals involves heating them to around 130oC (266oF), so the chews could not be considered raw either. However, they are generally 100% beef and free from preservatives, so if you are looking to feed your dog an all-natural diet, you could consider including them.

Benefits of Dried Beef Scalps for Dogs

Key benefits

Low Fat
The high protein, low fat composition means they may be a healthier choice of chew.

Long-Lasting
Many beef scalps are heavy-duty chews and may take even big dogs a while to chew!

Dental Health
May effectively remove plaque and tartar.

Dental Health

Beef scalps are abrasive chews, may therefore help to keep down levels of plaque and tartar in your dog’s mouth. This may also help improve the smell of their breath!

However, if your dog has significant levels of plaque or tartar already, they should see a veterinarian for assessment and cleaning before starting any firm chews.

Low Fat

Some beef scalps are low in fat, meaning they may be a healthier option. However, read the packaging carefully, as the fat content varies between products.

Long Chew Time

Depending on how they are made, beef scalps may make a very dense chew which can keep a large adult dog occupied for some time! However, this is not true for all types of beef scalp – some are thinner and lighter, which may be more suitable for smaller dogs.

Natural Wormer?

Some beef scalps are made with the fur left on. This is often advertised as a “natural wormer”, but there have not yet been any scientific studies that prove that it is effective. Worm infections are common in wild carnivores who regularly eat animal hide, so chews like this are not recommended as a treatment or preventative for worm infections in our pets.

Nutritional Information for Dried Beef Scalps

Nutrition
%
Protein
60%-90%
Fat
1%-25%
Ash
1.5%-5%
Moisture
10%-15%
Fiber
0%-1%
Vitamins & Minerals
NONE!

The exact makeup of beef scalps varies quite a lot, depending on the manufacturer and the raw ingredients. 

Some chews are very low fat (less than 1%) but others may be up to a quarter fat. Fatty treats can easily cause an upset stomach in some dogs. More rarely, they may help to trigger pancreatitis, which is a more serious (potentially life-threatening) condition. This means it is important to read the label carefully before buying!

As most of these treats are 100% beef, they may be suitable for dogs who have mild to moderate food allergies to other kinds of meats. However, dogs with serious allergies may react even to trace amounts of other meats that are being handled in the same factory, so they are not likely to be suitable for them. 

If your dog has food allergies, speak to your veterinarian before feeding them beef scalps. 

Vitamins, Minerals & Compounds

Cow’s skin has a low nutritional value, which is part of the reason why it is not a common part of human or dog diets. Beef scalp contains almost no vitamins, minerals, or other compounds of nutritional value. 

Calories

There is no exact information available on the calorie content of beef scalp. However, if you choose a low-fat version, then the calorie count is likely to be fairly low. That doesn’t mean that you should be feeding them too often, though! Once a week should be the maximum for this kind of treat.

Feeding Guide

Choose your pieces of beef scalp carefully, according to the size of your dog’s mouth. Too large a piece may be difficult for your dog to get their teeth around. However, pieces that are too small may cause them to try to swallow it whole without chewing, which could be a choking hazard

Always supervise your dog when they are eating these kind of chews, in case they start having problems. 

Chews such as Beef Scalp, treats and other snacks (including human food) should only make up a maximum of 10% of the food that your dog eats each day (by weight). If it is more than this, then you risk your dog not getting all the nutrients that it needs from the balanced portion of their diet. 

Downsides & Risks of Dried Beef Scalps for Dogs

Some Moderate Risks

Very hard pieces of beef scalp may damage teeth. There is also a risk of choking or a blockage in the bowel if your dog tries to swallow a large piece. 

Fractured Teeth

The hardness of Beef Scalp varies a lot, and dogs can fracture teeth by biting down on pieces that are too hard. This can be very painful for our dogs, but is difficult for us as owners to spot, so a lot of these fractures go untreated. 

Some veterinary dental experts suggest that you should not feed your dog a chew that you cannot make a dent in with your thumbnail. If a chew is too hard, try soaking it in water for a while to see if this will soften it. 

Choking

Some dogs may try to swallow larger pieces of Beef Scalp, especially if they are excited, or feeling protective of their chew. If these get stuck at the back of the mouth or in the throat, then they can block their windpipe and lead to choking.

Dogs with chews should always be supervised to make sure that they do not accidentally do this. 

Bowel Obstruction

If dogs manage to swallow a larger piece of chew, there is a risk that it could cause a blockage in the stomach or intestines. Beef Scalp is difficult for the body to digest, so large pieces can easily become stuck. These blockages require surgery to treat and are potentially life-threatening, so it is important to avoid this happening.

Close supervision is always important with chews such as Beef Scalp, to prevent this from happening.  

Beef Scalps for Puppies

Beef Scalps are quite hard chews and should not be given to puppies who do not yet have all their adult teeth. Otherwise, they risk damaging their puppy teeth, and potentially their new adult teeth as well. 

Most puppies will have all their adult teeth by the time they are six to seven months old. If you are not sure whether your puppy has their permanent teeth, your veterinarian can check this in an appointment. 

You must also make sure that chews take up less than ten per cent of your puppy’s diet. This will ensure that they get all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that they need to grow up healthy. 

Alternatives to Dried Beef Scalps

  • Vet-Approved Dental Chews – If you are looking to improve your dog’s dental health with chews, the Veterinary Oral Health Council have a list of approved chews and diets that can help keep your dog’s mouth as clean and healthy as possible. 
  • Tooth Brushing – If your main aim is to keep your dog’s teeth as health as possible, then studies show that brushing your dog’s teeth is the best way to do this. You can buy doggy toothbrushes and toothpaste at most pet stores – do not use human toothpaste as it contains xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. The range of different products can be confusing, so the Veterinary Oral Health Council also list approved toothpastes
  • Crunchy Veg – If you are looking to give your dog something to chew one, but are worried about them putting on weight, then why not try a bit of veg? Carrots and celery have the crunch factor, or a cooked broccoli stalk is great for a bit of chewing. Plus, they are low in calories and high in fiber, which can help your dog to lose weight! 
  • Tendons – You could try beef tendons or ostrich tendons for another low fat, relatively long-lasting chew.

FAQs

Are Dried Beef Scalps good for dogs?

Beef Scalps may be low in fat and can be choice for a chew, but they do not have a high nutritional value.

Are Dried Beef Scalps safe for dogs?

Most dogs will have no problems with Dried Beef Scalps, but there are some risks with feeding them. These include damage to the teeth, choking, or a blockage in the intestines if swallowed in large pieces. Always supervise dogs whilst they are chewing. 

Do dogs like Dried Beef Scalps?

Dried beef scalps are usually 100% beef, and high in protein, so are very appealing to dogs. However, not every dog will like them.

How many Dried Beef Scalps can a dog have?

Dried beef scalps should only be given as a treat, so they should not make up more than ten per cent of the food that a dog has per day. You should not feed chews like dried beef scalp more than once per week.

How long do Dried Beef Scalps last?

Reviews suggest that dried beef scalps often last for half an hour or more, but it will depend on how keen your dog is to chew!

Can Dried Beef Scalps cause blockages?

Yes – like many meaty chews, dried beef scalps can cause a blockage in the stomach or intestines if large pieces are swallowed. Dogs chewing Dried Beef scalp should always be supervised to stop them swallowing large pieces.

Are Dried Beef Scalps unpleasant to have in the house?

Dried beef scalps do smell meaty, and may be soggy if your dog leaves them after chewing for a while. However, most dogs will finish a dried beef scalp in a single sitting, so in that instance it wouldn’t be a problem.

Can Dried Beef Scalps cause diarrhea in dogs?

Like any treat or chew, dried beef scalps can cause an upset stomach (vomiting, diarrhea, or both), particularly if a dog is not used to eating them. They should not be fed to dogs with known beef allergies.

How are Dried Beef Scalps harvested?

Dried beef scalps are made from skin from the head of the cow, or sometimes the rest of the body. The skin is not removed until after the cow has already been slaughtered.