Feb Dental Month focus: Rawhide Chews: Foe or ...Foe? - Part 1

Posted by Oliver and Noah on

Although they appear to be a staple in almost every big-box dog stocking pack for Christmas. You know the ones in a clear plastic stocking with weird smelling squeaky balls and items that may be recalled for most human children. 

With February's focus on Pet Dental Health, we want to make sure we highlight a very popular, affordable item that is in grocery stores as well as at our pet's eye-level in our favorite large pet stores. And sometimes they have a velvety red bow too! Ok. Definitely that sold it! We digress.

If finances are a challenge, we encourage you to look at other options. For those moderate chewers, there are great and safe rope toys that will last much longer than any rawhide bone. The key is to make sure that if it begins to tear, then toss it! 

We want to share an article from last year with tips that are very timely and is really well written with practical advice.

https://www.petful.com/pet-health/dangers-of-rawhide-chews/

The Dangers of Rawhide Chews
Rawhide does not dissolve in a dog’s stomach — in fact, it swells up. So make sure you know about the dangers of rawhide chews before giving your dog one.

Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS 

Jan 10, 2019

Here’s a question for you that may help illustrate the dangers of rawhide chews: How digestible is shoe leather?

Answer: Not very.

So is it a surprise to learn that rawhide is arguably even less digestible?

Plus, rawhide goes through more bleaching processes and is soaked in more chemicals than shoe leather.

All of which makes it even more surprising that rawhide chews are such popular treats for dogs. But the dangers of rawhide chews don’t stop there. The dangers to pets also include:

  • Choking
  • Gut obstruction
  • Food poisoning (for both pets and people)
  • Infection
  • The ingestion of toxic chemicals


If you regularly give your dog rawhide chews, then read on. You may want to reconsider that decision.

The Dangers of Rawhide Chews
A quick summary of the dangers of rawhide chews makes for worrying reading:

  • The potential for slow poisoning from the toxic chemicals used in processing.
  • Dubious origins of some of the chews. Some jerky pet treats sourced from China have been linked to the potentially fatal kidney condition Fanconi syndrome, which raises concern over safety standards generally.1 Not to mention, sometimes there are unapproved additives.
  • Choking hazard.
  • Bowel blockage (and no, rawhide isn’t digestible).
  • Salmonella and E. coli. There were 6 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalls of dog rawhide chews due to salmonella between 2008 and 2011. But this infection isn’t confined to dogs — people in contact with salmonella-contaminated rawhide can also become infected. This is especially serious for the elderly, children or those with weak immune systems.2

Rawhide: The Triumph of Branding Over an Unpalatable Truth?
Question: What is rawhide?

“Hmm,” you might reply, “the clue’s kinda in the name … raw hide.”

Actually, you’re wrong.

A more apt name for rawhide is processed hide … and here’s why.

What Is Rawhide Made of?
Rawhide … ahem, processed hide … is not a food product.

Rawhide is a byproduct of the leather industry.

So full marks for not letting materials go to waste, but major minus points for not being organic or natural — or edible.

How Is Rawhide Made?
The story of rawhide starts with the skin of a slaughtered animal. The skin is removed from the carcass.

The resulting hide is made up of layers, each with a different structure and properties. When that skin is turned into shoes or a handbag, it’s the valuable outer layer that’s used.

It’s the inner “waste” layers that get turned into chews, glue, soap and so on. (Spot a common theme here: Glue and soap are not food products.)

To understand why rawhide is so highly processed, take a look at how the valuable outer grain, or leather, is harvested. This is part of the tanning process, which is an involved multistep process.

Let’s summarize it here:

  • Preservation: Fresh from the carcass, the hide is given a chemical bath. This is to stop the skin from degrading before it can be processed. Not doing this means the hide would rot.
  • Stripping away hair and fat: At the tannery, ash-lye or sodium sulphide lime is used to strip away hair on the outside and fat on the underside.
  • Puffing the hide: More chemicals are added that “puff” the hide and make it easier to split into layers. Now that this stuff has been through a significant number of chemical baths already, let’s just follow the “raw hide” layer to see what happens to it next.
  • Whitening and bleaching: The inner layer of hide is washed in bleach, hydrogen peroxide or chemicals to remove the smell of rotten leather and whiten it.
  • Prettify: To make the “rawhide” look and smell appealing on the pet store shelf, it needs to be colored and flavored in some way. This often involves coatings of chemicals, including titanium oxide, sodium benzoate and known carcinogens such as FD&C Red 40.

From a layer of soggy, stringy fat to a bone-shaped chew is quite a journey. But not so “raw” hide now, is it?

That chewy treat your dog chows down on has been soaked in chemical preservatives, ash-lye, chemical puffers, bleach and then colors and flavors.

Hmm … tasty or toxic?

Even for those of you who are comfortable with the above, the dangers of rawhide chews don’t end there.

The problems can be much more immediate than a slow, sustained exposure to chemicals, because blocked bowels and choking are very real hazards.

Is Rawhide Digestible?

Short answer: No, rawhide is not digestible.

End of Part 1....

We'll share the next part of this great article on why it's not digestible and what alternatives you can provide your dog.


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