Rawhide is one of the most popular chews for dogs …
It can keep your dog busy chewing for hours … and many believe rawhide is healthy and improves dental health too. But in fact, rawhide can be really dangerous for your dog.
So let’s take a closer look at the question … is rawhide bad for dogs?
What Is Rawhide?
Rawhide is described as a natural chew … but it isn’t really a nice piece of dried beef skin made into shapes, as many people believe. It’s made with leftovers from the leather industry … and here’s how they do it.
How Rawhide Is Made
First, the hides from the slaughterhouse are placed into a brine to help slow their decay (it doesn’t stop them from rotting … just slows the process a bit). The hides aren’t only from beef …they can be from any animal used in leather manufacturing.
The brined hides are shipped to tanneries, where the fat and hair are removed. This is done using chemicals like an ash-lye solution, or sodium sulphide liming, which is highly toxic.
Next the hides are treated with more chemicals that puff the hide, making it easier to split into layers. The outer layer of the hide is used to make leather goods like car seats, clothing, shoes, or purses. The inner layer is what’s used to make your dog’s rawhide (as well as other products like gelatin, cosmetics, and glue).
Next, this inner layer is washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide, bleach or other stronger chemicals. This also helps remove the smell that’s developed from the now decayed, rotten leather. (Remember, the brine only slows the decay – it doesn’t prevent it.)
In 2017, the FDA announced a recall of rawhide chews from Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. They’d been processed using a quaternary ammonium compound mixture that’s an anti-microbial chemical approved for cleaning food processing equipment, but is not approved in the US for production of rawhide chews.
Now it’s time to make the whitened sheets of this leathery by-product look like something delicious for your dog. That’s where the decorative process comes in.
Rawhide chews can be basted with flavors, or smoked … and dyed in different colors. They may even be painted with titanium oxide, which makes them look white and attractive.
Chemicals use in this process may include toxic products like FD&C Red 40, a petroleum-based food dye that’s linked to behavior disorders like ADHD in children, as well as allergies and migraines.
Once rawhide chews have been made, they’re preserved with various chemicals, which may include formaldehyde or chromium salts. When rawhide chews have been tested, they’ve shown things like lead, arsenic, mercury and other toxic metals as well.
The rawhides are made into many shapes … rolls, bones, knots, braids, donuts and more, and manufacturers may also use different types of glues in making these rawhide shapes.
Why Is Rawhide Bad For Dogs?
There are two big reasons rawhide is bad for dogs: the chemical processing described above, and the risk of choking or intestinal blockage.
You’ve seen from the above description of how rawhide is made, that there’s not much that’s “natural” about rawhide for your dog. It’s a piece of useless leftover animal skin … bathed, soaked and colored with countless toxic chemicals.
Most rawhide treats are made outside the US (often in China). If you shop carefully, you might be able to find US-made rawhide chews that aren’t chemically treated. But rawhide is still bad for dogs.
Choking Or Blockage
Chemicals aren’t the only reason rawhide is bad for dogs. Rawhide chews are very indigestible and can often lead to choking, or blockages in the digestive tract.
If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, they can get stuck in the esophagus or lower in the digestive tract. It’s quite common for dogs to need emergency abdominal surgery to remove them from the stomach or intestines. Because these pieces are so indigestible, they can sit in the stomach for months without breaking down or passing through the digestive tract. This can cause digestive problems … and eventually create dangerous intestinal blockages or bowel obstructions … that can lead to death if not removed.
Supervise Your Dog’s Chewing
Whatever kind of chew you give your dog, always make sure you’re around to supervise his chewing. Some dogs are gulpers and can swallow big pieces of bone or other chews that cause choking and blockage.
Sometimes this type of blockage can be removed with endoscopy, but if the obstruction is too low in the digestive system, surgery is needed. So if you think your dog has swallowed a piece of rawhide that could be stuck, get to your vet quickly,
Is Rawhide Good For Dental Health?
Rawhide manufacturers usually claim (and many people believe) that chewing on rawhide helps clean and strengthen dogs’ teeth. But that’s not true. Rawhide chews start out hard, but as your dog chews, they get softer and develop a chewy, indigestible consistency. At the point, it’s not doing anything to help your dog’s teeth … but it’s still a big choking and intestinal obstruction risk for your dog.
What Can I Give My Dog Instead Of Rawhide?
There are many options there are safer and healthier than rawhide.
The best kind of chew for your dog is a raw, recreational bone. Recreational bones are different from raw meaty bones given as food. Raw meaty bones are usually softer bones that your dog can completely chew up and swallow, and they’re an important source of protein, calcium and other minerals). But, as the name suggests, recreational bones provide entertainment and activity for your dog, but aren’t an important part of his nutrition. They’ll provide him with chewing entertainment,, which strengthens his jaw, neck and shoulder muscles. They’ll do a great job of cleaning his teeth as well. So while he may get a few nutrients from meat or cartilage left on them … their main purpose is for entertainment and oral health
Dried Meat Products
If you don’t want to give your dog raw bones, the next best choices are natural dehydrated meat products. Examples of these are dehydrated beef trachea … or bully sticks that are made from bull penises. They won’t last as long as a rawhide chew, but they’ll give your dog some good chewing activity and they’re much safer and more digestible than rawhide chews.
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Some dogs love chewing on elk or deer antlers … but these are very hard and can break teeth.
Other options include manufactured “dental chews” made from various materials …but these aren’t usually natural, and it’s doubtful whether they actually help clean dogs’ teeth. And if you use these, make sure they’re made from non-toxic ingredients that can’t harm your dog.
So … next time someone gives your dog an enticing-looking rawhide “bone” tied up with a red ribbon for the holidays …you’ll know to take it back to the store, or just throw it away. It’s not worth the risk to your dog, however much he might enjoy it.