How can one of the most popular chew sticks on the planet be so dangerous for your pets, you ask?
I mean, most dogs chew on rawhide for hours on end, and not only does it keep them busy, but they seem to last forever.
But while many believe it is a good choice for improving dental hygiene, this isn’t the case. Rawhide chews start out hard, but as your dog chews is it gets softer, until it is the consistency taffy or bubble gum. By that point, it is nothing more than a choking and intestinal obstruction hazard, offering no benefits for your dog.
And, if you understood what it took to make this toxic “raw” leather stick, you would quickly understand what the problem is.
Even with the horror stories about pets needing emergency surgery after consuming rawhide, the majority of pet parents (especially the new ones) believe that this chew is some sort of dried up meat stick.
Let me debunk that myth right away!
A rawhide stick is not a by-product of the beef industry nor is it made of dehydrated meat. Rather, rawhide is a by-product of the Leather Industry, so theoretically it is a leather chew.
How It’s Made
“Producing rawhide begins with the splitting of an animal hide, usually from cattle. The top grain is generally tanned and made into leather products, while the inner portion, in its “raw” state, goes to the dogs.” The Bark
So, how does this leather, which is conveniently rolled up into pretty shapes, actually get made into those rawhide chews?
Follow along my friends and I will enlighten you on how this hide travels through a leathery process where it is transformed from hide to a colorful chew stick.
Here is a paraphrased tutorial that was explained by the Whole Dog Journal:
STEP 1: To The Tannery
Normally, cattle hides are shipped from slaughterhouses to tanneries for processing. These hides are then treated with a chemical bath to help “preserve” the product during transport to help and delay the rate of decaying.
(This doesn’t stop the decaying process. Only slows it.)
Once at the tannery: the hides are soaked and treated with either an ash-lye solution or a highly toxic recipe of sodium sulphide liming. This process will help strip the hair and fat that maybe attached to the hides themselves.
(No, no one wants to see a hairy hide…)
Next on this glorious journey, these hides are then treated with chemicals that help “puff” the hide, making it easier to split into layers.
The outer layer of the hide is used for goods like car seats, clothing, shoes, purses, etc. But, it’s the inner layer that is needed to make the rawhide. (And other things like gelatin, cosmetics, and glue as well!)
STEP 2: Cleansed In Chemicals
Now that we have the inner layer of the hide, it’s time to go to the post-tannery stage! Hides are washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach; this will also help remove the smell of the rotten or putrid leather.
(Remember I mentioned that decay is only delayed…)
Research also shows that other chemicals may be used here to help the whitening process if the bleach isn’t strong enough.
RELATED: Recreational Bones For Dogs (that are safe and healthy)
STEP 3: Make It Look Pretty
Now it’s time to make these whitened sheets of this leathery by-product look delicious! So, here is where the artistic painting process comes in.
“Basted, smoked, and decoratively tinted products might be any color (or odor) underneath the coating of (often artificial) dyes and flavors…They can even be painted with a coating of titanium oxide to make them appear white and pretty on the pet store shelves.” Whole Dog Journal
“…the Material Safety Data Sheet reveals a toxic confection containing the carcinogen FD&C Red 40, along with preservatives like sodium benzoate. But tracking the effects of chemical exposure is nearly impossible when it’s a matter of slow, low-dose poisoning.” The Bark
Ok, now that these hides have been painted, it’s time for the final process.
STEP 4: Getting It To Last Forever!
So it’s safe to say that any sort of glues can be used as well!
Finally, it’s time to package and attach all the glorious marketing labels to the product.
Check out the fine print warning that’s attached with some of these rawhides:
Choking or blockages. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.
(Oh, how lovely…)
And there it is! It’s now ready to be shipped to store shelves where it can be purchased for our loving animal companions.