One Christmas, a member of the family gave me rawhide chews for my dogs. I’m not ashamed to say I binned them there and then. Ok, perhaps my people skills need work, but dogs are always my priority, and it was the only course of action that I could see to keep them safe. What upset me most was that most people are well aware of my feelings on the product rawhide, and I had mentioned it infinite times on the run-up to Christmas, knowing that gifts would be bought for my dogs. Read on to find out why I despise rawhide and will not tolerate it in my house.
So, what is Rawhide?
Rawhide is a waste product of the leather industry. It is the inner layers of the hides of cows and horses. It is just a clever way to use up everything and make as much money as possible in some ways. Now we know our dogs are carnivores, and therefore meat and meat products are something they can eat. However, there are reasons why rawhide is not one of them. Wild dogs would, of course, bring down their prey whole and eat all of it: skin, bone, fur and all. However, commercial rawhide goes through an extensive process is which turn something relatively innocuous into poison. No, I am not exaggerating. So, what do they do to the hide of the animal to turn it into a rawhide chew that we recognise in supermarkets and pet stores across the land?
The first step is to place the pieces of hide into either a chemical bath or a high salt brine which will slow down tissue decay. As well as that, they are likely to be treated with lime as this helps to remove any fat from the skin. Next, the hair must be removed, and this is done by combining chemicals and physical practices. Sounds great so far, doesn’t it? Now the hide is washed, and bleach and hydrogen peroxide are added to create a white colour. In some countries, and just because it’s not the country you buy it in doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened to the rawhide before you receive it; they also use formaldehyde and arsenic. Finally, if all that hasn’t put you off, the hides are ground up or cut, dyed the vivid colours we see, and glued together to create the shape. Some of them are flavoured, maybe pork or chicken, to tempt the dog. But as they are not regulated as food industry, there is nothing to control this process.
If the chemicals used in the production process above is not enough to put you off, then let’s break it down a little bit more. The toxic chemicals can damage your dog’s digestive system or cause an allergic reaction which could cause an inflammatory reflex-like anaphylactic shock. Any animal by-product could be contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, although in this case, most things are pretty well killed off with a healthy dose of toxic chemicals. What manufacturers also fail to tell you is that rawhide isn’t actually meant to be eaten. It’s a chew toy. But pretty much every dog we’ve ever met would eat a rawhide chew, breaking a bit off as it gets soft. The problem is it can break off in large parts, which can block the oesophagus or the gastrointestinal tract. Smaller pieces can swell up and caused the same internal issues (because of the amount of compression during manufacturing and glueing the layers together). Finally, they are too hard for dogs’ teeth and can do dental damage as well.
Signs a Dog is Unwell After Ingesting Rawhide
If your dog has got hold of some rawhide chews, they may be perfectly fine, but if they display any of the following signs, you should quickly take them to a vet.
Gasping, panicking, drooling, pawing at their mouth, repeatedly swallowing, regurgitating, vomiting, fever, lack of energy, diarrhoea either with blood or without, signs of pain, and refusal to eat.
Giving dogs something to do is part of the reason people turn to rawhide. If you have to pop out for an hour or two, you want to make sure your pup is entertained, and we understand that. Vets and other professionals have worked hard over the years to try and come up with safe alternatives. Kong toys have become incredibly popular and are very durable rubber that won’t hurt the teeth or jaws and generally can be filled with treats. Some people favour more natural chews like antlers and pigs’ ears, but if you are in doubt, have a chat with your vet. Never feed cooked bones and we will detail the reasons why in another blog.
Information contained in the blog is not designed to replace correct veterinary treatment or advice. Anna is an experienced dog owner and holds Kennel Club accredited dog training and behaviour qualifications. She also has behaviour diplomas from other institutions. In addition, Anna holds a veterinary nurse assistant diploma, regularly updates her dog first aid with an accredited body and is a vet trained and licenced microchip implanter and scanner. The blogs are her opinion formulated and supported by her qualifications and experiences.