If you are like most dog owners, you will probably go above and beyond to make your furry friend happy. And if your pet likes a toy or a snack, it is hard not to give it to them. Unfortunately, animals are not always capable of knowing what is good for them, and animal toy and snack makers take full advantage of that.
Rawhide is easily the most popular dog chew on the market, but what many do not realize is – it is also the most dangerous. It has been known to cause intestinal blockages and stomach torsion, vomiting and diarrhea, salmonella and chemical poisoning, and finally choking that may lead to death.
The list of risks sounds scary, but there is no need to panic. While there is no way to completely remove the risks, it is possible to minimize them. And when bought from the right sources (you have to seek them out) and used properly, rawhide can have some wonderful health benefits for your pet as well: it makes your dog happy by relieving its urge to chew things, while also cleaning your dog’s teeth.
There are also many healthy rawhide alternatives that provide the same benefits.
To make the best decision about what to give your dog, here is everything you need to know.
When Rawhide is Dangerous
Is it natural? Rawhide is often advertised as “all natural,” because it is made from animal hide, usually a cow or a horse but could also be a pig, a sheep, or a water buffalo; it is the skin and hair of the animal. However, the “all natural” label becomes a lie when many companies drown this product in so many chemicals, dyes, and flavorings, that it no longer looks or smells natural. A dog’s stomach may often reject it as well, making the animal sick.
The safety of a rawhide directly correlates with how it was made, starting with the raising of the animal and ending with how it is processed.
What Makes Rawhide Unsafe:
- If an animal has been raised poorly (bad nutrition and environment), the skin may unhealthy or too dry and brittle. Brittle rawhide can break in your dog’s mouth and damage its teeth or even cause choking. The same goes for low-quality rawhide that became brittle due to a poor manufacturing process.
- Harmful chemicals used in the processing of rawhide can be toxic. To avoid these chemicals it is important to buy rawhide made in the U.S. American rawhide is often refrigerated to prevent spoilage, while rawhide made outside the U.S. often receives a chemical bath: some may even use arsenic, formaldehyde, and sodium sulfide. It is best to choose air-dried rawhide than one treated with chemicals to dry. Also, avoid the rawhide that has been bleached. Bleached rawhide is white in color or has an unnatural look from a dye. Unbleached rawhide is cream-colored.
- Artificial ingredients in rawhide can cause vomiting and diarrhea. These artificial substances (such as petroleum distillates) can be carcinogenic and often contain lead and mercury. It is best to choose naturally flavored rawhide, or one with no added flavorings.
- A wrong-sized rawhide for a dog is a major choking hazard.
- If a rawhide is harder than your dog’s teeth it can cause them to break. Be aware of your dog’s health before giving this product.
- Because rawhide is indigestible, swallowing large chunks of it can lead to intestinal ruptures and even death. Rawhide is meant to be slowly softened by dogs’ saliva. Then small pieces of it are able to separate, and they can easily pass through the digestive tract. If a rawhide is made poorly, it can break into smaller pieces before it is soft, or break into larger pieces. Both scenarios cause a choking hazard, as well as a severe stomach rupture hazard. This can become an issue even with high-quality rawhide if the dog is overly enthusiastic and is consuming rawhide too fast, not letting it properly soften. If that is the case, rawhide might not be the best chew for the dog.
“We don’t recommend bones as treats because unfortunately our vets and nurses regularly see dogs with digestive tract damage and blockages caused by splinters or larger pieces of bone being swallowed and becoming stuck,” told veterinarian Rebecca Ashman to Telegraph.
What Are the Alternatives?
If after considering benefits and risks, you would like an alternative to rawhide; there are a few options. You can choose:
- Full size organic carrots without the tops
- A U.S.-made bully stick chew is safer than rawhide because they are fully digestible.
- The Himalaya Dog Chew maker says that they use an ancient recipe from the Himalayas. The recipe uses yak and cow milk mixed with salt and lime juice, and no chemicals or preservatives.
- Zukes Z-Ridge Dental Bones are created from vegetables, berries, and herbs. Ingredients such as turmeric and rosemary help kill bad breath and bacteria in the mouth and in the gut. These are better for smaller dogs because of their small size.
- The Honest Kitchen Beams are 100% dehydrated fish and nothing else.
To summarize rawhide dangers, pet health blogger Rodney Habib made a 3 minute comedic skit a little over 3 minutes long, in which a cat is trying to find a way to get rid of its rival in the household – a dog. And to do so, the cat finds a perfect “weapon:” rawhide.