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The Dangers of Rawhide Dog Chew Toys
The downside of rawhide
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Chew Bone

“I never buy at Wal-Mart, I only buy organic and nothing from China, ever!”

This is how Danielle Devereux, whose German Shepherd Sammy is a ravenous consumer of snacks, describes her treat-buying strategy. Sammy prefers his rawhide toys soaked in warm chicken broth first. “As you can guess, he’s a little bit spoiled.”

In Devereux’s remarks, I hear echoes of my own long search for the right dog chew toys. From the time my Shepherd was a wee pup, we combed the pet aisles looking for enticing substitutes for couch and chair leg. She quickly sniffed out her favorite section among the knuckle and femur bones: the bins where the rawhide is cached.

Promoted as an “all natural” treat, rawhide does keep dogs entertained, perhaps even more so in its many basted, twisted, even brightly colored mutations. It’s the equivalent of that gummy-worm-fortified cereal made with real oats that children howl for all the way down the breakfast aisle. Those looking to improve on the bone are like the clever marketers who expertly tune a child’s whining pitch. Your dog would like to convince you that rawhide is primal therapy for his carnivorous soul!

But if rawhide manufacturers were held to the same standards as drug makers, they’d be forced to add an equally long list of warnings to their labels: May cause stomach torsion, choking, vomiting, diarrhea, salmonella poisoning and exposure to various chemical residues.

The closer you look at the rawhide gravy train—its tentacles in China, typically, at one point or another—the more you may want to wean your dog off this dubious by-product.

The Dose Makes the Poison

“The most potent compounds for stimulating the taste buds in dogs, and presumably wolves, are amino acids that taste sweet to humans”—so goes the discussion of canid diet in Wolves, edited by David Mech and Luigi Boitani. Judging by an explosion of patents for flavored rawhide, which include “tastes” such as bubble-gum and hickory, chew-chefs have apparently done their research. However, in creating treats dogs will chomp for hours, they’ve also produced potentially more toxic products. The more dogs lick, chew and swallow the material, the greater their exposure to any contaminants it contains.

In the case of bubble-gum flavoring alone, 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 FDA’s veterinary branch, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, checks into pet food additives only after numerous complaints about a particular chemical.

While chews made from rawhide, bone or other animal parts are consumable, and are therefore considered “food” under FDA law, as long as the label contains no reference to nutritional value (such as “high protein”), the agency advises that manufacturers “may not have to follow the AAFCO pet food regulations.”

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. Removing the hair from hides often involves a highly toxic recipe: sodium sulphide liming. A standard practice is to procure rawhide in the “split lime state” as by-products from tanneries, facilities that top the list of U.S. Superfund sites. In the post-tannery stage, hides are washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide. And that’s just one step.

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Submitted by crogers | June 26 2013 |

my 11 and 12 year old pups' have been off rawhide since the doggie daycare they used to go to once a week banned them 10 years ago. Their favorite treats are raw frozen meaty marrow bones. i get them at local farmer's markets when i can, grocery store when I can't. They get them once a week. Keeps their teeth in great shape. And makes them very happy.

Submitted by crogers | June 29 2013 |

My 11 and 12 year old pups have been off rawhide since the doggie daycare they used to go to once a week banned them 10 years ago. Their favorite treats are raw frozen meaty marrow bones. I get them at local farmer's markets when I can, grocery store when I can't. They get them once a week. Keeps their teeth in great shape. And makes them very happy.

Submitted by Tracy | June 30 2013 |

What types of chews would you recommend for a small dog who is allergic to beef and chicken? Currently I use origional denta sticks (oddly they have neither) or pig ears/pig skin raw hides. Still I would like to find other options. We also do the frozen kongs with pumpkin, sweet potato, and such.

Submitted by BigWhiteDog | June 30 2013 |

It would be nice if there were some test results instead of hyperbole. How about showing what chemicals do actually show in in these things instead of a lot of scare, lots of emotion grabbing and little facts.

Submitted by Shari | June 30 2013 |

I have four dogs. They all love to chew. I too was anti-rawhide because I assumed they posed a choking hazard. Instead, I was buying "Made in America" bullysticks. However, when the bullysticks went up in price for the third time, I switched to cow hooves. This didn't last long as I discovered my dogs were able to chunk off sharp pieces of the hooves and were swallowing them. Pig snouts gave a couple of my dogs diarrhea. I tried the Nylabones that specifically said "Made in the USA," but the dogs didn't really go for them. I also tried Kongs and different chew "toys," but they were to easily destroyed and sometimes swallowed. I then talked to a well respected veterinarian who has been practicing for forty years. He said he gives his dogs rawhides, and in his forty years of practicing, he has never had a problem case due to rawhides. So, I do give my dogs rawhides. We have a chain grocery store in Michigan called Meijer that carries the Pet Factory, Made in the USA, 100% American Beefhide products. The only ingredient listed is American Beefhide, and the package states the rawhides are, "100% Made in the USA following strict GFSI food quality standards.."

Submitted by Robin R. Wicker | August 6 2013 |

My female basset hound just survived removal of part of her intestine and the surgical opening of the stomach. Yes, it was caused by a rawhide that did not digest. She was inches away from peritonitis. No symptoms were apparent until she was in agony and severely infected. The diagnostic tests, surgery and recovery was $5,000.00. I have given my dogs U.S. rawhides for years, with no problems. Never again.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 8 2013 |

I had a rottie and I gave him bones from my butcher. You can buy a bag for quite cheap and I would roast them first to kill off any bacteria. He loved them!

Submitted by lucie | November 14 2013 |

not being rude or smart but getting to point we can't give our pets anything brought i love my doggies with all my heart but can't be in kitchen forever either as my wheelchair dosen't fit either so what do i do i did all that cooking and ect with my last doggie and she still left me a few months before her 7 th birthday due to severe animia and heart mumer and broke my heart and my first doggie had all store stuff and lived forever ripe old boy bless him so now i have this one what do i do and i was wondering aren't bones from buthcer and animal bones bad because they splinter???? thankyou :)

Submitted by Victoria | November 15 2013 |

Lucie, I could be wrong, but it is my understanding that only poultry bones splinter. Whereas beef and pork bones do not.

Submitted by naomi | November 19 2013 |

I believe they splinter if they are cooked first, if they are raw they supposedly don't, however, I have given my dog raw rib bones and found small pieces- I guess they are softer since they are raw rather than cooked?

My dog is a big chewer and I found the only thing that I don't worry about too much are bully sticks/bull pizzle. I've tried elk antlers but they chipped her teeth, so I quit that too...

Submitted by JULIEinDSM | December 26 2013 |

I give my dogs bully sticks... they are beef tendon... easier to digest and the dogs LOVE THEM! Another item I give them occasionally are deer antlers... again... a HUGE FAVORITE!

Submitted by Mike | January 15 2014 |

You can spend your life savings buying bully sticks for two dogs. At $6 to $9 per treat per dog per day, I would be spending more on my dogs for a treat than I spend to feed myself.

Submitted by Renee Seiler | January 24 2014 |

My mom's friend's dog just died from stomach torsion. RAWHIDE IS NOT MEANT TO BE SWALLOWED-IT IS NOT DIGESTIBLE!! If you read the directions(if any) these chews are meant to be chewed until they are soft, then removed to harden again, NOT to be swallowed. They are the worst things ever developed for dog chews!!
I give my dogs pig ears, from a wonderful place in Nebraska, you can buy in bulk and they are much cheaper (and fresher) than the ones you find in Wal-Mart, etc. NEVER BUY YOUR FOOD OR TREATS FROM YOUR GROCERY STORE!

Submitted by Jessica | January 26 2014 |

Just yesterday, we had to put our puppy down due to severe blockage from a rawhide. It was given to her for Christmas. Little did we know it would lead to her death. We had her in emergency overnight to try and get her to stabilize enough for surger, and she did not respond well to the fluid treatment, so sadly we had to say goodbye to our sweet girl. I'm so appalled they sell these harmful products for the pets we love like family. I'm also disgusted at how much the veterinarians take advantage of the heartbroken, scared families, knowing there's no saving the animal, yet still pushing for expensive treatments and tests only to see the animal suffer more.
Where is the justice in any of this?

Submitted by lucy23 | April 6 2014 |

It deeply disturbs me how some vets take advantage of people and misleading them in medications, treatments, or just plain wrong info! I saw one 3 years ago, and "respected with 38 years of practice" tell an old lady that raw hides where the best for her Great Dane puppy. He was pretty big already and I advised her otherwise afterwards. Disgusting! I'm still careful in selecting my vet and it's been 3 years! But I think I finally found one and I'm glad she also recommends organic natural remedies at times too. Don't forget to always search online to get more info on your dogs needs/ treats!

Submitted by Sharon Henderson | April 14 2014 |

Better add Nylabone Flexi Bones MADE IN THE USA to the danger list. Our little Zoe spent 3 days in hospital fighting for her life on IV's, laxatives, and pain medications because she had chewed off and swallowed some plastic shards from this "non-toxic" "healthy" chew bone--within a couple of days of giving it to her. $600+ vet bill and several xrays later she still has shards in her intestines and may have to have surgery.

Submitted by anhalter | July 17 2014 |

We NEVER buy rawhide or bully sticks for our dogs. If you are into organic and high quality dog treats like us, stick with crunchy all-meat treats like Little L's krakems, or Bocce's biscuits. They are made from local ingredients and in NYC (where standards and quality regulations for pet food are the highest in the nation).

Submitted by Natalie | August 8 2014 |

They made my two Boston Terrier aggressive

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