Are Rawhides for Dogs Worth the Risk to Their Health?

There’s hardly anything dogs like more than their chews but are rawhides for dogs really a good choice? And do they really pose a risk to their health?  That's two questions I wanted answers to before giving my dog another rawhide chew.  Like many dog owners I have given my dog rawhides in the past, I assumed they were safe.  However, recently I've become aware that they may not be the best things for them, and that's putting it mildly! There are so many dangers of giving your dog rawhide.

Make no mistake, dogs love to chew; it’s a way for them to entertain themselves, and chews help them release extra energy and relieve anxiety, and it can be most helpful for the discomfort they experience while teething.  

However, finding the right chew is sometimes a problem – toys aren’t the solution because they end up torn and they are definitely not digestible. This is where rawhides pop up as a good solution, but they have a really bad reputation as being dangerous for dogs. So, let’s find out the truth behind the legend of rawhides and if they are healthy for your dog or not.

A dog chewing on a dangerous dog chew, rawhide!

How Rawhides For Dogs Are Made

The best way to know if something is heathy for our dogs is to look at the ingredients and going even deeper, how they're made.  In the case of rawhides it starts off quite simply and doesn't appear too alarming. Rawhide is the inner soft hide or skin of an animal. Depending on where the treat is being manufactured, the ingredients can include hide from cows, pigs, sheep, horses or even water buffalos. Although not a pleasant image, you can't argue that a hide of an animal isn't 'natural' but that's where the 'natural' component stops and alarm bells start ringing.  

The rawhides are dipped into a chemical bath to help preserve the treat during transportation to prevent spoilage. They are then submerged in either an ash-lye solution or sodium sulphide liming. This strips any remaining hair and fat left on the Rawhide. The Rawhides are washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and bleach - this also helps eliminate the smell of rotten or putrid leather YUK! Next, they paint the Rawhides with artificial dyes and add artificial flavors. Oh, and the Rawhides that appear pure white, have been coated with titanium oxide. 

Getting the rawhide chew to last forever and stay intact is achieved by using glue! They use any type of glue to ensure the chews don't come apart easily. Other toxic chemicals have been detected in rawhide chews such as lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium salts and formaldehyde.

In case you were in any doubt, it's the toxic chemicals and extreme process that makes rawhide chews dangerous dog treats! If that's not enough proof, check out the warning signs that are attached to many of the rawhide chews:

"Choking or blockages. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the oesophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove the rawhide from the stomach or intestines. If it isn't resolved, a blockage can lead to death" 

As you can see, how they are made makes some pretty convincing evidence of why rawhide chews are so dangerous for dogs. But, for arguments sake, lets assume you're a skeptic and need more proof. Maybe you have a small dog that you think will be OK as they can't possibly chew through a rawhide and choke. So let's look at size and breed of dog to see if rawhides are safe for any dogs. 

Is Your Dog’s Breed an Important Factor?

For starters, we should turn to the matter of breeds. Considering the fact that rawhides for dogs are made out of leather leftovers, chances are your dog will find them tempting, no matter their size. However, size is what matters here, as well as the general characteristics of dog breeds.

Breeds like Bichons, Chihuahuas, and Maltsters, that belong in the small dog breeds group, probably don’t have jaws powerful enough to rip rawhides into big chunks that will most likely result in them being in danger of choking eventually. However, don't forget the process with how they're made.  The chemicals.  Glue!  Do  you really think chewing on all those chemicals (and glue) won't hurt them? On the contrary, small dogs by their very nature are highly susceptible to toxic substances and could be affected just by chewing on rawhides.  

On the other hand, dogs with strong jaws (actually, that's most of them) are highly likely to choke on a big piece of rawhide.  And that's not all, they are also in danger of swallowing a rawhide chunk that might end up in their digestive tract and cause a series of problems - intestinal blockage to begin with which is a serious and expensive problem to fix. 

What About A Quality Rawhide Chew Manufacturers?

Lady enjoying her natural beef trachea Chew.

In our efforts to provide the best food and treats for our dogs we are becoming more and more educated on how to find the healthy options.  One of the best tools available to us to do this, is to simply check the labels for safe ingredients and check to ensure we are comfortable with the manufacturer.  When looking for a safe dog chew the consistency and ingredients depend on the integrity and quality of the manufacturer - which varies a lot.

Here are my top five alternative chews that are healthy and would benefit your dog in many ways, including help keeping their teeth clean and free of plaque. I have given my dog these chews, and have found each of them last a while and are cheap to buy:

  1. 100% Natural Bully Sticks
  2. Water Buffalo Horns
  3. Himalayan Yak Chew
  4. Natural Beef Trachea Chews
  5. Elk Antler Chew

Unfortunately in the case of rawhides for dogs there simply is NO quality rawhide manufacturer. At. All. Given the process and chemicals that goes into making a rawhide chew a safe and natural option for rawhides doesn't exist.  Manufacturers are misleading dog owners with their labels of "made with 100% natural beef".  While this may be true, its the process and chemicals that the beef goes through that makes it toxic and unhealthy.  Therefore rawhides are NOT made out of ALL natural ingredients and even the labels that state "made in USA" go through the same unhealthy process.

Bottom Line on Rawhides For Dogs

To conclude on rawhides for dogs. Dogs that eat rawhides are in danger of getting poisoned, choking, or swallowing a chunk that’s too big for their digestive tract. So, to answer the question we started with, Are rawhides for dogs worth the risk to their health?" I'd say a big fat no! No matter your dog's breed or size there are so many better alternatives to rawhides for dogs. Here's a selection of healthy, safe dog chews that will benefit your dog.

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