It’s a fact that dogs like to chew and oftentimes that can include chewing rawhides.  Have you ever thought about how rawhides are processed and the potential dangers of this common dog chew?  What natural alternative chews are out there?   

Rawhide has been around for a long time and used for various purposes. The Native American Indians and early settlers used rawhide in building their homes. For instance rawhide was used as door hinges in early rustic home building among other uses. Rawhide is a very strong, durable and heavy-duty product that does not easily breakdown.   

For pets, rawhide chews may cause many issues including stomach torsion, choking, vomiting, diarrhea, salmonella poisoning and exposure to various chemical residues after processing.  They can also cause mild to severe gastric irritation.   

The FDA does not consider these type of chews, whether from rawhide, bone or other animal part to be considered “food” since the manufacturers “may not need to follow any AFFCO pet food regulations” if the product makes no reference to any nutritional value (e.g. high protein).  Rawhide is not regulated in any way.   

Bark Magazine recently gave an excellent recap of the rawhide manufacturing process. “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 sulfide 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.”   

The rawhide is then dried and it shrinks to about half its size. Of course, the rawhide then expands in the pet’s stomach and it’s not digested by any gastric juices causing potential digestive issues. Plus rawhide bones are high in calories and can easily lead to excessive weight gain.   

Many rawhide products also add in artificial flavorings and colors that also increase the health risk for your dog.   

There are certainly much healthier and safer alternatives for your dog.  Bully sticks, bully straps, beef trachea, duck feet, antlers and raw recreational bones are perfect for your pet in terms of both digestion, weight control and nutrition.   

Deer or elk antlers are a particular favorite for dogs.  They’re long lasting (i.e. weeks to months), don’t smell, don’t splinter or make a mess, no gastric irritation and they’re perfect for dogs with allergies.  The No Hide Treats from Earth Animal are also a great rawhide alternative.  They’re 100% digestible, safe and nutritious and made in the USA!   

For the health and safety of your dog, look into some healthy alternative chews and avoid the potential risks of processed rawhide.