Is Rawhide Bad for Dogs?
At one point in time, rawhide was the most popular dog treat around, they were cheap and seem to last forever, which was beneficial for us because they kept our dogs occupied throughout the day, so what’s not to like?
Well, as we all know too well, just because they are less expensive and last longer than other chews, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthier and safer for our canine companions. Just like with fast food that doesn’t decompose and quick ready meals that have a long lasting expiry date, they are packed with preservatives and chemicals that do nothing but bad things to your dog’s body.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of dogs choking on rawhide or needing emergency surgery because of a blockage in their stomach. For new dog parents, rawhide chews might seem to be the most convenient option because they are long-lasting and cost less than natural dog treats.
It’s time to explore the truth about rawhide, the process of how they are made and you can make your own decision on whether you think they are bad or good. But first things first, what even is rawhide?
What Is Rawhide?
Rawhide is not dehydrated meat nor is it a by-product of the beef industry, rather is it a by-product of the leather industry, the leftovers of what they don’t use to make leather products.
Rawhide refers to the untanned hide of animals (skin) typically from cattle like cows, horses, sheep, pigs and even buffalos. They are made from the inner layer of the hide, whereas the outer layer is tanned and then constructed into leather products and fashion accessories like handbags, purses and shoes.
How Are Rawhides Made?
Step 1 - Transport - Cattle hides are shipped from slaughterhouses to the leather tanning factories for processing by a refrigerated container, but before their journey, they are treated with a chemical to preserve the hides and slow down the decaying process.
Step 2 - Removal of Hair & Fat - Once they get to the factory, they firstly go through a special factory treatment called degreasing, which strips away the fat and hair of the animal that are attached to the hides themselves.
Step 3 - Splitting Process - They are then treated with chemicals that ‘puffs’ the hides to make the process of splitting the skin layers easier. The cattle hides are then split into two layers, the inner layer is what rawhides treats are made of and the outer layer is what they use to make leather products like car seats, clothes and handbags.
Step 5 - Hydrogen Peroxide Bath - The inner skin layer undergoes a hydrogen peroxide (bleach) bath for sterilisation to ensure all bacteria and germs are dead. This process also helps to remove the rotten smell of the leather and the hydrogen peroxide baths is what gives the chews their distinctive white/yellow colour.
Step 6 - Cutting & Shaping - The bleached hides are then set onto cutting tables to be sheared into strips and when this process is complete, they are sent to a different area of the factory where the strips go through the ‘tying’ process. This is where machines create the various shapes like twists, rolls, sticks and bones and sometimes glued to help retain their shape.
Step 7 - Drying - The newly-shaped, damp rawhides are placed on trays into a hot, drying room where the remaining moisture is removed and the treats become hard and firm.
Step 8 - Flavouring & Decoration - The dried rawhides finally go through the last process before they are sent out for distribution. They are flavoured and sometimes coloured depending on the type of rawhide chew. They get a coat of artificial flavouring such as chicken, beef, lamb or fish to make them tasty and appealing to dogs.
A long process to say the least, you can notice that during every manufacturing process the rawhides get at least one type of chemical added to them except for cutting, shaping and drying. If the process of how rawhides are made doesn’t explain how dangerous they are for your dog, here are some more facts…
Why Is Rawhide Bad For Dogs?
❌ Not Digestible
Rawhides start off as hard but get softer as your dog chews and saliva soaks it. Similar to the consistency of bubble gum or taffy, the rawhides are not easily digested by dogs due to the gummy texture.
❌ Choking Hazard
Due to being very hard and firm to begin with, if your dog manages to shallow a segment, the rawhide can get lodged in the back of your dog’s throat, blocking their airways. There’s even the potential risk of tearing of the oesophagus lining, especially when they are trying to cough the treat up out of the throat.
As you know, rawhides go through an extensive amount of chemical processing, more than what actual shoe leather goes through. The potential poisoning from toxic chemicals from rawhide is so high and because the chew lasts such a long time, your dog goes through slow chemical poisoning which can make your dog sick and can result in a fatal outcome.
Since they are not digestible, rawhides can swell up to four times bigger than their original size in the intestines and stomach. This swelling can then lead to gastrointestinal distress and life threatening blockages with causes your dog to vomit, experience diarrhoea and pancreatitis - which is an inflammation of the pancreas which causes a whole, new range of problems.
Made from animal skin, it is evident that contamination would be a concern. During the manufacturing process it is possible that the chews can be contaminated by bacteria such as salmonella and e coli.
❌ Not Considered a Food
Technically not a food, rather a dog chew, raw hides are not covered by any processing, labelling or content laws, which is why they are free to use any chemicals they’d like on the chew, how scary is that?
Healthy Alternatives To Rawhide
Chewing is a natural instinct for dogs, not only does it provide mental stimulation and relieve anxiety, but it’s very important for puppies because it’s how they explore and approach new things by discovering how objects feel like in their mouth whilst also help ease teething pain. Not to mention, it also does wonders for their teeth!
Therefore, finding the most appropriate and natural chew for your dog is vital. We want the very best for our dogs which is why rawhide shouldn’t even be on the list. Here are some healthy alternative dog chews;
✔️ Bulls Pizzle
Made from 100% beef, the Bulls Pizzle Premium Dog Treat is a single ingredient dog chew which means it’s great for dog’s on a single diet because you know exactly what’s going into their body. Highly nutritious and yummy! Bulls Pizzle is excellent for your dog's dental care by removing plaque build-up and because it’s softer than some other chews, it’s suitable for puppies from 12 weeks old.
✔️ Deer Antler
Naturally shed from deers, the Deer Antler Dog Chew is a tougher alternative to the rawhide. They are an excellent source of entertainment for dogs but not suitable for puppies because of how firm they are. Low in fat and providing a good source of calcium and phosphorus which helps to clean teeth, Deer Antlers are a great healthy option.
✔️ Pig Ears
They are a wonderful, natural chewing option for dogs which provides many nutritional benefits and help to promote clean teeth. A variety of meats available like the Buffalo, Rabbit, Pig and Sow, they are even slowly dried to help retain all of their delicious flavour and nutrients!
✔️ Chicken And Duck Feet
High in protein and low in fat, Chicken Feet, Puffed Chicken Feet and Duck Feet are excellent alternatives to rawhide. They are a very popular dog treat because of the long list of benefits they provide for dogs. They contain natural sources of Chondroitin and Glucosamine which are the building blocks for joint cartilage, great for puppies to help growing bones and teeth. Want to know more? Check out this blog of the Benefits of Chicken Feet for Dogs.
✔️ Olive Wood
Considered to be safer than sticks because they don’t splinter in your dog’s month, Olive Wood Dog Chews are naturally harvested from close-grained olive trees which means they are dense and compact in structure – great for strong chewers. They are safe to digest, low in fat and contain elements of Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium which are complementary to your dog’s diet. Click Here to discover more advantages to the Olive Wood Dog Chew.
Say NO To Rawhide!
It is common for companies to justify the bad effects by saying that they use less chemicals during the process of creating rawhide, but realistically the process of manufacturing is the same around the world. The need to go through the bleaching process to remove the rancid smell, harmful bacteria and to get their typical white/yellow colour.
Say no to rawhide and provide your dog with healthy alternatives like the natural treats listed above. Your dog deserves delicious, healthy natural dog chews, not a trip to the vet.