The Dangers of Rawhide
By Katie Hector and CC Cartier
Whether puppies or adults, dogs use their mouths and chewing as a way of alleviating boredom and anxiety and exploring the world around them. Unfortunately this often results in damage to furniture, rugs, shoes, remotes and mobile phones. In order to remedy potential destruction to personal items, pet parents may choose from an overwhelming assortment of dog chews and toys. One of the most popular chews that pet parents turn to are rawhide products. Startling new information has been uncovered about the dangers of these products. From Salmonella recalls to toxic ingredients, rawhides are now posing an increasing threat to the health of our beloved pets. Explore the truths behind the marketing ploys and choose healthy alternatives that will make both parents and pets jump for joy.
The past three years have witnessed a dramatic shift in Rawhide product awareness thanks to an increase in research and information regarding pet health. From 2008 to 2011 alone, there have been SIX major FDA recalls of rawhide products due to Salmonella poisoning of pets and people who have come into contact with rawhides. Salmonella in dogs can easily be spread and adapt into a multitude of other bacterial diseases such as gastroenteritis (which causes a dog to vomit or excrete blood) and septicemia (which results in blood poisoning, dangerously high fevers and low blood pressure). These diseases can often be difficult and expensive to treat properly and may lead to greater complications if not treated. This alarming amount of recalls and threat of bacterial exposure has already put rawhides on the black list of many pet nutritionists, trainers and pet parents.
Along with bacterial exposure, perhaps the greatest risk that rawhide products pose for dogs is that they are a very serious choking hazard. As a dog chews the rawhide down into smaller pieces, it becomes a choking hazard that may block a dog’s esophagus. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, a board certified veterinary trauma and critical care surgeon explains her fear and heartache when her beloved Pit Bull “JP” swallowed a piece of rawhide in her article “Why I Hate Rawhides”, Dr. Lee explains the dangers of rawhide foreign body ingestion, describing them as, “life-threatening if not treated immediately”. “I’ve seen dogs develop severe complications even with rescue endoscopy procedures (like tearing through the esophagus, aspiration pneumonia, sepsis, ect.) and I have seen dogs die from esophageal foreign bodies.” writes Lee. The Humane Society of the United States includes rawhide pet products on their list of the eight most dangerous indoor household hazards to pets, alongside pesticide products and human medications. Rawhides makes the list due to the fact that the easily spread salmonella to pets and people and are the number one choking hazard. The HSUS is not alone on their position on rawhides. The ASPCA suggests that pet parents should, “discourage consumption” because they ”cause choking or gastrointestinal obstruction.” Pet parents are putting their pets at risk every time they use rawhide products.
If salmonella bacteria, choking, and gastrointestinal trauma have not forever dissuaded you from feeding rawhide products, it is time to look behind marketing gimmicks to investigate the ingredients that these nutritionally empty and calorie dense products include. Acclaimed author and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Ernie Ward reveals leading dog foods and treats true caloric values and compares them to human food equivalents in his book, “Chow Hound”. Dr. Ward deems the caloric intake of a Dingo Meat in the Middle small bone for a forty pound dog as the equivalent of a human eating two Taco Bell Taco Supremes AND 20 ounces of Coke. Ward further deciphers the pet food and product market in an effort to help fight pet obesity and educate pet parents in prevention methods to avoid diseases and increase pet longevity. Dr. Ward’s desire to educate stems from his experience treating the repercussions of pet obesity which include: heart and respiratory disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, compromised immune function, numerous forms of cancer and ultimately decreased life expectancy. Rawhide, pig ears and Dingo ingredients directly contribute to pet obesity, which is why most companies that manufacture them do not include ingredients lists and caloric values on their packaging, and why natural pet food retailers refuse to carry them. Most companies who produce rawhides utilize toxic chemicals in their processing methods, such as: lye or lime solution, bleach, arsenic, lead, titanium oxide, formaldehyde, mercury, cadmium, bromine, and potentially carcinogenic artificial dyes. Oh my! Unfortunately, this is the reality of the pet food industry. As pet parents, education and prevention are our best defenses. Become well informed against the dangers of rawhide products and find healthy alternatives that your pet will enjoy, risk free.
Healthy alternative abound and are more accessible than ever! Pet parents no longer have to travel far to find them or make alternative products themselves. Due to new pet health awareness, great companies and specialty retailers are foregoing toxic chemicals and dangerous treats in lieu of safe, nutritious and delicious treats and chews. Never buy Chinese sourced dog products, which are only sometimes labeled “MADE IN CHINA”. Instead, seek out all natural American made products whenever possible.
Some alternative products and companies that we highly recommend are:
- Dr. Harvey’s Sweet Potate’r Chews (based in Keensburg, New Jersey)
- Sam’s Yams Veggie “Rawhide” Sweet Potato Dog Chewz
- Merrick Bully Stix
- Natural Deer Antler Chews
- Himalayan Dog Chews