By Linda Cole
All dogs love to chew, and they won’t think twice about searching your home for the perfect “chew toy.” It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite sweatshirt, the TV remote or your couch cushions. In your dog’s mind, just about anything can become fair game for a good chew session. To protect our stuff from the canine jaws of destruction, we need to provide appropriate things for our dogs to gnaw on. Rawhide chews are one of the most popular “dog bones” people buy for their pet. Dogs do seem to enjoy chomping on them, but are rawhide chews safe for dogs? Read on!
What Exactly Are Rawhide Chews?
Rawhide chews are a product of the leather industry, and the process of making them begins in a tannery. The outer part of a hide, usually from a cow, is made into leather while the inner section is used to make rawhide chews.
To keep the hide from spoiling, it’s doused in preservative chemicals, then soaked in a solution that includes lye to remove any hair and fat left on the hide. The hide is then split into layers and soaked in another chemical solution, followed by a bath in hydrogen peroxide or bleach to keep the hide from smelling.
Are Rawhide Chews Safe?
Colored or flavored chews made from rawhide are considered food by the FDA, but as long as there is no claim of nutritional value such as high in protein, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) doesn’t require manufacturers of rawhide chews to follow their pet food regulations. So this means any additive, whether it’s safe to consume or not, could potentially wind up in a rawhide chew, including artificial coloring and flavoring.
Testing done on rawhide chews has found they can contain toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, lead, mercury, chromium salts and arsenic which can build up over time in your pet’s system with continued use. FD&C Red 40 has also been found in colored rawhide chews. This artificial dye is made from coal tar or petroleum distillates and is considered to be a carcinogen. Salmonella and E. coli bacteria have also been detected in some rawhide chews. This can affect you or a family member’s health if a contaminated chew is handled and you don’t wash your hands before eating.
Considering how rawhide chew are manufactured and the cocktail of toxins that may be present in them, saying they are safe would be irresponsible. Aside from that, rawhide chews can also be a choking hazard if a piece gets caught in your dog’s throat. This may even be a bigger threat to your dog than the toxic chemicals found in some chews. Pieces of the chew can expand inside the dog’s stomach causing an obstruction, or become wrapped around the intestines and cause a blockage. Both situations can be life-threatening. Eating too many rawhide chews can also cause gastrointestinal issues.
Alternatives to Rawhide Chews
As I mentioned earlier, most dogs do have a strong desire to chew, so it’s up to us to provide appropriate things that satisfy the urge. Here are some alternatives to rawhide chews that are safer for your dog.
Bully Sticks are made from 100% beef and are digestible. They are made from dried bull penises and are high in protein and low in fat. Bully sticks are becoming a popular alternative to rawhide chews, and dogs love chewing on them.
Kong Toys have been around for 30-some years and can hold up to even an aggressive chewer. You can stuff some CANIDAE treats or peanut butter inside a Kong to help satisfy your dog’s chewing needs.
Sweet Potato Treats are thick slices of sweet potatoes that are safe to chew and eat. They are high in fiber and full of vitamins. You can also make your own sweet potato chews by taking a large sweet potato cut into 1/3” slices. Bake at 250 degrees for three hours and turn over half way through baking. Allow slices to cool on a wire rack before giving to your dog. One large sweet potato makes about 10 chews. They’ll keep in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or you can freeze them for longer storage
Carrots are low in calories and a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin K and B vitamins. A large carrot will satisfy most dogs desire to chew. Give a smaller carrot to small dogs.
You can find other alternatives to rawhide chews, but some can still be a choking hazard and can damage a dog’s teeth. Read labels carefully and do your research before buying any chew to help you purchase one that’s safe for your dog. Pay attention to where the product is made, and be sure to monitor your dog while he’s chewing on whatever you give him.
Read more articles by Linda Cole