Whether your dog is a 6-month-old puppy or a six-year-old adult, most owners would agree, they all love to chew. Rawhide bones are often the go to treat many of us give our beloved pets. But are rawhide bones really safe for our dogs?
What is Rawhide Anyway?
Rawhide is just that: the inner soft hide or skin of an animal. It is most commonly made from cows but, technically, can be made from any cleft hoofed livestock. Yes, this means exactly what it sounds like. Depending on where it’s manufactured, the ingredients could include hide from cow, pig, sheep, horse or even water buffalo. The animal itself may not be cause for concern, but how, where and in what conditions the animal was raised can affect the overall quality (thinner and drier) and safety of the product.
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How Exactly is Rawhide Made?
In countries outside of the USA, Rawhide often begins its journey with a chemical bath to help “preserve” the product during transport. For the most part, inside the US, it is shipped in refrigerated containers to prevent spoilage. Translation: if imported, this chew treat most likely has an extra dose of chemicals. But, if it’s U.S. made, it likely contains fewer chemicals.
During processing, it is first soaked in an ash-lye solution to remove the hair and fat. Then it can be “cleaned” with water or bleach and/or hydrogen peroxide. In some countries arsenic, or even formaldehyde, is used in this process (banned in the U.S.). Finally, it is either left natural or smoke and other artificial flavors are added to entice your dog to chew for hours.
Why Do Our Dogs Love Rawhide So Much?
Dogs seem to adore Rawhide treats. But is it the Rawhide or just the chewing that they love? Eons ago, when dogs (and humans), still lived in the wild, dogs were given the scraps from the fire. This served to keep the dog loyal and as a means of trash disposal for the humans (yes, even then, no one wanted to take out the trash).
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The urge to chew serves many purposes for your dog. As a puppy, it is a way to explore their environment and is natural when teething. As adults, dogs chew as a scavenging instinct, to play and to satisfy the urge to gnaw as a means to clean their teeth. Some dogs chew more because they are rewarded with attention, whether it’s positive or negative. And finally, for some dogs, chewing excessively is a reaction when they are anxious or stressed.
How Do Dogs Consume Rawhide?
It’s easy to see why Rawhide bones satisfy dogs’ urge to chew. It starts dry and then the dog’s chewing action combined with its saliva slowly softens the treat. Over time, they should be able to tear off small pieces that can easily pass through their digestive tracts.
The dangers of these chew treats are not inherent to raw hide. Some dogs will try to consume their treat in record time. If your dog chews their treat too quickly, they can easily choke on a piece that is too large. Even if they can swallow such a large chunk whole, this does not mean that it can pass through their system without doing damage.
Many of us have heard horror stories of beloved pets being too eager with their Rawhide only to later require emergency surgery. If not caught soon enough, this sad situation could even lead to the death of your darling pooch.
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So Are Rawhide Bones Worth It?
Are there any advantages to giving your dog this bone? And what about the downsides?