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The Problem with Rawhide Chews for Dogs

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that United Pet Group (UPG) issued a voluntary recall of rawhide chews for dogs. While many rawhide chews have been recalled over the years due to Salmonella bacteria contamination, the UPG recall happened because a supplier out of Brazil and manufacturing facilities in Mexico and Colombia were using quaternary ammonia products to help process the chews. Quaternary ammonia solution is used for antimicrobial purposes to clean food processing equipment, but this chemical compound is not approved in the United States for the production of rawhide chews.

In general, rawhide is made from cow or horse hides. In order to clean off hair and dye it white-ish, manufacturers must use chemicals such as sodium sulfide liming and hydrogen peroxide. In addition to the quaternary ammonia products used in the recall mentioned above, we have read reports that other chemicals might be added such as formaldehyde and arsenic.

Plus, the majority of rawhide products come not only from Central and South America, but also from China. China has a questionable reputation regarding companion pet food manufacturing processes from the melamine crisis in 2007 and the chicken jerky pet treats.

Digestibility

Many of us read anecdotally that rawhide does not digest quickly in a companion’s dog gastrointestinal system. Is it true?

Well, we went on the National Institute of Health’s website and found two studies that specifically answer this question.

One study was funded by Hartz Mountain Corporation, a manufacturer of dog treats and rawhide chews. In this study, three rawhide chews were tested: pig skin twist, knotted rawhide bone and extruded rawhide bone. The supplementary table provided simply referred to the chews digestibility as Rawhide 1, Rawhide 2 and Rawhide 3. We assume the order presented in the paragraph aligned with the table. However, making this assumption could be incorrect. So, we could not rely on the study.

The other study by Hooda et al. 2012 compared the dry matter digestibility of rawhide chews and pork skin chews. Their results were more straightforward.

Time (hours) Pork Skin Digestibility

(%)

Rawhide Digestibility

(%)

6 54.7 7.6
12 58.6
18 76.4 41.6 (maximum)
24 86.4

Please Note: This is not a suggestion to feed pork skin or pig ears as alternatives to rawhide. If you choose to, please remember that a pig’s ear is a popular spot to inject hormones. Additionally, make sure your companion dog does not have a food sensitivity or intolerance to pork.

Obstruction

Due to the poor digestibility – or if a companion dog does not chew but is more likely to swallow items whole – rawhide can cause a gut obstruction.

Choking

Dogs can choke on large and even small pieces of rawhide.

Perforation

Another often overlooked medical concern is that a dog may swallow a shard of rawhide that could perforate the esophagus or another part of the gastrointestinal system. This could lead to sepsis and potentially to death.

Suggestions

Many veterinarians tout the tooth cleaning benefits of rawhide, but we believe that many alternative chews, bones, water additives, and gum gels are available that can provide the same effects.

While any chew can potentially pose an obstruction, choking or perforation hazard, we suggest you only give these treats under direct supervision.

Also, remember that if your companion dog has a sensitivity or intolerance to a particular food to avoid the chew or bone of the same food.

References

Becker, Karen. “Dogs Love These but They Can Crack Teeth and Become a Choking Hazard.” Healthy Pets, Mercola, 10 June 2018, https://bit.ly/3j0OQsm.

Burke, Anna. Are Rawhide Chews Dangerous for Dogs? American Kennel Club, 21 May 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/are-rawhide-chews-dangerous-for-dog/.

de Godoy, Maria R C et al. “In vitro disappearance characteristics of selected categories of commercially available dog treats.” Journal of Nutritional Science vol. 3 e47. 10 Oct. 2014, doi:10.1017/jns.2014.40, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4473148/.

Dodds, Jean. “Bones.” Dr. Jean Dodds’ Pet Health Resource Blog, Tumblr, 31 Mar. 2015, https://bit.ly/2ZpFA9D.

Hooda, S et al. “In vitro digestibility of expanded pork skin and rawhide chews, and digestion and metabolic characteristics of expanded pork skin chews in healthy adult dogs.” Journal of Animal Science vol. 90,12 (2012): 4355-61. doi:10.2527/jas.2012-5333, https://academic.oup.com/jas/article-abstract/90/12/4355/4717908.

Pell, Sheila. The Dangers of Rawhide Dog Chew Toys. The Bark, 18 Feb. 2020, https://thebark.com/content/dangers-rawhide-dog-chew-toys.

United Pet Group Voluntary Recalls Multiple Brands of Rawhide Chew Products for Dogs Due to Possible Chemical Contamination. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 8 Feb. 2018, https://bit.ly/38OH7sY.

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