Rawhide Chews May Be A Health Risk
There is a lot of information on both sides of the rawhide debate when it comes to toys. Rawhide, which is just what it sounds like, is actually made from the skin of slaughtered beef animals. It has little if any nutritional value but it does seem to have a very pleasant taste for the dog and has been used for years as a chew toy product.
Raw, unprocessed cow and beef hides are imported from a variety of countries. They are not inspected the same way that beef or beef products for human consumption or pet foods is, so there is a slight chance that chemicals, insecticides and other contaminants may be present. In all reality this risk is relatively small, however it is a concern if the dog has a sensitivity to the specific compound present. In addition there are always dyes used in the rawhide unless you buy natural rawhide products. Anything that is colored red, green, yellow or brown is dyed rawhide and could potentially trigger allergies and sensitivities within some dogs.
The bigger risk to your pet is the intestinal blockage hazard. When the dog gnaws or chews on the rawhide it becomes soggy, wet and thick. If you look closely you will notice it almost doubles in size and it begins to shred from the ends where the dog chews. These shredding particles alone aren’t the problem; it is the sodden mass that they become in your dog’s stomach that is the issue. The mass continues to absorb the liquids in the dog’s intestine and stomach, becoming larger over time. It can completely block the intestinal tract and are difficult to detect without specific knowledge of the vet on what the issue may be.
Another key risk is the choking factor. While most dogs will chew and grind on the bone, other dogs may bite of a larger chunk and swallow it without chewing. The rawhide can lodge in the throat and, like the long shredded fibers, it will begin to swell. The dog will become panicked at the choking sensation and his or her body will naturally start producing more saliva in an attempt to lubricate the esophagus. This increase the problem as more saliva leads to more swelling. Surgery is usually required to remove the mass and it typically needs to be done on an emergency basis.
You can still provide your dog with some rawhide, however you do need to be alert to the dangers. First, always use a high quality rawhide that contains as few additional chemicals as possible. Secondly try to find rawhide toys that are made from preshredded rawhide. This has been literally chopped then pressed, preventing the longer fibers from being chewed and swallowed. It breaks up into very small particles less likely to cause masses. Only provide the toy to your dog when you are around to monitor their chewing and playing and, as soon as the toy becomes small enough to swallow or choke on or if pieces start coming off throw it away.