Rawhide is a dangerous treat, given unknowingly by pet parents to their dogs. It is not, as many folks believe, the by-product of the beef industry nor is it made of dehydrated meat. It is actually the by-product of the leather industry. Producing rawhide begins with the splitting of an animal hide, usually from cattle. The top grain is generally tanned and made into leather products, while the inner portion, in its “raw” state, goes to the dogs. Harmful chemicals, glue and paint are added to the product. A brief 4-step explanation below this illustration describes how the actual process transforms the hide to the dangerous chew stick. And, below the explanation, we’ve included some safer, healthier treat option suggestions (vegetarian option as well).
STEP 1: Normally, cattle hides are shipped to tanneries for processing. The hides are treated with a chemical bath to help “preserve” the product during transport to help prevent spoilage.
Once at the tannery, the hides are soaked and treated with either an ash-lye solution or a highly toxic recipe of sodium sulphide liming. This process will help strip the hair and fat that maybe attached to the hides themselves.
The hides are then treated with chemicals that help “puff” the hide, making it easier to split into layers. The outer layer of the hide is used for goods like car seats, clothing, shoes, purses, etc. But, it’s the inner layer that is needed to make the rawhide, and other things like gelatin, cosmetics, and glue.
STEP 2: The post-tannery stage: Hides are washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach; this will also help remove the smell of the rotten or putrid leather. (Research also shows that other chemicals maybe used to help the whitening process if the bleach isn’t strong enough.)
STEP 3: Now it’s time to make these whitened sheets of this “leathery by-product” look delicious. So, here is where the artistic painting process comes in.
Basted, smoked, and decoratively tinted products might be any color (or odor) underneath the coating of (often artificial) dyes and flavors. They can even be painted with a coating of titanium oxide to make them appear white and pretty on the pet store shelves.
The Material Safety Data Sheet reveals a toxic confection containing the carcinogen FD&C Red 40, along with preservatives like sodium benzoate. Tracking the effects of chemical exposure is nearly impossible when it’s a matter of slow, low-dose poisoning.
STEP 4: How does it last forever? Because the FDA does not consider these chews to be food, it’s a free for all when it comes to the manufacturers of these leather strips, and the products they may want to add to these chews, to get them to last forever. Any sort of glue may be added here to help ensure they never come apart.
When tested: Lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium salts, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals have been detected in raw hides.
Finally, it’s time to package and attach all the glorious marketing labels to the product. The fine print warning is attached with some rawhide products: “Choking or blockages. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.“
How do proactive veterinarians feel about these chews? This is what world-renowned veterinarian Doctor Karen Becker has to say on the matter:
“The name ‘rawhide’ is technically incorrect. A more accurate name would be processed-hide, because the skin isn’t raw at all. But the term “rawhide” has stuck. Rawhide chews start out hard, but as your dog works the chew it becomes softer, and eventually he can unknot the knots on each end and the chew takes on the consistency of a slimy piece of taffy or bubble gum. And by that time your dog cannot stop working it — it becomes almost addictive.At this point, there’s no longer any dental benefit to the chew because it has turned soft and gooey, and, in fact, it has become a choking and intestinal obstruction hazard.“
An investigation by Humane Society International stated in their report, “In a particularly grisly twist, the skins of brutally slaughtered dogs in Thailand are mixed with other bits of skin to produce rawhide chew toys for pet dogs. Manufacturers told investigators that these chew toys are regularly exported to and sold in U.S. stores.”
Healthy, Safer & Delicious Treat Alternatives, as Suggested by THE NEW BARKER dog magazine.
- Atticus’ Own Pet Products – a variety of delicious treats, chock full of all things healthy, like glucosamine and chondroitin. A super treat to keep you dog’s hips and joints healthy. The jerky is made from USDA-certified, all-natural chicken breast from family farms right here in the USA. In fact, Atticus’ Own Pet Products is headquartered right here in Florida. Grain free. No wheat, corn, soy or additives. In addition to the chicken jerky, Atticus’ Own offers Fish Jerky treats “like heaven in a bag…” A great source of omega-3’s. For dogs and cats. Follow the adventures of Atticus’ Own Gibbs and Sunshine at Atticus’ Own Pet Products. Better yet, order up some treats at http://www.atticusown.com
- Earth Animal No-Hide Chicken Chews – 100% USA-sourced chicken, made in the USA. The chicken has been carefully rolled, cooked and uniquely dried for a one-of-a-kind chew. No hormones or additives. Also available: Beef and Salmon. You’ll find these delicious dog treats at fine Florida dog stores such as Dog Mania & Cats in Dade City.
- Al CaBONES – We’ve watched customers load up on these treats, as their dogs just love them. The treats are actually beef marrow bones wrapped in chicken. No additives, preservatives or fillers. All goodness, sourced and made in the USA. Bada bing, bada boom. Trust us. This is a treat your dog can’t refuse. Available at fine independent pet retail stores including Fluffy Puppies in Clearwater and Pet Food Warehouse in St. Petersburg.
- Einstein Pets – What about an alternative for the vegetarian lover? Einstein Pets uses only ingredients that matter. Ingredients like oats, rich in nutrients. Veggie Time dog treats are made with real carrots, turmeric and chia which promotes heart and liver health. This Sarasota, FL company is turning heads in the pet treat industry with awards from Pet Product News and the Best Brand award from American Choice Awards. You’ll find them at fine independent pet retail stores including Wet Noses, Sarasota; Bark Life, Seminole; Downtown Dogs, Tampa’s Hyde Park; The Modern Paws, Tampa; Wag Natural Pet Market, Tampa’s Davis Island; Earthwise Pet Supply in Gainesville, Valrico, Naples and Jacksonville Beach.
Finally – always supervise your pet when giving any chew treats. It’s also a good idea to check with your veterinarian, especially if your dog is on a special diet.
Sources: Pet nutrition blogger Rodney Habib, Planet Paws, The Whole Dog Journal and The Bark.
THE NEW BARKER dog magazine, established in 2006, publishes quarterly. Each cover of THE NEW BARKER dog magazine features an original work of art by a different Florida artist. For more information, visit http://www.TheNewBarker.com