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Toxins in Imported Rawhide Dog Chews

Updated on August 16, 2008

Read the Label to Protect Your Pet

Rawhide dog chew toys are bought by millions of pet owners every year as a seemingly harmless way to provide their pooches with a fun and a non-destructive outlet for the chewing urge, but are you really giving your dog a wholesome treat or a poisonous and toxic hazard? Careful label reading about the country of origin might provide the answer.

Dog food falls under regulatory control of a variety of federal and state agencies including the FDA and the USDA. Rawhide chews, however, are not marketed as food and are usually exempt; in reality most dogs eventually manage to chew them up and ingest them. Unfortunately, imported rawhide chews may contain toxins remaining from the production process including arsenic, lead, titanium oxide, formaldehyde, chromium salts, mercury, cadmium and bromine. Harmful antibiotics and bacteria can also be present.

The tougher outer layer of a hide is suitable for shoes, upholstery and other purposes, but the inner layer is softer; this is made into rawhide. Cow, pig, sheep, or horse hides are commonly used. In Asia, where water buffalo are utilized as farm animals, their hides are also processed into rawhide. Some Thai rawhide chews were found to contain dog skin.

Due to lack of efficient transportation methods in less developed countries, various preservatives are used to keep the hides from rotting or molding while in transit from rural areas to processing plants. In America and Canada, refrigerated trucks provide safer transport without the need for chemicals. Even with the use of toxic preservatives, Salmonella has been detected in some imported products.

After most meat and fat is scraped from the hide layer, it is soaked in a lime or lye solution to remove remaining tissue, and then bleach is used to remove this caustic bath. This is a cheap and quick method. In the U.S., processors use hydrogen peroxide and a water rinse.

White rawhide chews have market appeal to consumers because they seem cleaner, but obviously, dogs don't care about the color. Titanium oxide is used to make the rawhide white in some countries, so avoid this. Many chews are basted with a flavor coating, and while dogs love it, the color can come off on your carpeting or stain the dog's fur.

Look for rawhide chews that are labeled as U.S. Beef products for safest and best quality. Chews made from Canadian and South American cattle are usually considered good quality, also.

No matter what country of origin, antibiotics, pesticides and growth chemicals frequently taint rawhide, unless you are willing to spend the money to get the best, organically produced products. North American manufacturers are aware of the problems and are making efforts to upgrade.

Even the better rawhide chews are controversial among veterinarians and other experts. Dogs can bite off and swallow large chunks of rawhide, leading to choking or intestinal obstruction. Since it is tough, the rawhide isn't always digested easily. Deaths have even occurred. More commonly, rawhide chews may cause milder digestive upsets such as vomiting and diarrhea. Vets advise dog owners to observe their pets while playing with rawhide chews. If ragged pieces are hanging loose, trim them off. Portions that chip off, instead of slowly becoming soft and mushy are dangerous.

Newer production methods grind the hide and compress it, along with flavor additives, into various shapes. The compressed chews aren't as likely to cause problems, but overall, rawhide dog chews may be more trouble than treat.


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    • profile image

      NO1985-5 6 years ago

      I can agree with you on most points. Except for the fact that origin does not give you any security. Bad and good producers are everywhere.

      The main problem is that trading companies do not always feel that it is there responsibility to check the product they are importing. As you explain, raw hides are categorized as food. The rules are less strict.

      What you can do yourself is:

      - check the label (is there a production date, the maximum shelf life is 12 months)

      - is there some sort of safety guarentee given by the supplier

      - check the colour, it must be level (be carefull with white dog chews, altough they look cleaner it does not mean they are. In this case the bad spots can be "washed off")

      - feel the product, it must be a little bit flexible. Very hard dog chews can splinter.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 9 years ago from America

      Good hub. Don't like rawhide chews never give them to our dogs. They get the hard cleaned bones. I suppose if I check could find something wrong with them also. I don't know where they come from.