Why Not Rawhide?

Say No to RawhideSince Dachshund Rescue List has dedicated quite a bit of time to featuring alternatives to rawhide, one might ask, “Why not rawhide?  What’s so bad about rawhide?”  Well, I already knew the answers to these questions but set about to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.  What I ended up finding was an article so perfectly covering every point that I decided to include it here:

A Lurking Danger to Your Pets

From Raw Hides to Rawhide Treats

By Dusti Summerbird-Lockey, via the Great Dane Angel Network – original post here

I am an Oglala Lakota artist and craftsperson. I have been doing Traditional work such as making rawhide, tanning leather, beadwork and quillwork for over 30 years.  It is because of my knowledge of making rawhide and my deep love for all four legged creatures, most especially my Great Danes, I felt compelled to write this article for you. Hopefully it will help save lives.

We see them in all the pet stores, the grocers, the feed stores. Everywhere. So we assume they are safe for our pets. They must be, they are sold everywhere. Right?

Think again.

Rawhide treats are a danger to your pets, and to your children if swallowed.

Rawhide is just exactly what it says, a raw dried out animal hide. This includes not only the rawhide bones & chews but also pig ears, pig snouts, bull tails, cow ears, lamb ears, choo-hooves, etc.  [Editor’s note: possible inaccurate information indicated with strikethrough]. The vast majority of rawhide pet treats are not made in the United States. But even those marked “Made in the U.S.” are a hazard.

A piece of rawhide purchased as a treat for your pet is a hide, usually bull, cow or horse obtained from slaughter houses, that has been scraped clean of all vestiges of meat, fat and hair. Rawhide, however, can be made from just about any animal. For Native Americans and early Europeans, it was the sheet metal, nails and binding material of the day.  Rawhide was used to repair items such as horse gear and broken gunstocks. It was used in cabin construction as door hinges, windows and truss bindings and Mandan Indians used rawhide in the construction of their boats. As you can see, rawhide is a very strong, durable, heavy-duty item that does not easily break down

Still want to give it to your pets?

How is it made? Rawhide is made for commercial use from bull, cow and horsehides obtained from slaughterhouses as a byproduct of the meat industry.  The flesh side is scraped clean of all remaining meat, membrane, fat, etc. Traditionally this is done by hand, using a drawknife and scraper. Modern day tanneries use a form of a band saw to speed the process up and make a nice clean piece of leather. Commercial manufacturers of rawhide products have machinery to do this.  Once the flesh side is cleaned, the hair must be removed. There are two traditional ways of doing this. One is to “dry scrape” by hand. This is extremely time consuming, not to mention the amount of good ol’ fashioned elbow grease! Commercial makers of rawhide do not use this method.

The other method is to soak the fleshed hide in either an Ash-Lye solution or a Lime solution. The Ash-Lye involves covering or soaking the hide in a mixture of wood ash and water, which creates Lye. The hide soaks for approximately. 3 days in the Lye solution, then as much of the hair as possible is scraped off. The process is repeated until all hair is removed.

The Lime solution is the quickest and most often utilized by manufacturers. This utilizes ordinary builders powdered (hydrated) Lime. The hide soaks for 1-3 days and the hair is scraped off. This process is highly caustic but the most efficient for mass production.

To remove all traces of the Lime solution and to sanitize the rawhide product, commercial makers then rinse the hides in a bleach solution before creating whatever shape is to be used. The bone and other shapes used to attract you and your pet are created while the hide is still wet.  The “treats” are then either dried or sent for “smoking” to further entice the unsuspecting owner and pet. A processed rawhide can shrink up to half its original size when dried.

If the chemicals used to make these “treats” haven’t convinced you to stop, please consider this:

When rawhide is again wetted, usually when your pet salivates over this chew you have provided, it will slowly regain its original size. When your pet tears off and swallows a piece, that piece then has the potential to swell inside your dog’s stomach. Your dog’s gastric juices WILL NOT break down the rawhide. Once swollen, the piece then has the potential to cause anything from mild to severe gastric upset, to death.

Been giving rawhide treats for years with no problems?

My friend, you have been extremely lucky. But your luck WILL run out one day.

Are you certain that you want to gamble with your beloved friend’s life?

Don’t believe me?

Take the rawhide challenge. Cut varying sizes from different rawhide products and set them in a bowl of water to soak before going to bed. In the morning you will see the sizes that they have grown to. They will vary, but the increase should be noticeable.


So what do you offer your pets instead?  You can choose not to offer them any edible chews at all, choosing to only offer them non-edible chew toys such as Kong toys, etc.  If you decide to offer edible chews, there are many alternatives to rawhide.  There will always be ever-growing and ever-changing list here at Dachshund Rescue List where we seek to share only the safest and healthiest chews for your dog.
Always keep in mind that ANY variety of chew or bone should be consumed by your pet only under close supervision.  NEVER leave a pet alone with a chew treat or toy.  Also, once a chew reaches the point where it could be swallowed whole, it is advisable to take it away – even the safest of chews can be a choking hazard if too large of a piece is swallowed at once.

BestBullySticks.com - Dog Treats, Dog Chews, Dog Toys, Dog Food

2 Responses to Why Not Rawhide?

  1. Brie says:

    Rawhide is just exactly what it says, a raw dried out animal hide. This includes not only the rawhide bones & chews but also pig ears, pig snouts, bull tails, cow ears, lamb ears, choo-hooves, etc.

    Pig ears are not rawhides. Not sure why you say that rawhides include pig ears.

    • Pam says:

      Thank you for your comment. I apologize for any misinformation.
      I actually didn’t personally say any of that. If you read the page, you can see that it is a shared piece, with credit given to the original author at the top.
      Also, this page was included on the website over four years ago and has not been updated since then. The only page I actively update/edit on the site is the rescue list – as that is the primary purpose of the site now. I need to just take down much of the website, as I honestly don’t want people stumbling upon old pages, for many of which the information is outdated. For now, I have added a strikethrough to effectively omit the inaccuracy you pointed out while still preserving the integrity of the original piece.

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