[From Tufts October 2010 Issue]
I’ve been subscribing to your newsletter for many years now. It’s always got great information, and I save old editions just in case I have a question later. I’d like to have a definitive answer, if possible, on the safety of rawhide treats. My dogs (we have four right now, all 85 pounds or more) have always loved them, but I kept reading and hearing about dangers of them, so I switched to pork treats.
Those, of course, cost a lot more and with four dogs, it adds up! So, are rawhides safe, or will they cause intestinal problems? Thank you so much!
Susan Sweeney Crum
One of the primary concerns with rawhide chews is the potential for the pet to ingest large pieces of the rawhide that may then cause an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract. This may happen if a large piece is broken off or if the pet swallows the remainder of a rawhide after it has been chewed down to a smaller size.
To help avoid this, it is recommended to take away the rawhide when it gets chewed down to a smaller piece, or avoid rawhide treats if your pet tends to chew off and swallow large pieces. Also, it is always a good practice to give rawhides and other types of chew treats when the pet can be observed.
The risk for gastrointestinal obstruction is one that is shared with many chew treats, so the above concerns and practices should be considered with all types of chew treats or toys given to your dog. Some treats that have had reported problems in the past, such as Greenies, have been reformulated to make them more digestible, helping to avoid some of the concerns of obstruction. It is always best to avoid bones, as bones are harder and are more likely to cause problems such as tooth fractures or gastrointestinal obstructions.
Another important consideration is that rawhides do provide calories, so they should be given in moderation. One recommendation that has been made is to limit chewing time to no more than two hours per day to help limit the amount of rawhide that your pet is consuming daily.
Finally, some chew treats, such as pig ears, have been recalled in the past because of contamination with salmonella. I have not heard of any similar recalls with rawhides, and generally, it is rare for such treats to be associated with illnesses in pets. However, it is always good practice to wash your hands after handling these treats, and avoid exposing children or immunocompromised people to them.
Sally Perea, DVM