Shop Online  |  My Account  |  Customer Care  |  Order Status
View Cart  | 

News and Information about Dogs, Cats, and Pet Products


From the time we adopted our very first pup, we’ve always been on the lookout for safe, constructive chews that would occupy our dogs while serving as wholesome yet worthy decoys for our cherished throw pillows, shoes, and furniture (not to mention ballpoint pens, slippers, heirloom quilts, etc.).

Rawhides always seemed like an immediate go-to option. After all, they were readily available almost anywhere; sturdy enough to withstand some serious gnaw-time; and even promoted, in many cases, as “all natural.” But after feeding rawhide over time, I would notice several of our dogs breaking out in rashes or small bumpy sores. A few also experienced loose stools, or began gagging and vomiting. Initially, I didn’t connect these ailments with rawhides in any way. It was only when we finally put two of our dogs on an extreme “allergy diet” — and then re-introduced their rawhides — that a connection became apparent.

So we stopped feeding rawhides, but I didn’t really understand why they would be causing any problem. I felt pretty skeptical, so I began chatting with pet nutritionists and doing some research. It turns out that if rawhide manufacturers were held to the same standards as drug makers, many would wind up expanding their required list of label warnings to include phrases like “may cause vomiting, diarrhea, salmonella poisoning, and/or exposure to chemical residues.”

The closer I looked at the manufacturing journey of a typical rawhide chew – which frequently includes some time spent in China, at one point or another—the more I realized that certain alternatives might represent a smarter option. While chews made from rawhide, bone, or other animal parts are consumable (and therefore considered “food” under FDA law, so long as the label doesn’t specify nutritional value), not all manufacturers observe regulations that we humans would consider safe or healthy.

Rawhide is a by-product of what’s known as a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) —  a key component of the industrialized farming industry. The EPA defines a CAFO as “a production facility or multi-step process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined places.” In his book The Meat You Eat, author Ken Midkiff elaborates by describing standard CAFO animal living conditions as overcrowded, dark, neglectful, “nasty, brutish, and short.” He also mentions that CAFO cattle ingest a sustained cocktail of antibiotics, arsenicals, and hormones specifically intended to increase production output.

So when it comes to rawhide, what does that production involve? Producing rawhide begins with the splitting of an animal hide, typically derived from the cattle mentioned above. The “top grain” is generally tanned and made into leather products, while the “inner grain” is kept in a pseudo-raw state and reserved for pets. Of course hair first needs to be removed from these hides; and this often involves a toxic and corrosive process called sodium sulphide liming, which is designed to strip this hair away. A typical practice is to obtain rawhide in this “split lime state” as a by-product from tanneries. In the post-tannery stage, hides are then washed and whitened using a solution that commonly consists of hydrogen peroxide along with certain additives. When tested, the poisonous residues that have often shown up in rawhide include arsenic and formaldehyde.

These steps are further detailed in several books. If you’d like to learn more, I found the book CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories by Daniel Imhoff to be especially informative. You can see more about it here.

Rawhide Alternatives

It’s encouraging to know that rawhide isn’t our only option — there are a number of healthier, safer (and even nourishing!) alternatives designed to satisfy our pups’ chewing needs and preferences.


So let’s say you’re considering rawhide alternatives for your pet. What are some healthy options? Well, depending upon what kind of chewer(s) you have at your house, there are a pretty broad range of alternatives that include bully sticks (such as those made by Boston Bullies), veggie and sweet potato-based chews (such as Sam’s Yams products), chews made from Yak and/or Cow milk (such as products from Himalayan), grain- or rice-based chews, jerky treats, naturally shed antler-based treats (such as Antler Chewz products), and even raw carrots! Check back over the next few weeks, when we’ll be discussing some of these items in more detail. If you or your pup have a particular favorite, share your thoughts below!

Post a comment