At Open Range, we are proud to offer healthy, nutritious, and safe dog treats that are suitable as alternatives to Rawhide. Why do we concern ourselves with rawhide? It is one of the most popular yet most misunderstood treats on the market for dogs today. In fact, many respected dog associations and veterinarians warn against the use of rawhide as a treat. Rawhide is not a food product – it is a by-product of the leather industry and it comes from the tannery industry. As a result, rawhide is not required to meet strict guidelines set out by the CFIA and the USDA. Additionally, of concern is the country of origin of the rawhide – it is difficult for the dog parent to know where the product is sourced and countries like China can have even less oversight and scrutiny on the production of rawhide style treats. The following is an excerpt from an article written by Rodney Habib (a respected pet food safety advocate with over 2.6m followers on Facebook and supported by Karen Becker a world-renowned veterinarian). This details the process to produce rawhide. At the end, you’ll find a link to a video Becker and Habib put together to illustrate their concerns about rawhide.
How can one of the most popular chew sticks on the planet be so dangerous for your pets, you ask? I mean, most dogs chew on rawhide for hours on end, and not only does it keep them busy, but they seem to last forever. Well if you understood what it took to make this toxic “raw” leather stick, you would quickly understand what the problem is. Aside from the horror stories circulating all over social media these days, of pets needing emergency surgery after consuming rawhide, the majority of pet parents today, especially the newbies, believe that this chew is some sort of dried up meat stick.
A rawhide stick is not the by-product of the beef industry nor is it made of dehydrated meat. Rather, rawhide is the by-product of the “Leather Industry”, so theoretically it is a leather chew.
How It’s Made
So, how does this leather, which is conveniently rolled up into pretty shapes, get made into those rawhide chews? Follow along my friends and I will enlighten you on how this hide travels through a leathery process where it transforms from hide to a not-so beautiful, colorful, chew stick. Here is a paraphrased tutorial that was explained by the whole dog journal several years back:
STEP 1: To the Tannery
Normally, cattle hides are shipped from slaughterhouses to tanneries for processing. These hides are then 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 may be attached to the hides themselves. Next on this glorious journey, these 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.
STEP 2: Cleansed in Chemicals
Now that we have the inner layer of the hide, it’s time to go to 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.
STEP 3: Make It Look Pretty
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. But tracking the effects of chemical exposure is nearly impossible when it’s a matter of slow, low-dose poisoning.” Ok, now that these hides have been painted, it’s time for the final process.
STEP 4: Getting It to Last Forever!
When tested: Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, Chromium salts, Formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals have been detected in rawhides. So, it’s safe to say that any sort of glues can be used as well! And there it is! It’s now ready to be shipped to store shelves where it can be purchased for our loving animal companions.
Here is world-renowned veterinarian Doctor Karen Becker’s take 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.”