With Christmas time quickly approaching, pet parents will be filling puppy stockings with all kinds of fun things. Tennis balls, squeaky toys, and bones will be sure to make their appearance on mantels across the nation, but be wary of that last one. It may be tempting to purchase that adorable Christmas themed rawhide chew from the pet store, but this doggy favorite may be one to avoid for the holiday season … and for good. Rawhide not only has some serious dangers associated with chewing it, but it may even contain nasty chemicals that could cause serious health issues in your furry friend.

Chemical Bones

Rawhide is not as innocent as it may seem. Though dogs go crazy for it, it can be processed in a pretty disgusting manner. Rawhide is made from the portion of animal skin that isn’t used in leather. This inner portion of the skin in its “raw” state goes into the candy cane shaped bone you see at the store. But that’s not the only step in the process. Sodium sulphide liming is the process used to remove hair from the hide. Hides are then washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide … and your dog chews on this.

Arsenic and formaldehyde, as well as adhesive are used to make the fun shapes, as well as other potential chemicals you can find lurking in this type of chew. To make matters even worse, according the the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), many rawhide products are a byproduct of the cruel international fur trade. HSUS has held an ongoing investigation of this and has stated that “the skins of brutally slaughtered dogs in Thailand are mixed with other bits of skin to produce rawhide chew toys for pet dogs.” Many of these rawhide chews have made their way to the U.S. market.

Chewing Hazards

As if the potential of having your dog chew skin from another dog wasn’t enough to deter you from filling your pup’s stocking with rawhide, there are several physical issues with providing this type of toy. First, though the risk is relatively small, rawhide chews can be contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli. Second, rawhide chews can cause a variety of issues associated with its ingestion.

Chewing a piece of rawhide that is too small, for example, can cause choking in your canine companion if you aren’t careful. We all know how quick our pups are to get through certain chew toys, so it can be tough to keep that close of an eye on them. Swallowing a piece of rawhide too large, on the other hand, can expand inside your pup’s stomach, putting them at risk for a fatal blockage. As they chew, the rawhide gets soft and becomes easy for them to swallow. This rawhide can even wrap around the intestines, causing another type of obstruction. Ingesting too much rawhide, even safe sized pieces, can cause gastrointestinal complications as well. All problems that can cause death or, at the very least, extremely high vet bills.

Awesome Alternatives

Not to worry, pet parents! There are tons of alternatives to rawhide that your pooch will love just as much. Carrots, surprisingly, are a favorite amongst many pups and provide that lovely crunch your chewer will love. This healthy alternative is a great meat-free and low calorie option if your pup is watching his figure. Sweet potato jerky, or other dried veggies, make another great and healthy alternative to rawhide. Plus, it is super inexpensive if you make it at home!

If your canine isn’t big into the vegetable option, there are some other options more similar to rawhide without the dangers. Bully sticks are an even bigger hit than rawhide among many dogs. Though these chews are typically more expensive than rawhide, they are made in a much safer manner. The quiet time they provide pet parents makes the price tag worth it as well. If you can, opt for the “low odor” version, as the alternative can have a less-than-pleasant smell.

Naturally shed antlers are also a good alternative to rawhide. These chews are collected after deer, moose and elk naturally shed them, so they are cruelty-free! They are then sanitized and are ready for your pup to gnaw away. Because these are naturally shed, they contain no chemicals. They also don’t splinter like some other chews. Your pup will go crazy for one of these in the Christmas stocking.

Safety First

Finding a safe and enjoyable chew for your dog can be what saves you from destructive chewing. Your pup will love getting something other than rawhide in their stocking, and you’ll love seeing their happy faces Christmas morning. Always do research on what kinds of treats and toys you are giving your dog and be sure to supervise them to avoid potential hazards.

Image source: SMN/Flickr