Dangers of Rawhide Chews – A Word from Seismo and Taco

related: China is still exporting their poison: 600 Dogs Sickened Due to Chicken Jerky Treats




Holly Deyo
November 2002, updated March 2012


Last week Seismo (he's the big mutt on the left) and the bright beauty - that's me - Taco Deyo on the right, got really, really sick. Tummy hurt. Threw up lots. Made piles of "chocolate pudding" everywhere. We still don't feel too hot. . . Mom thought we should warn other dog parents so their kids don't have the same awful experience.

We gotta get back to important things like running off the baddies and chasing bird shadows. You know, things that impress The Parents and let them know we're worth a million bucks!

"What's that Seis?" Taco cocks her ear to one side.

"Oh, yeah, Mom wants to talk to you guys."




Sad to say, Taco's right. Stan and I made an unexpected trip to Colorado Springs for the day. Since we both work from home, we usually spend a great deal of time with our 4-leggeds. One of their beds is on eye level with our office, so they keep pretty close tabs on us. The thought of leaving them penned up for the day brought on a few guilt pangs, especially when we found there were no marrow bones left in the freezer. The only treat we could find was a couple of rawhide chewies neighbors gave them last Christmas. It was such a neat gift - four different types of rawhides, individually packaged by shape, tucked inside a clear plastic Santa sock and tied with a red bow.

We left them happily munching away on rawhides, with fresh water and bowls of dry dog food to tide them over. At 4pm when we pulled into the drive, two black noses appeared over their gate and happy tails wagged. Everything seemed normal.

Though it was three hours past their regular lunch time, no one complained. When we set their food bowls down filled with their favorite dinner, neither even took a sniff. In fact, none of their dry food had been touched while we were away. Thinking it odd, especially for Seismo who eats anything not nailed down, Stan and I unpacked the car and worked through the evening.

Colorado weather can be spectacularly different from day to night. Sunny, warm Fall days can easily dump 60 degrees plummeting to below freezing on cloudless nights. Those evenings, Seismo and Taco curl up on their garage beds, dreaming of the next laser game.

They made their last pit stop around 10:00pm, which holds them quite comfortably till 6am. Friday morning the garage floor was covered in enormous piles of barf, bile and diarrhea. The dogs didn't budge from their beds and their ears flattened in shame. Sighing at the gross way for all to start the day, I promised them it was OK and scratched their cheeks and ears reassuringly. Normally this is the silent signal for Taco to receive her ritual morning chest scratch, but she remained motionless on her bed.

Seismo made a short rendezvous with a tree and flopped back into bed. All day they ate nothing and only drank a little water.

The next day, the garage was a disaster zone again. What little had been in Seismo's system was now a chocolate puddle behind the car. Between the two of them, they had covered five of six throw rugs in bilious, yellow-colored vomit. Poor babies! Everything was washed and disinfected again.

This was Saturday. We agreed that if they weren't back to normal by Monday, they had to go to the vet. The weekend was up and down. They drank plenty of water so there was no danger of dehydration. Taco, who is more selective about 'what's on the menu', ate only a cup of food but she couldn't keep much down.

By Sunday, Seismo was looking more like his old self and thinking food might be clever. Using a bland diet, they both ate a mixture of equal parts boiled burger and rice. All fat is drained off with no seasoning added. Seismo ate about a cup and for a 65 pound pooch, that's not much. Taco ate half of that. For her dainty 52 pound frame, it was a mere snack considering they normally run all day.

They had resumed normal play but food was simply off-limits. That was it! In the morning - to the vet they went! What we found out was shocking!

When Stan and I described to the doctor what had transpired over the past four days, his face took on a knowing look. They had seen numerous cases of the same thing, but none as severe as Seismo and Taco. The primary problem is bacteria in rawhides that can cause severe gastrointestinal upset. Seismo and Taco were diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and were put on several antibiotics - Amoxicillin injections plus Gentocin and Baytril (antibiotics sent home with them) plus Reglan for nausea. After blood and stool tests were taken, they stayed overnight for observation. Though still not eating enough to keep a gnat alive, both were allowed to come home Tuesday - day 5 of this mess.

Friday morning, the eighth day of sick dogs, there was a setback with more bile thrown up. Dr. Markway relayed that their pancreas and intestines were still inflamed though there're no blockages.

No food for the next 24 hours and they were to take two Pepcid AC tablets twice daily. (If you need help getting pills down the hatch, see this article.)

Saturday they continued the Pepcid AC given
½ hour before small amounts of food were reintroduced. The vet sent home cans of Hills Prescription Diet I/D - a very, very bland mixture of tummy-friendly food. Each dog was given ~½ cup warmed I/D mixed with a little water. They were to have absolutely no fat. Small amounts of food or no food for 24 - 72 hours, depending of what your veterinarian prescribes, can't be emphasized enough. The pancreas must have time to rest in order to heal.

Today is Sunday and hopefully, this is the last entry to the rawhide saga.

Let us back up a minute and finish Saturday's tale. The first meal of Hills I/D served at 10:30am Seismo gobbled; Taco ate reluctantly. The next meal at 3:00pm was a happy surprise. Taco stood on the garage steps and demanded dinner (preceded by Pepcid AC). Boy was this a twist! Seismo wolfed his allotted
½ cup of food in a single snort and looked up hopefully for more. I was tempted, but after replaying both Dr. Markway's cautions and the horror of the past 10 days, we stuck strictly to the instructions.

At 7:30pm, Taco demanded - loudly - more food for both. (Now you know where Taco gets her name - she's a spicy-saucy woman! I tell Stan she just knows her mind.)

This morning, Sunday, the garage was immaculate and if dogs could smile, both were grinning ear-to-ear. Today, we'll bump the size of their meals a little, preceded by the two Pepcid AC tablets. They are to continue the Pepcid ACs for two days after they are eating normally. Hopefully that begins today.



That was 2002. Taco and Seismo recovered nicely and just celebrated their 11th birthday.

After seeing this article, one reader shared the following:

One day we were playing 'keep away' with our pups with one of those 'well-loved...', nasty soggy ol' chews. I noticed that it was starting to unravel and become untwisted. Inside I could see that when they started the twisting process, the manufacturers had actually stapled the rawhide in two places! If the pups had chewed down to, and swallowed, the hide with the stapes in it, we'd have had problems for sure! We're just grateful that we found the potential problem and stopped giving them rawhide chews.



blockages would be indicated by vomiting a brownish liquid shortly after drinking any water with exceptionally foul, thin, runny diarrhea.


"Say Taco, do you suppose we can catch that bird shadow?" Seismo muses gazing up at the sky.

"Huh?? Gee Seis, I see eating that rawhide didn't make you any smarter!"

"Sure, it did Taco. I learned never to eat anything other than mice! No rawhide is ever going in my face again!"




What's in the Rawhide (Besides Hide)?

The Internet provided a disgusting discovery; Dr. Markway was right on target with his diagnosis and comments. Salmonella bacteria is often present especially if the rawhide comes from outside the US. Another problem is arsenic used as a preservative. This is, in essence, giving your pet poison! Other dangerous additives can include antibiotics, lead and insecticides. Some countries like Thailand even include pieces of dog and cat skin in these products. Health problems from rawhide chews include sore throat, choking, intestinal blockage as well as the acute pancreatitis Taco and Seismo experienced.

Symptoms of acute pancreatitis can vary from mild gastrointestinal upset to collapse and death. Most animals with common gastrointestinal upset have any or all of the following:

If you want to do your own investigating, try entering "rawhide chew" + sick in a search engine. Be prepared for a lot of results. Below you will find enough to get a good picture.



WHAT IS RAWHIDE?

Rawhide is literally the outside of a cow - the skin. It provides dogs with a satisfying chewing experience plus it's cheap and easy to find. So how can it be dangerous?

Here's the Problem


Hidden Dangers

Dr. John Wedeking, an Iowa veterinarian, remembers hearing about rawhide in the news.

"Reports of arsenic contamination popped up in papers once," he says, but adds that it came from another country.

Since rawhide is not regulated in any way, it could happen again. These foreign hides may also contain other detrimental things such as
antibiotics, lead, or insecticides that could adversely affect your dog's health.

Wedeking adds that dogs can easily choke on it when the original large rawhide object is chewed down to a smaller piece.

'Choking is a hazard, and rawhide can cause gastric irritation when dogs chew on it often," he says. Wedeking adds that gastric irritation can also cause vomiting and extreme discomfort in dogs.2



Rawhides, Cow Hooves and Pigs' Ears

"These well-liked dog treats are purchased in large numbers, especially around holidays, by well-meaning dog owners hoping to give their pets something special. These toys are favorites for many dogs and are popular with owners because they keep their pets occupied and supposedly out of trouble during holiday activities. There are definite risks associated with these treats, however. All three types are supposedly made of digestible animal products. However, they are digested quite slowly and, if consumed rapidly, can cause either vomiting or diarrhea from the many pieces still sitting undigested in the GI tract. If the treats are swallowed whole or in large chunks, there are additional dangers. Rawhide chews can lodge in the throat and cause choking, or a large piece may be swallowed, scraping and irritating the throat and esophagus on the way down. Once in the stomach or intestinal tract, a large piece of rawhide can also create a physical obstruction. An additional danger that is less widely known is the practice, in
some countries, of using an arsenic-based preservative in the processing of rawhide toys. We recommend that, if you do purchase these products, stick to brands processed in the U.S. The FDA released an alert about the risk of Salmonella associated with dog chew products made from pork or beef-derived materials: refer to the FDA advisory or call 1-888-INFO-FDA. See below (discussion on pigs' ears) for more details.

"Cow hooves are even more dangerous than rawhides. They are hard enough that a dog can actually break a tooth on one. They can also be chewed up into sharp fragments which may cause a partial intestinal obstruction. Partial obstructions are often difficult to diagnose until the point at which the fragment is ready to perforate the wall of the bowel from pressure against the sharp edges. If perforation has occurred, the infection that ensues from leakage of intestinal contents can be fatal.

"Pigs' ears can cause GI upset if overeaten, similar to the situation with rawhides, although obstructions are less common because the ears are not usually shaped into solid chunks. There is, however, a less widely known danger associated with pig ears: A recent FDA advisory published by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human services on Oct.1, 1999, stated that there is "a nationwide public health warning alerting consumers about a number of recent cases in Canada of human illnesses apparently related to contact with dog chew products made from pork or beef-derived materials (e.g., pigs ears, beef jerky treats, smoked hooves, pigs skins, etc.)... FDA is urging pet owners... to handle them carefully. Anyone who comes in contact with these treats should wash their hands with hot water and soap. Initial reports of illnesses came from Canada and involved Canadian products, but subsequent examination of similar products produced in the U.S. indicate that all pet chew products of this type may pose a risk...."
3



Where is the Rawhide Chew Made?

Tests on imported pet products made from animal hides by UK health authorities revealed many carried the salmonella bug, a common cause of gastrointestinal infections in humans.

They found that one in three batches imported from Thailand and one in eight from China contained salmonellas that had survived processing and manufacturing, although samples from the Indian subcontinent appeared free of contamination. (DEYO NOTE: Many of these chews - even from well-known pet stores - come from Thailand. Be sure to read the label.)

Doctors warned that small children might be at most risk of infection, since they were especially likely to come into close contact with dogs and their chews.4



Dog and Cat Used in Some Rawhide Chews

"More than 2 million dogs and cats are killed for their fur each year. The Humane Society of the United States recently finished an 18-month investigation of the fur trade. Investigators went to China, Thailand, and the Philippines. They found dogs and cats being treated inhumanely and then killed for their fur and skin. More than 2 million cats and dogs are killed for their fur each year. Some of this fur and skin is imported to the United States.

"It is not against the law to wear, sell, and import cat and dog fur in the United States. It is, however, illegal to kill cats and dogs for their fur. This is different in China and many other places. There cats and dogs can be raised and killed for their fur and skin. Some of these animals come from breeding farms, but others are strays and stolen pets.

"The Humane Society found animals kept in crowded and dirty conditions. They are transported in bags. They are not fed regularly. Dogs are often cut in the hind leg or groin when they are killed. They then bleed to death. The dogs are sometimes skinned while they are still alive. Cats are often strangled to death. These methods leave the animals' fur in good condition for use as coats and trim, but are cruel.

"Cat and dog skin is difficult to recognize. It looks the same as other leather. It often comes from Thailand and the Philippines.
Items which often use cat and dog skin include rawhide chew toys, musical instruments, clothing, purses, bed sheets, car upholstery, gloves, sports equipment, and medicine."5



What You Can Do

If you must give your dog rawhide, offer it in limited quantity, under supervision, and throw away small chewed-down pieces. Always watch your dog carefully for any adverse reactions. Our veterinarian advises giving them a miss altogether. When we asked Dr. Markway why these products were still on the market, he too was mystified, but stated the public is largely unaware of rawhide's dangers.

Choose only products made in the US. There are numerous other dog chews made from healthful ingredients. Some are vegetable based and infused with flavor. Hardened rubber versions that won't splinter are fine too. Better yet, Markway recommends marrow bones as an excellent choice.


After purchasing marrow bones from the grocery store, we throw them in the pressure-cooker for about 15 minutes, cool and freeze them until needed. That way you can avoid these tummy dramas unless you run out!



More Tips

We all love to indulge our 4-legged kids but our foods don't always agree with them. Dr. Lucy Pinkerton offers great pet advice on

1) Chocolate
2) Rich, fatty foods
3) Dairy products
4) Rawhides, cow hooves, & pigs' ears
5) Bones
6) Onions (!)
7) Alcoholic beverages
8) Over-eating in general
9) Beware of the candy dish!

in Chocolate & Other Dangerous Goodies

other concerns:
Hazardous Holiday Decorations: Plants & Greens
Hazardous Holiday Decorations: Physical Hazard



REFERENCES
1Veterinary Q & A: Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cat; http://vetmedicine.about.com/library/weekly/aa111700a.htm
2http://nmnm.essortment.com/rawhidechew_rbzt.htm
3Chocolate & Other Dangerous Goodies; http://www.dog.com/vet/holidays/04.html#4
4DOG-E-DATA Monthly Magazine; http://www.dog-e-data.com.au/newsletter/Archive/2001/October2001/october2001_12.asp
5http://www.keynews.org/archives/a_fur.htm


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