Warning: Dangerous Dog Treats

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Rawhide Treats

Rawhide dog treats are purchased in large numbers by well-meaning dog owners hoping to give their pets something special. These chew toys are favorites for many dogs and are popular with owners because they keep their pets occupied instead of chewing on inappropriate household items. However, there are definite risks associated with these treats.

These treats 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. 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. There has also been a recent FDA alert about the risk of Salmonella associated with dog chew products made from pork or beef-derived material. For more information, refer to the FDA advisory or call 1-888-INFO-FDA. See below (discussion on pigs’ ears) for more details.

Cow Hooves

Cow hooves are even more dangerous than rawhides. They are hard enough that a dog can actually break a tooth when chewing them. They can also be shattered into sharp fragments which may cause an intestinal tear or 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.

Pig’s Ears

Similar to rawhide, pigs’ ears can cause GI upset if overeaten 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.  An FDA advisory published by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human services stated that there is “a nationwide public health warning” alerting consumers about a number of 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.) The FDA has urged pet owners to handle these items 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.

Dog and Cat Skin 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. In these countries, cats and dogs are 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 and 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 incredibly 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, car upholstery, gloves, sports equipment, and medicine.

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