R A W H I D E S, C O W H O O V E S, & P I G S ' E A R S
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. There has also been a recent FDA alert about the risk of Salmonella accociated 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 occured, 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, whowever, 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...."[/B]