After reading yesterday’s post, one of our flock asked for more information on rawhide chews. If you’re here reading, you probably already know that rawhide is supplied in a variety of forms. You can get potato-chip size chips, little strips, little strips rolled into "straws", big strips, big strips tied into a bone-shape, and a variety of shapes that are molded from chopped rawhide that has been pressed into a solid material. It comes in plain, peanut-butter flavor, barbecue flavor, and who knows what all. If the dogs were buying for themselves, it would probably come in horse-manure flavor.
In the last 28 years, the only problem that I have seen with rawhides was with some chews that were coated with "Special plaque-fighting enzymes", the C.E.T. chews. Most dogs had no problem with the product. There were a couple of dogs that had vomiting problems every time they chewed on these, but had no problems with plain rawhide.
In a study evaluating the effectiveness of different and treats and chews in reducing dental tartar, rawhide chew were found to significantly reduce tartar in about 40 to 50 percent of dogs. As in incidental finding, the investigators noted that dogs in this treatment group tended to consume several chunks of rawhide daily and they observed no ill effects from this. Apparently the rawhide softens up enough in the stomach acid that it rarely causes blockages when swallowed.
That being said, big chunks swallowed without chewing are pretty stiff and could certainly cause a blockage in the esophagus (or "goozle" as we like to say in redneck land) before they ever get to the stomach. Some rawhide products are brittle and can actually splinter and lodge in the mouth or elsewhere. If a dog were to swallow a big enough hunk, it could certainly cause a blockage. I have known dogs to eat panty-hose, socks, shop-towels, rocks, corn cobs,steel balls, and extension cords. A big enough hunk of anything can cause a blockage.
Sadly, nothing is guaranteed safe, not even lying at home in bed with the lights off. Dogs enjoy chewing and need to do so. The watch-word is caution and judgment. If your dog is feeling bad and yesterday’s chew-toy has disappeared, it’s time for a trip to the veterinarian.