Before a fellow dog owner mentioned to me during a walk how unhealthy rawhide treats were, I was in total ignorance. Freya’s breeder had included a puppy-sized rawhide bone in her take home pack – and she loved it! So I naturally continued to buy them as I thought the act of chewing on a designated ‘bone’ rather than household objects, while simultaneously cleaning her teeth, was a real plus.
However, after doing my research and looking into the concerns around rawhide, I began to try alternatives as I felt sure it was just the act of chewing she loved – well apparently not. She tried Antlers, Himalayan Yak Snacks, Nylabones (including the Power Chew), Whimzees, Rice Bones, Dog Wood, in fact anything that was offered as an alternative. Sadly these were all rapidly abandoned, other than Whimzees, which she enjoyed but upset her tum.
Oh dear! By trying all these different offerings it appeared I had been sucked into the marketing magic, but realistically I was just wasting my money.
On a recent visit to see her cousin Jasper, Freya ‘stole’ his rawhide chew, furtively slinking away to enjoy a good old chomp. My husband’s (and Jasper’s) parents have always given their dogs rawhide with no issues and (along with countless others), couldn’t understand my concerns. So I decided to investigate the types of rawhide products available and whether there were any healthier rawhide choices.
Beware of rawhide and treats
imported from China and Taiwan
The importance of knowing the origin of your pet food is crucial. I didn’t want to include any videos that illustrated the dreadful practices adopted by some Asian manufacturers; they’re distressing and alarmist, but none-the-less all too real! However, having been in communication with Armitage Pet Care, suppliers of some of the leading brands, including Good Boy products, they assure us that there are reputable manufacturers in China, which is where they source their pet food. Chris Coops, Customer Service and Technical Administrator, told me:
“The factories we source from are EU approved and accredited by a number of third-party organisations including British Retail Consortium (BRC) and ISO food safety standards. Visits to conduct our own audits are made to our suppliers in China with key staff from our Buying, Technical and Product Management Department all involved. This is something we have to do as a big companies such as Tesco and Wilkos have to be provided [with] evidence that we have done ‘due diligence’ and they would not be selling our products if this wasn’t the case.”
Doing the research for this article has really brought home how careful we should be in researching our pets’ food, in order to make the right choices. Chinese imports are cheap and after repackaging by suppliers, can be made to look high end and appetising. You only have to visit the Made In China website to view the familiar offerings available to pet suppliers.
This brand is at least up front and honest in relation to the origin of its rawhide. Other popular brands don’t mention where their rawhide originates from. In fact the information on the reverse of some packaging is so small it’s difficult to read. Good Boy chicken treats are among Freya’s favourites, which is why I contacted the supplier to establish where their products were manufactured.
The packaging focuses on 100% natural chicken breast, with no mention of rawhide source/content. Again, after asking Armitage for clarification, they told me:
“Our deli treats (Chewy chicken strips, chewy chicken twists, duck fillets etc) originate in China, and have been tested up to 4 times before we release them for sale. It’s important to note that there are no chemicals added to the meat/hide. The raw meat is simply wrapped around the rawhide twist which is then oven dried.”
I then asked whether chemicals were used in the actual manufacture of the rawhide, but did not receive a response, so we have to draw our own conclusions.
Freya is currently testing three brands of rawhide promoted as healthier, so called because no chemical antioxidants or preservatives are used in its manufacture. She is also testing UK produced natural treats as alternative rewards.
Please note this ‘taste test’ is totally independent; I am not affiliated to any of the companies mentioned.
The Anco Range
The Anco range claims its “natural Rawhide acts as a clean, pure, appetising and completely digestible ‘toothbrush’ for dogs’“, and that it’s “air dried to preserve as many natural vitamins and nutrients as possible” using “no artificial fragrances, flavours and colours“. Anco specialise in 100% natural dog treats and are a family-owned company based in Scotland. They source all their raw materials in Europe and South America. I asked for reassurances about the whiteness of their rawhide and they stated:
“Our Rawhide range is sourced from South America and does not involve anything artificial or is bleached. The material we use is from the second layer of the hide which is naturally the lighter white colour. This is stripped, cleaned, rolled into shape and then left to dry out.”
Freya preferred the coconut over the plain rawhide options. The 5″ Coconut Rawhide Twisted Stick is the perfect portion size for her. Not so hot was the Tree Root…interest waned after five minutes and she choked on the small pieces that came away.
Burns of Bolton
Burns of Bolton have been producing pet treats in the UK for over 40 years. The company doesn’t offer rawhide, but their range includes alternative natural chews. The air baked meat treats use ‘only the finest ingredients, are 100% natural, free from flavourings, high in protein, low in fat and gluten free.‘ I’m afraid I’m a little bit squeamish when it comes to animal body parts, but Freya sampled some of their meaty options.
Freya loved the Salmon Grills; she devoured one in less than five minutes, but it was five minutes of pure pleasure and was quite happy with it as an alternative to rawhide. The Lamb and Rice Sticks and the Turkey and Ham Sticks were gobbled up in seconds… again a massive hit! She definitely recommends these as a special reward treat.
The Farm Foods Holistic range again promotes rawhide as a “tasty, healthy and natural toothbrush for your dog“, stating that “in their natural habitat, wolves and other canines chew on the skin and bones of their kill after a meal. Chewing on soft, tough material cleans their teeth and, in turn, ensures healthy gums.” They promote their chewing products such as rawhide as a substitute for domestic dogs. I ordered Farm Foods ‘Goody Box’, through Doggy Treat which, at £10.99, was good value and offered a selection of rawhide and meat treats.
The Farm Foods mini pressed rawhide bone-shaped treat is a perfect size and Freya loved these, along with the shaped rawhide treats. She also enjoyed the Bully Ears, but these are Anco products. The smell emanating from the Bully Chewies was too much for me and so Freya gifted these to a friend’s goldies, Hugo and Lottie.
JR Pet Products
JR (Jonathan and Rebecca) Pet Products expanded into the 100% natural dog treat market and this is now the business’s main sector. They say: “Animal welfare is top priority at JR. Our products are responsibly sourced from Europe and we use only the best quality raw material.” Some of their products are a bit gruesome – their Primal Range ‘With Hair’, but I suspect it’s a winner with dogs. The company has an extensive range of products.
Freya’s favourite JR treats are their Goats’ Ears. This is a perfect alternative to rawhide as they are regarded as a low fat and hypoallergenic alternative to pigs or cow ears. They provide a natural source of Chondroitin, which is good for relieving joint pain. Freya enjoys the Lamb Tripe and Lamb Spaghetti as well, but they only last a couple of minutes so act as a treat, rather than a chew.
Hollings boasts over 100 lines in their new ‘Naturals Range’, alongside their Rawhide options. Based in Skipton, with a manufacturing base in Woking, the company has moved almost 100% on to British products in relation to its treats. Hollings rawhide range also originates from South America and is made from “100% natural quality rawhide…known to improve a dog’s dental health, provide stimulation, and satisfy its urge to chew“.
Freya loved the 100% natural Beef Hide. I split this piece into three and each lasted a good 10 minutes. This product is low fat so she could have the whole piece, but at £1.99 it’s quite expensive.
Tips from a Novice
One: Always research where your treats and food is manufactured, I spent time investigating Freya’s meals, but automatically trusted leading brands for treats.
Two: There are healthy options to chose from such as pigs’ or cows’ ears and bully sticks (bull penis) but watch out for the high fat content.
Three: Hilary has always advised me to give Freya raw lamb ribs or chicken thighs. Her six-year-old cockapoo, Lily, loves them; they satisfy her need to chew, Hilary believes they are fully digestible (Lily is fed a rawfood diet) and she has a really healthy set of gnashers. Hilary ‘gifted’ Freya her first raw chicken drumstick when she was four months old and she demolished it in 10 minutes! As with fish, I always freeze fresh raw meat first as this kills off any bacteria that may be lurking. There are always negatives to everything and this article in The Telegraph illustrates that there are risks associated with giving dogs bones. Anything raw can make Freya’s stools lose, so I do limit these to once a week so she regards them as extra special.
Four: I always sit in the same room with Freya when I give her any chewing treat, and not only ones containing rawhide. With rawhide I try to ensure that the product has been manufactured without the use of chemicals, and additives. Freya is given a limited time to chew on any larger pieces (she’d chew all day if I let her and I try and occupy her in other ways). I keep a careful eye on the condition of the chew, throwing it away if it looks as if it may disintegrate into large pieces, which could choke her. I also avoid knots and prefer to select small rolls. I never leave a chew around for Freya; if I leave the house for any length of time I give her a Kong filled with a healthy option.
Five: Chewing makes dogs thirsty and so I always ensure plentiful fresh drinking water is available.
Six: A rawhide chew is a great favourite of Freya’s and I still offer the healthier alternatives as a reward after grooming; for me it’s just about making an informed choice.