Rawhide dog bones and chews can be a great treat for your pet. However, there are dangers you need to be aware of. The past few weeks have shown me that these products can be dangerous to your pet’s health.

Last month, our 3 year old Sheltie was happily chewing away when, suddenly, he began to choke and gag. He came to me heaving and nothing would come up. I tried to find what was lodged in his throat, but couldn’t reach it.

Upon calling our vet, we raced him over and she sedated him and probed for the cause. I knew it was a piece of rawhide. After he came awake, he tried to vomit but couldn’t. He was given an inducer and threw up a little.

That night, he started vomiting blood. He was restless all night and I sat up with him and held him so he could get some rest. In the morning, he was resting comfortably, when he suddenly went limp. His gums were purple and breathing ragged.

We raced to the vet; she put him on fluids, sedated him and took x-rays. He almost died.

The problem was a large chunk, the size of a golf ball, stuck in his small intestine, just below the opening of the stomach.

When he was stabilized, surgery was performed, the obstruction removed and he was sewn back up and kept for observation for a few days.

He seemed to perk up, was sent home with pain meds and antibiotics and a bland diet. The next day, he was listless and running a temperature of 106, very dangerous. Back to the vet, more x-rays and the vet had to go in and remove 3 inches of his small intestine. The blockage of the rawhide had caused necrosis, or rotting, of that part of his intestine.

Another few days of observation and he was sort of back to his old self. He was sent home with more pain meds and antibiotic, bland diet and to be watched carefully with frequent temperature checks.

I can happily say that now, 3 weeks later, he is back to his normal self. He is eating regularly, drinking, playing and alive. But 2 surgeries, thousands of dollars later and weeks of recovery, just because of a piece of rawhide, have shown us that we will not be using it any longer.

Large dogs seem to swallow and digest rawhide better than small dogs. Their stomach and intestines are larger, therefore allowing larger pieces to pass through. However, there is always a chance that it can become an obstruction.

If you give your dog rawhide, natural is easier to digest than man-made. And small dogs should not be given large pieces of rawhide. There are sticks available that are sufficient for the small dog to chew instead of chips or bones.

Our vet suggested an alternative to rawhide chews. Give your dog dental sticks or bones. These are made to break up when chewed so no large pieces are ingested and they break down without problem in the system. They are made of natural ingredients so there is nothing foreign in the body.

So, if you are giving your dog rawhide, please monitor him carefully. If the piece he is chewing gets too small, take it away from him. If your small dog is trying to swallow a large piece, again, take it away.

Rawhide is a popular toy/treat for dogs. I have shared my experience with you to show you the risks that are involved. I really hope that you never have to go through what we did these past few weeks. Proper use and monitoring of this product can save you a lot of problems.