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This blog post was originally published in March 2015; it has been updated with new information and shared again. Enjoy!
I used to feed our dogs rawhide chews – they’re cheap, easy, and last a long time. I knew of the dangers, but our dogs had never had a problem, so I continued buying them despite the warnings.
Until rawhide chews nearly sent us to the emergency vet.
Rodrigo’s Near Emergency Visit and Raw Hide Chews
Rodrigo is the dog that was sent to me to teach me patience, unconditional love and provide endless content for Keep the Tail Wagging.
One day, about 8 or 9 years ago, I got home to happy, excited dogs – ready for their walk. Rodrigo repeatedly did a play bow stretch. He was restless, couldn’t sit still, and kept bowing. I had no idea what was going on, so I went to Professor Google for a hint.
I read that repeated bowing could be a sign of a perforated bowel. Something was stuck in there and he was trying to loosen it up and get comfortable. I panicked and called our vet. She told me to watch him for a little longer (about an hour) and then bring him in if there were no improvements because Rodrigo was acting otherwise normally and didn’t seem to be in pain. So I took him and Sydney for a walk and when he took his poop, it was runny and red.
I panicked – again. I gathered what I could of the poop and saw a large, sharp, white shard that was ¾” long. As I was talking to the vet, I noticed that Rodrigo was fine – no restlessness or bowing. He was running and playing with his sister like any other day. Again, they told me to watch him. The next morning, he took a solid poop. He was fine.
I never bought another rawhide chew again.
Read about 20+ alternatives to rawhide chews and kick your rawhide addiction.
But are all chews safe?
What are Cow Tails?
Cow tails that I've seen online are the color of rawhide chews, long and thin like a raw bone, and I read that the interior contains meat and small pieces of bone. It's not something that I've tried with my dogs so I wonder if they're safe.
Karen, one of my readers, commented that she was going to try cow tails with her 26-pound pup and I asked her to report back on how her dog did with them because I had never heard of them and I’m always on the lookout for something new. Here is Karen’s response:
Hi Kimberly –
Regarding your request for feedback below, we did try the cow tails and I would not recommend them to anyone. Despite the deceptive chewable exterior, the interior is made of very hard bone. Within the first 2 minutes (and my dog is small) a 2 inch piece of very hard bone interior came loose and my dog almost swallowed it. Thank goodness I was supervising him. This hard interior could also easily break a tooth….I took my husband’s hammer and tried to break it….it would not break. It didn’t even crack. I ended up returning them at my expense. I promised to get back to you on them as you requested below and I hope this information saves dog owners the cost and worry of internal blockage surgery or broken teeth.
Thank you and have a great day-
Are Cow Tails Safe for Dogs?
This testimonial of cow tails made me a bit nervous and I never tried them with my dogs. I did try pork tails, which the dogs loved, but never cow tails. I went further and read reviews on cow tails sold on Chewy.com and found that 68% of customers who purchased the Barkworthies cow tails were happy with the product. The one-star reviews all mentioned that the cow tails were harder than expected, didn't digest well, and had a strong odor.
When I originally wrote this blog post, I was focus on the cow tails; now, several years later, I am curious about one more thing – how are these processed? If I didn't read the label on the package, I wouldn't know that these are cow tails. A cow tail has hair on it – so what did the brand do to remove the hair and bleach the tail? I did read that they are irradiated to make them safer (less bacteria), but I don't see anything more about processing – so I asked. I'll update this post when I learn more.
So, with that being said, the answer to the question about the safety of cow tails is “it depends on your dog.” If I were to try cow tails, I would give them to Zoey without worry. She's a gentle chewer, they're the right size for her mouth, and I think she'd enjoy them. Plus, she'll let me take it from her if it didn't work out.
My boys are pretty aggressive chewers and I wouldn't feel comfortable adding cow tails to the menu for them.
A Healthy Alternative to Cow Tails
If you're looking at cow tails and you're not 100% sure if they'll be a good fit for your dog, there is a long list of alternatives to choose from that your dog will enjoy. Because cow tails seem to fall into the category of medium to tough chews, I've limited my list to chews that are in the same category.
If you're ready for raw bones, there are plenty that t I feel comfortable giving to my dogs:
- beef knuckle bones
- duck frames
- lamb necks
- lamb shank
- quail (meaty)
- rabbit legs (very meaty)
- pork ribs
I always supervise my dogs when I give them bones or chews.