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FDA Updates Warning – Processed Bone Treats Can Kill!

If you are planning on giving your dog holiday treats you should avoid processed bone treats. Dr. Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian from the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at the FDA, warned, “Giving your dog a bone treat might lead to an unexpected trip to your veterinarian, a possible emergency surgery, or even death for your pet.

On November 17 the FDA updated a warning about the health risks of processed bone treats for dogs. These treats are not raw bones, but are processed bones packaged and sold as dog treats. The FDA has received 68 reports of illnesses in dogs related to these commercially-packaged bone treats, labeled as “Ham Bones,” “Pork Femur Bones,” “Rib Bones,” and “Smokey Knuckle Bones.” These bones are processed by either smoking or baking and can contain various preservatives, smoke products, and added flavorings.

The 68 reports of illnesses or death reported to the FDA by veterinarians or pet owners included:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Choking
  • Injuries inside the mouth or throat
  • Rectal bleeding and pain when passing a stool
  • Death (fifteen cases)

In all, about 90 dogs were involved (some households had more than one dog affected). There were also reports of defective products, including visible mold and sharp splinters.

Tips for keeping your dog safe over the holidays:

  • Do not feed processed or raw bones to dogs. In addition to the reports to the FDA there are countless cases of fractured teeth from bones. The rear teeth of dogs aren't shaped for crushing bones, they are shaped to slice soft tissue (meat, organs, etc.). A dog can exert 2,000 pounds per square inch on the sharp cutting edge of these teeth causing the face of the tooth to fracture.
  • Out your kitchen trash away where your dog cannot reach it.
  • Make certain gifts containing food items are out of reach. One of my Yorkies are a large chocolate raspberry torte that was in a wrapped package on the floor. We didn't know what was in the package but Scooter sure did! A trip to the hospital to induce vomiting was his reward. He did will because we caught it immediately, but it could easily have been fatal.
  • Make sure purses are placed where the dog can't reach them. Food, xylitol-containing mints or candies, and medications are dangerous lures for a dog. We had a case of Tylenol poisoning yesterday because of a purse left on a couch.
  • Do not feed high fat scraps to your dog. Every holiday we see cases of pancreatitis, some fatal, from high fat holiday scraps like ham fat, chicken skin, or turkey skin. Make sure your guests know not to sneak scraps to your dog. One holiday we had two of our clients lose their dogs from acute pancreatitis within 24 hours of guests feeding them scraps, one was given ham fat, the other turkey skin. It's an ugly, painful way to die.
  • Keep string-like objects like ribbon out of reach. When swallowed these can slice open the intestine like a sharp knife.
  • Watch your dog after giving a new toy or treat to make sure it doesn't pose a threat. My Yorkies, for example, chewed an "indestructible" rubber toy into small pieces that posed a risk of intestinal obstruction when swallowed after only five minutes of chewing!

Ask your vet about safe chew toys for your pet. There are many on the market that your pet can enjoy safely. To report a problem with a pet food or treat, please visit FDA’s Web page on “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint."