FDA warns pet owners about bone treats

Nov 29, 2017

Many dog owners know not to toss a turkey or chicken bone to their dog; those bones are just too brittle. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning the risk goes beyond that, especially when it comes to the “bone treats” you may see at the store.

What’s a Bone Treat?

The FDA has received about 68 reports of 90 pet illnesses (some reports included more than one dog) related to bone treats. Approximately 15 dogs reportedly died after eating a bone treat.

In addition, the FDA received seven reports of product problems, such as moldy-appearing bones or bone treats splintering when chewed by the pet.

What are they?

Credit U.S. Food and Drug Administration

A bone treat differs from uncooked butcher-type bones because they are processed and packaged for sale as dog treats. The products may be dried through a smoking process or by baking and may contain other ingredients such as preservatives, seasonings and smoke flavorings.

A variety of bone treats are commercially available, including “Ham Bones,” “Pork Femur Bones,” “Rib Bones” and “Smokey Knuckle Bones."

Illnesses Reported

Illnesses reported to the FDA by owners and veterinarians in dogs that have eaten bone treats have included:

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction (blockage in the digestive tract)
  • Choking
  • Cuts and wounds in the mouth or on the tonsils
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Death

So if you are thinking of a holiday present for your pet, “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," according to the FDA's Carmela Stamper. "We recommend supervising your dog with any chew toy or treat, especially one she hasn’t had before and, if she just isn’t acting right, call your veterinarian right away!”

To report a problem with a pet food or treat, visit the FDA’s webpage on “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.