Bones are not a safe treat for dogs of any size, says the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “You’ve just finished a big weekend family dinner and you are wondering what to do with the bones from the ham and roast, when in trots your big black Labrador Retriever. It’s hard to resist those longing, puppy-dog eyes,” begins their warning. But it’s in your pets best interest to find a safer treat.
Bones can cause all kinds of problems for your dog including choking, blockages of the gastrointestinal tract, cuts and wounds in the mouth or on the tonsils, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding from the rectum, and death. The FDA has received about 35 reports of illnesses in dogs and eight fatalities related to bone treats. The agency has also received reports of product problems, such as bones shattering when pulled from their packaging and contamination with bacteria.
“Some people think it’s OK to give dogs large bones to chew on” says Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at the FDA. “But giving your dog a bone might lead to an unexpected trip to your veterinarian, a possible emergency surgery, or even death for your pet.”
Bone treats sold at retail stores that have been linked to problems include those descried as “Ham Bones,” “Pork Femur Bones,” “Rib Bones,” and “Smokey Knuckle Bones”—were listed in the reports. The products can become brittle or dry in smoking or baking process. They could also contain ingredients not tolerated well by dogs such as preservatives, seasonings, and smoke flavorings.
Dog bones can also be contaminated with bacteria that can cause serious or life-threatening illness in dogs who eat them and the humans who handle them. This week, a recall was issued for dog bones by the Blue Buffalo Company. The “Cub Size Wilderness Wild Chews Bones” are contaminated with Salmonella.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection in humans include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. In some cases, Salmonella can also cause heart problems, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation and urinary tract problems. Consumers who have handled this dog treat and developed these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.
Pets with Salmonella infections may have decreased appetite, fever, abdominal pain, lethargy, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, or vomiting. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers of the bacteria and infect others. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
Sometimes even if you don’t give your pet a treat, he may decide to help himself. During the holidays, it’s especially important to make sure dogs can’t get into the trash.
Consumers who have experienced problems with pet treats they have purchased can report them on the FDA’s Web page on “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint” or call CVM at 240-402-7002.