Dog Chew Treats — Safe or Unsafe

All puppies and most grown dogs have a need to chew. While both Kiera and Graidy were chewers as puppies, Kiera could take or leave a bone or chewie now. Graidy still lives for them; he needs to chew. Perhaps your dog falls somewhere in the middle. Regardless, no doubt, at some point we’ve all bought our dogs a treat or chew toy. Who doesn’t like to treat their dogs occassionally? But did you know that the very treat you’re giving your dog may be the cause of its death?

greenies

Rawhide Can Kill And So Can Greenies

It’s true. Numerous dogs have suffered serious injury or death resulting from chewies and toys.

So what’s a conscientious dog person to do? It’s pretty simple. Consider giving Kongs and Nylabones, and stay away from rawhide, pig’s ears, cow hooves, and Greenies. Even though all of these products say they are made of digestible material, there are very real risks associated with these treats.

Cow hooves are so hard that they may cause a dog to break a tooth. When chewed, they can turn into sharp fragments which can cause a partial intestinal obstruction or perforation. These can be difficult to diagnose until it’s too late.

Pigs’ ears, when overeaten, can cause GI upset. Although obstructions are less common because the ears are not usually shaped into solid chunks, they carry a less widely known danger. A recent FDA advisory published by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human services announced a nationwide public health warning alerting consumers about a number of recent cases of human illnesses apparently related to contact with dog chew products made from pork or beef-derived materials (e.g., pigs ears, beef jerky treats, smoked hooves, pigs skins, etc.).

Rawhide chews can get stuck in the throat and cause choking. If a large piece is swallowed, it may scrape and irritate the esophagus. The cured hide is supposed to be digestible, but it breaks down very slowly in the intestines, and swallowing too many pieces too quickly can easily lead to gastric irritation from the abundance of undigested materials. This will usually be accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea. Once in the stomach or intestinal tract, a large piece of rawhide can also create a physical obstruction. In the case of the obstruction, surgery will most likely be necessary.

One of the main dangers with Rawhides is the lack of regulation. Some countries use an arsenic-based preservative or mercury vapor, chromium salts, lead solutions, arsenic compounds and formaldehyde in the processing of rawhide toys.

Right now, Greenies are a very popular chewie. They’re touted as aiding in reducing tartar growth without leaving “crumbs.” This may be partially true as these chews have a tendency to break apart in large chunks. The packaging also states that “gulpers” should be strictly monitored. Put together large chunks and gulping, and you’re looking at the possibility of a resulting esophageal or intestinal blockage. And even though Greenies are promoted as natural, digestible and good for dogs’ teeth, they are cellulose based, which dogs cannot digest.

Whole Dog Journal ran an experiment, and discovered that after 24 hours in an acidic solution, there was absolutely no change in the appearance, consistency or texture of a Greenie. In one case of a German Shepherd with an ongoing digestive problem for eight months, the autopsy revealed a large green mass in the dog’s upper GI. This dog had not received any Greenies the whole time he was having problems. That’s eight months in an active digestive system.

The likelihood of injury depends on your dog’s size and personality. Current data shows that the rate of injury rises dramatically for dogs over 55 pounds. Larger more powerful dogs are more likely to tear chunks and ingest chew toys not meant for consumption. And a more aggressive chewer will be more likely to break teeth on hard chews, and will be more likely to gulp down large (and potentially fatal) pieces that are torn from the toy.

You can provide a safe outlet for your dog’s chewing needs by picking toys and chews that are appropriate for your dog’s size and jaw strength, and by supervising the use of chew toys. By being aware of the common dangers and avoiding them, you can prevent a possible tragedy for your dog. My rule is that if I can’t break a treat with my fingers, I don’t give it to my dogs. Especially in a multi-dog household where one dog may try to swallow something quickly before another dog gets it. The risks aren’t worth it. Stuffed kongs (and, every once in a while, supervised beef marrow bones) are all I need to keep my guys happy.

9 thoughts on “Dog Chew Treats — Safe or Unsafe”

  1. WARNING: CUZ almost killed my great dane puppy. Please check out the following site:
    http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/pimpleball.asp
    On November 22, 2010, Bella, my almost 8 months puppy broke the squeaker of her new toy large Good Cuz and thus a hole was created. This hole turned out to be a powerful vacum and sucked up Bella’s tongue into the small hole. What the Cuz did to my Bella was exactly the same as the Pimple Ball did to Chai. Fortunately, Bella’s tongue is saved but poor Chai’s has been amputated. This whole incident was so distressful which I would not like to repeat it. I have already report the incident to the JW Pet company to request a recall of this dangerous toy from the market. IF THERE IS ALREADY A HOLE IN YOUR CUZ, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE THROW IT ALWAY IMMEDIATELY.

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  2. Wow, thank you for this post! We were giving our dogs pigs’ ears and that is going to stop immediately. We never did rawhide, however, and we do have a lot of nyla bones.

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  3. Important information, Karen. Just because this stuff is on the store shelves doesn’t mean it’s safe.

    Lynn Sinclair’s last blog post..Hot Dogs

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  4. Same for people who throw tennis balls. Those can wear down a dog’s teeth because they’re made with fiberglass. You can get them without.

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  5. Notshy has a Kong and a Kong treat ball that I used to freeze meat in so she had something to keep her occupied but around a ranch there is always different kinds of “jerky” around and all I can do is throw out what she brings up to the yard (sigh)!

    Linda’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

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  6. Excellent post as usual Karen! My husband’s first dog died of cancer. We believed it was from rawhide chews. Live and learn – now we have only been using Nylabone and/or Kong toys. Our older dog doesn’t chew anymore, and our pup is slowing down.
    Thanks for putting out such helpful information.

    Nita’s last blog post..Let the preserving begin

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