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Give a Dog a Bone? FDA Says No


Many dog owners know not to give turkey or chicken bones to their pet, but they may not know that the same goes for some store-bought bone treats. According to the FDA, processed and packaged bone treats can cause serious pet illnesses, and even death.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and dogs everywhere are salivating for the chance to snatch delicious turkey and chicken bones from the holiday table. But these bones can cause serious injury when chewed by pets, and the risk doesn’t end there.

In a consumer alert released yesterday, the FDA stated that it has received more than 68 reports of pet illnesses this year related to “bone treats.” They are not referring to butcher-type bones but rather bone treats are processed, packaged, and may contain other ingredients such as preservatives, seasonings, and smoke flavors.

The types of bone treats were listed in the FDA report were described as:

  • Ham bones
  • Pork femur bones
  • Rib bones
  • Smokey knuckle bones

Many clients give their dogs these types of bone treats as an after-dinner snack on Thanksgiving or a stocking stuffer at Christmas. But according to Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, “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.”


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Just because something looks like a bone, or has the word “bone” in its name, doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe for dogs. Turkey and chicken bones are too fragile to be chewed on by dogs, and some bone treats are dangerous as well. Among the reports the FDA received were 7 cases of product problems, such as moldy-appearing bones or bone treats that splintered when chewed by the pet.

Veterinarians and owners reported these illnesses in dogs that were given bone treats:

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Choking
  • Cuts and wounds in the mouth or on the tonsils
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding from the rectum

About 15 dogs reportedly died after eating a bone treat.

It is the veterinary professional’s responsibility to try to keep patients protected from preventable illnesses like these. So this holiday season, make sure your clients understand that turkey and chicken bones—and many prepackaged bone treats—are highly dangerous. Remind them that dogs love getting into the trash, so they need to be careful of where they dispose of meat bones. And be open to discussing other chew toys or types of bones that would be better choices for that specific client’s dog, not just during the holidays but throughout the year.

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