The Worst Treats for Your Dog

Much attention has been devoted to dog treats in recent news.  Reports of sickness and even death can be found in most all dog related journals and websites.  However, dangerous dog treats have been around forever.  Just because these treats don’t make national headlines doesn’t make them less dangerous.  Here are a few treats to avoid or at least be aware of.


  • Jerky Treats.  Specifically chicken, duck, and sweet potato jerky treats made in China.  Since 2007, there have over 5,000 claims of dog illnesses linked to these treats. Affected dogs exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, increased drinking and urination hours to days after ingesting theses treats. The FDA has launched multiple investigations into why theses treats are dangerous.  Although no particular culprit has been pinned down, the bacteria salmonella has been suspected.  The reason that Chinese products are being attacked has to do with the less than strict protocols implemented in China regarding animal processing.  Of the hundreds of jerky treats on the market, three have been linked to the claims.  These are Waggin Train Jerky Treats or Tenders (Nestle Purina), Canyon Creek Ranch Jerky Treats or Tenders (Nestle Purina), and Milo’s Kitchen Home-Style Dog Treats (Del-Monte). 


  • Nylabones.  These are non-edible plastic, rubber or nylon shaped toy bones.  These bones are supposed to curb a dog’s chewing appetite while keeping dental tartar in check.  However, these “bones” can be chewed down to small bits and ingested.  This product was never intended to be ingested.  If large enough particles are swallowed, they can cause a gastrointestinal perforation or obstruction.  Also of concern is the inherent hardness of these chews.  They can break teeth necessitating dental work.  In recent years, nylabones have been voluntarily recalled by the company after suspected contamination with salmonella bacteria.


  • Hooves, Pig ears, and Bullysticks.  These are formerly-live animal parts that have been preserved with chemicals and shaped to form chew toys/treats.  Hooves are typically pig or cow hooves.  Both of these are extremely hard and may cause tooth injury.  Also, if ingested they can become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract requiring surgery to remove an obstruction or correct a perforation.  Pig ears are just what the name implies.  Pig ears are real animal ears that have been preserved and flavored to your dog’s liking.  The chemicals used to preserve the ears can be dangerous to your dog as well as the flavoring and natural oils found in the pig’s skin.  Pig ears mostly cause gastrointestinal upset.  Bullysticks are dried bull penises.  Yep.  Probably wouldn’t sell too many if they called them by their name.  These treats are also preserved with chemicals that can be dangerous to your dog.  In addition, these sticks can be swallowed and lodge in the esophagus, stomach or intestine requiring surgery.


  • Rawhide.  This one has been around so long that you probably don’t give much thought as to what it is really made of.  Rawhide is the soft inner skin of a formerly live animal preserved and flavored for your dog.  Rawhide directly out of the package is hard and can break teeth.  Once softened by your dog’s saliva, it can be ingested.  This can make your dog sick if the product is contaminated with chemical preservatives or bacteria.  Gastrointestinal irritation, perforation or blockage of the esophagus or intestine can also occur.  Research does indicate that most rawhide produced in the United States do not pose the chemical threat of those imported from other countries.  This is due to the strict regulations in the U.S. regarding refrigeration during transport and processing.  However, all rawhide can lead to choking, perforations and gastrointestinal obstruction requiring surgery.


  • Human Food.  This is the most easily accessible treat for your dog but likely the most dangerous.  Chocolate and coffee contain chemicals which can cause vomiting and seizure activity.  Raisins and grapes are poisonous to a dog’s kidneys.  Candy and gum containing xylitol, a synthetic sweetener, can cause a dogs’s blood sugar to drop resulting in seizures.  Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, tremors and fever.  Ingestion of avocados can lead to respiratory distress and death.  Onions, garlic and chives can damage red blood cells leading to anemia.  Bread dough, when consumed, can expand in the stomach leading to bloat.


It is so important to investigate and research which treats you give to your canine friend.  You may think that just because it is sold in the store, its ok.  This is not always the case.  The most important things to consider when choosing a treat is the size of the treat in relation to your dog and where it is made.  Never buy treats produced in China. 


It is extremely important to observe your dog as they chew their treats.  When the treat becomes small enough to swallow, take it away.  Your dog may not be happy, but will live to enjoy their next treat.


By:  Susan St. Pierre, DVM

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