'Bone Treats' for Dogs Linked with 90 Pet Illnesses, 15 Deaths

A dog chewing on a bone.
(Image credit: Wasitt Hemwarapornchai/Shutterstock)

Dog owners may want to get their pets gifts this holiday season, but you probably don't want to literally "throw them a bone."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning dog owners that pet products known as "bone treats" — which are real bones that are processed and packaged for sale — could cause serious illness and even death in pets.

The agency said it has received 68 reports of pet illnesses tied to these products, involving 90 dogs (some reports included more than one dog). Of these, 15 dogs died after eating a bone treat.

These treats may be dried through smoking or baking and may contain preservatives, seasonings and other flavorings. A number of different bone-treat products were described in the reports, including "ham bones,” “pork femur bones,” “rib bones” and “smokey knuckle bones," the FDA said. [7 Surprising Health Benefits of Dog Ownership]

Some of the health complications seen in dogs after they ate bone treats include choking, vomiting, diarrhea, blockages in the digestive tract and bleeding from the rectum, the FDA said.

"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," Dr. Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA, said in a statement.

Pet owners should also not feed their pets real bones (such as leftover bones from their chicken or turkey), as these can also cause injury. The FDA recommends that consumers talk with their veterinarian about other chew toys or treats that are appropriate for their dogs. Consumers should also supervise their dog while they're using any chew toy or treat, Stamper said.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.