The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a grim warning for dog lovers thinking of getting a special treat for their pups.
This week, an FDA statement on the dangers of “bone treats” — meaning bones for dogs that have been commercially processed by means like smoking or baking — has gone viral.
However, while most media outlets have been reporting on the anti-bone treat decree like it’s brand new, the FDA has had the warning up since at least 2010, based on archives from the Wayback Machine. The statement has been periodically updated over the years to factor in the number of reports of canine illnesses and deaths the FDA has received.
On Nov. 21, the statement was updated to reflect that the agency has received about 68 reports of dogs dying or falling ill in connection with bone treats. Some reports involved more than one dog, for a total of 90 dogs reported being adversely affected by the bones. An estimated 15 of those dogs have died.
An FDA spokeswoman told HuffPost that the warning reflects reports the FDA has received from Nov. 1, 2010, to Sept. 12, 2017.
Though the statement focuses on bone treats, it also mentions that turkey and chicken bones are dangerous for pets because of their tendency to splinter.
“We regularly update the numbers around this time of year because some pet owners cook poultry and toss the bones in the trash at holiday dinners, where their dogs can sometimes access them,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “Some pet owners also choose to give their dogs bone treats as stocking stuffers during the holiday season, so we update the article as a holiday reminder for pet owners.”
The FDA warning does not specify any particular brand of bone treats, though it does note that the list of potentially dangerous treats includes those described as “Ham Bones,” “Pork Femur Bones,” “Rib Bones” or “Smokey Knuckle Bones.”
Illnesses reported included serious symptoms like diarrhea, choking, digestive obstruction and “bleeding from the rectum.”
“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,” FDA veterinarian Carmela Stamper said in the statement.
The types of bones that dogs can chew on safely is somewhat controversial. Experts typically agree that poultry bones, as well as any cooked bones, are unsafe for dogs. Though the American Kennel Club advises that it’s safe for a dog to chew on raw cow or bison bones too big to swallow, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals maintains that the risk of even raw bones splintering and harming the digestive tract is too great.
As for the FDA, it comes down on the side of exercising caution.
“In general, the FDA advises pet owners not to give their dogs bones from animals/meats and recommends that pet owners talk with their veterinarian about alternatives to giving bones to their dogs,” the spokeswoman said. “Pet owners should always supervise their dogs with any chew product.”
This story has been updated with additional comments from the FDA.