FDA Bone Warning in the News

By Katy Patterson, DVM, Director of Dog and Cat Health and Nutrition at Mud Bay

If you’ve been watching or reading the news lately, you might have seen reports on this FDA article recommending that people should stop giving their dogs bones or bone treats. Now you might be wondering: What should a responsible dog owner do?

While I take reports like this seriously, it’s important to carefully look at what’s being said. The FDA reported that it had received 68 reports that affected 90 dogs, and 15 dogs died because of bone treats. It’s sad when any dog dies or gets sick, but these reports represent a small sliver of the nearly 90 million dogs in the United States. It’s also not clear if these 68 reports represent a month, a year or several years’ worth of complaints.*

Although there are no specific products mentioned, you might also notice that most of the bones listed in the FDA article are pork bones. Because of my own experiences as a practicing veterinarian, Mud Bay does not carry pork bones. I’ve personally seen evidence of pork bones causing constipation, inducing gastric upset and triggering pancreatitis. If people are worried about these problems, they should not feed pork bones to their dogs.

FDA also mentioned preservatives, seasonings and flavorings that could potentially be a hazard to dogs. When choosing our bones and chews, Mud Bay uses the same care we use to pick our foods. We talk to the manufacturers, verify product sourcing and don’t carry chews with artificial flavorings, seasonings or preservatives. Many of chews don’t have any seasoning or flavoring at all, but if there is a coating on the chew, it’s food-grade quality.

The FDA report also warns people that home-cooked bones should never be given to dogs. It may be tempting to give cooked bones to dogs, especially when you see cooked bones at Mud Bay and other stores. However, the cooked bones we sell are large bones that are slow roasted at low temperatures to retain more moisture, which may lead to less brittle bones. Bones cooked at home are often smaller, and they’re always cooked at higher temperatures. High heat can lead to drier bones that are more likely to splinter. It’s never safe to feed bones that are home-cooked.

It’s important to remember, however, that any chew or bone presents some risks to dogs, especially if it’s the wrong chew for that dog. Chews can cause dogs to vomit, have diarrhea, or chip or crack their teeth. If a dog swallows a chew whole, or large pieces of a chew, he can choke or develop an intestinal blockage. Bones can splinter causing intestinal damage if swallowed. Some aggressive chewers may inflict cuts or wounds in their mouths. In rare cases, choking, blockages or intestinal damage can be fatal.

To minimize these risks, Mud Bay developed our chew selector tool, but no chew is 100-percent safe in every instance. If you want to use our chew selector, talk to any Mud Bay staff member for help deciding if your dog is a gummer, nibbler, gnawer, chomper or gulper. Then you can use that information to match your dog’s chewing preferences with the icons on our chews. You can also pick up a copy of our guide, “Dogs Need to Chew,” for more information on dogs and chews. Of course, if your dog has unique health or dental issues, you’ll want to discuss any chews with your dog’s veterinarian before using them.

When deciding what chews or bones are best for your dog, it may be useful to consider these facts:

  • Mud Bay has not received any reports of any injury, sickness or death from any bones that we sell.
  • Mud Bay doesn’t carry pork bones due to risks to dog health. All of our chews use food-grade flavorings (if they are flavored), are carefully sourced from reputable manufacturers, and use natural preservation methods.
  • Any time a dog chews on something there’s a risk. You can minimize these risks by using Mud Bay’s chew selector to choose chews that match your dog’s chewing style. Sometimes, a bone may not be the right chew choice.
  • Before picking a chew, it’s important to consider the size. As your dog chews, he should hold the chew in his paws while gnawing on it. When the chew is small enough that he only holds it in his mouth, the chew should be thrown away.
  • Supervised chewing—especially with a new chew—is always recommended. It’s impossible to fully predict how any dog will react to a chew, so you’ll need to watch him carefully. Take away bones that splinter, become too small, or represent any other type of hazard.

Despite the FDA report, Mud Bay still believes that chewing is an important activity for dogs. Chewing provides mental stimulation, releases endorphins, and helps build jaw muscles. It also helps clean the teeth and provides entertainment. Plus, many dogs who don’t receive dog chews will chew on other, unapproved items, which can be very unsafe.

The FDA article also mentioned seven reports of moldy-appearing bones and other product problems. Muddies check every item that goes onto our shelves, and we send any questionable products back to the manufacturer. However, if you ever see or smell anything that causes you to question the safety or quality of any product, never give it to your dog or cat. Instead, please return it to any Mud Bay store. We’ll refund your money, but we’ll also report any problems to our home office and determine the root cause of any issues we find.

It can be scary for dog owners when we see stories like this on the news. Thank you for taking the time to read this post, so you can make an informed decision about what’s right for your dog.

*On Friday, December 1st, the FDA updated their report with this sentence: "The reports were received between November 1, 2010 and September 12, 2017."

Mud Bay and its staff strive to help dog and cat owners improve the health of their animals and to increase the happiness owners experience in caring for their animals by providing natural foods, well-made supplies and useful information.  Mud Bay and its staff do not diagnose or treat specific conditions, and the information provided by Mud Bay's staff, publications, website and other media are not substitutes for professional advice from a veterinarian.