Are Your Pet Treats Safe?

Many people like to give pet treats to celebrate special occasions or a job well done. For their health and safety, it’s really important to know what's in the treats you are giving. Over the past 9 years, there have been thousands of cases of pets getting sick from eating certain types of treats.

Altogether since 2007 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fielded 5,200 complaints about jerky-type products, affecting 6,200 dogs, 26 cats, and three people. They have investigated these cases utilizing laboratory tests on patient urine and jerky samples, inspections of Chinese factories, where many of the chicken, duck and sweet potato treats are produced, and postmortem examinations. While most of the illnesses and deaths reported have been connected to treats imported from China, ingredient country of origin labeling is not a requirement for pet treats. The FDA’s investigation has failed to identify a specific cause for the illnesses.

The most common symptoms pets experience from jerky-treat related illness are increased drinking and urination, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Most affected dogs improved with supportive veterinary care and removing the treats from their diet. Owners are asked to report any pet treat-related cases of illness in their pets to the FDA. We keep an updated list of pet treats and foods that have been recalled by the FDA on a board in the Metairie Small Animal Hospital lobby.

In addition to jerky-type treats, other pet treats and chew bones can cause a risk to pets. Although they may sound appetizing, cooked bones can be dangerous to pets. Bones that are cooked become brittle and break apart. This can cause splintering and is a choking hazard. Once swallowed, these fragments can perforate the lining of the stomach and intestines, cause a blockage in the intestinal tract, or tear the lining as it passes, which can be extremely painful and cause bloody diarrhea.

Certain “people foods” can also be harmful to pets. Here is a list of the most common culprits:

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee and other caffeinated beverages
  • Avocados
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Yeast dough (can continue to rise in the stomach)
  • Xylitol sweetener (commonly found in sugar-free gum)
  • Onions, garlic, chives
  • Milk
  • Salt

Never give these substances to your pet. If they are accidentally ingested, contact your veterinarian with the following information:

  • What substance they ate (have the packaging in front of you if possible)
  • The amount ingested
  • How long ago it was eaten
  • The size and age of the pet
  • Any known medical conditions

There is a good possibility that you will need to bring your pet in to be examined by the veterinarian, induce vomiting, and offer supportive care.

With all of these things to keep in mind, what IS a safe treat for your pet? We offer many wholesome pet treats for sale in our Silver Collar Pet Boutique, located in the lobby of our main hospital. Feel free to ask for a recommendation if your pet has dietary restrictions. You can also see our previous article about Dog Treats and Biscuits for a couple easy do-it-yourself recipes.