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Bad to the bone: FDA warns 'bone treats' could be killing your pets

(Photo: Matt Rourke, AP)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- The treats you're feeding your furry best friend could be killing them.

The United States Food and Drug Administration said it's released a warning about commercially available bone treats, such as beef knuckles, femurs, and ham bones after more than 100 reports that dogs weren't digesting them properly and were, instead, throwing up whole pieces.

The FDA said approximately 15 dogs died as a result of eating these treats.

"In general it's the responsibility of the company to ensure they have a safe product that's out there and it's really more of a post-market surveillance for the FDA for pet treats," said Martine Hartogensis, with the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine about how these harmful products are making it to store's shelves.

According Hartogensis, post-market surveillance can include conducting an investigation.

"One of the ways we can investigate is we can inspect the facilities and we have done that with several of the bone treat products that were listed in our update and generally didn't find any significant violations," she said.

That's because they're mainly looking at manufacturing processes and sanitation in the facility, but Hartogenesis said it's the physical characteristics of the bones that makes them dangerous.

"The complaints we've received have really been spread across many brands," she added. "There isn't one particular product that we've seen a disproportionate amount of complaints associated with."

Therefore, Hartogensis said it will take a number of complaints associated with specific products for them to take action.

If you've given these treats to your pups, doctors said there are signs you should look for to know if they may need a trip to the vet.

"If it's a mouth issue they may be pawing at their mouth or drooling or licking," said Dr. Joseph Harper, a veterinarian at Animal Emergency and Critical Care. "There might be some pain if there's a broken tooth. As far as a GI obstruction or perforation it would be vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, that sort of thing."

To avoid complications or even death, Dr. Harper suggests using a general rule of thumb when choosing what treats to give your dog.

"In general, if you didn't want me to hit you in the leg with it, it's probably too hard," he said.

Or, for some they said if they wouldn't eat it, they don't want their dogs to eat it.

These dangerous bone treats can be found on shelves at just about any store that sells pet treats in our area, safer alternatives include commercially available chew toys and simulated bones.

If you would like to submit a complaint about a treat, you can do so here.

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