Sunday, May 4, 2008


Ginny invites you to write to her with your questions...... [Submit them as a comment on one of the "Ask Ginny" posts and Ginny will repost them in a new post segment.]

Q & A about health, veterinary
matters, training, and life

Q: Dear Ginny,
I have heard rumors that there have been some problems with a dental chew bone that goes by the name of Greenies. What are these problems and are they true or just an exaggeration?
A: There is truth to at least one of these rumors--that there are cases where a Greenie, or a piece of it, has caused an obstruction of the esophagus, which is the tube that takes food from the throat to the stomach. An article in the April 1, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) described "Esophageal foreign body obstruction caused by a dental chew treat in 31 dogs (2000-2006)."[1] This article evaluated 30 cases between March 2003 and January 2006, and one case from July 2000. All were evaluated either at a university teaching hospital or a private specialty hospital. Each dog included in this retrospective study had been given the treat shortly before onset of clinical signs and a green object was identified during endoscopy or surgery. All but four of the dogs were small dogs. In all but one of the 31 dogs, there was moderate to severe damage to the esophagus. Five dogs required surgery to open the chest. Complications of the esophageal damage were seen up to 25 days after diagnosis. Of the 31 dogs treated, only 15 dogs recovered without major complications. Six of the 31 dogs (or 25.8%) died or were euthanized as a direct result of the esophageal obstruction caused by the chew treat.
Certainly Greenies[2] are not the only treat, chew toy, or other material, that can cause damage or obstruction to the esophagus in dogs (or cats). The JAVMA article states that "Bones are the most common esophageal foreign bodies that have been reported in dogs, although fish-hooks, rawhide, pieces of plastic or metal, and other miscellaneous objects have been described. Small breeds of dogs are often affected. Common clinical signs include regurgitation [3] or vomiting, anorexia [or loss of appetite], salivation, and signs of depression [or listlessness]. Esophageal obstructive foreign bodies, such as bones, most commonly lodge in the distal portion of the esophagus [closest to the stomach], whereas the second most common location is at the level of the heart base. Diagnosis is usually made via ... radiography." The article goes on to say that, in 2004, Greenies "received the seal of acceptance for plaque and tartar removal from the Veterinar Oral Health Council of the American Veterinary Dental College." The Greenies web site reported sales over over 300 million of the chew treats in 2005, but,in June 2005, a group discussion sponsored by the Comparative Gastroenterology Society at the Medical Forum of the ACVIM [American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine] decribed difficulty in removing the esophageal obstructions caused by the dental treats, so further investigation was pursued.

It would seem logical that ANY hard chew treat that could break off pieces are large enough to get stuck in the esophagus, especially if they have corners or sharp edges, should not be given to dogs to chew on. One suggestion is to do some on-line investigation of a treat before you give it to your dog, regardless of how wonderful a manufacturer makes it sound.
[1] "Esophageal foreign body obstruction caused by a dental chew treat in 31 dogs (200-2006)," Michael S. Leib, DVM, MS DACVIM, and Laura Lee Sartor, DVM, DACVIM; published in JAVMA, Vol 232, No. 7, April 1, 2008, p.1021
[2] Greenies, S&M NuTec LLC, North Kansas City, Mo.
[3] "Regurgitation" = passive expulsion of ingested material from the mouth. It differs from vomiting, in that vomiting is an active process.
[Disclaimer: Any advice (or implied advice) found on this blog is no substitute for the clinical relationship that your pet has with his/her own veterinarian. You should ALWAYS seek the advice of your veterinarian before making any decisions about the health care of your pet.]


LetsTalkPetFoods said...

What an excellent article this is! I have put a *snippet* of it on my forum, and sent the link around to all my lists! So, you may be receiving some influx to your blog If one person can stop feeding these *chews* it will be well worth it ! I find them unnatural and dangerous, not to mention unnecessary! A nice RAW marrow bone is great for teeth and does not chip and works just fine!

Thank you so much for posting this... you can find your snippet here:

SoulandSubstance said...

I am glad you are passing this on. As an emergency vet, "my human" sees problems with a lot of chew toys, but this type of problem is one of the most serious. My person gives me RAW marrow bones, too. Actually, any fresh, RAW bone is OK, as long as it is given in small quantitities. It is the cooking process that makes bones brittle. My human has made a few mistakes with this, herself. She gave me a chicken wing a day for a few days, and I started to get diarrhea. I am fine with one every week or so. She also tried giving me a marrow bone after she had used it for soup. After 5 minutes, I had chewed off so many pieces that she had to take it away. I have chewed ad infinitum on raw marrow bones without any problems, other than getting some diarrhea from licking out too much marrow too fast. (Ah, but it was worth it, because if was soooooo good.) My digestive tract could be more sensitive than some other dogs, but it is a good idea to be cautious, nevertheless. Caution, and making small changes, gradually, is always a wise idea.
A note from Ginny's owner: There are issues with raw foods that have nothing to do with bones themselves. I will try to get Ginny to pass on information about this important topic, too, because there are some cons, in addition to some definite pros regarding raw diets

SoulandSubstance said...

(Another note from Ginny's owner)- I have read recently that the company that manufactures Greenies are reformulating them to dissolve more easily. However, I have not seen any independent research findings to verify this.

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