I found this article to be interesting.
Greenies: A safe or deadly treat?
December 19, 2005
It is the nation's top-selling dog treat, with $315 million in domestic
retail sales last year.
It is so beloved by dogs that amused owners have a nickname for it - doggie
And it is the reason, contend Michael Eastwood and Jennifer Reiff of
Manhattan, that their miniature dachshund, Burt, is no longer alive.
On July 22, as she'd done regularly for the past year and a half, Reiff gave
the 4-year-old rescue dog his Greenies treat. The next day, Burt was on an
operating table, where vets removed three feet of necrotic intestine and
what looked like a soft foamy green mass. Two days later, Burt was dead.
The couple says S&M NuTec of North Kansas City, Mo., the manufacturer of
Greenies, sent an e-mail expressing sadness for their loss, and offered to
pay the almost $6,600 in medical bills as well as $2,000, the estimated purchase
price for a mini-dachsie like Burt. In return, Eastwood and Reiff would have
to sign a confidentiality agreement and agree not to pursue legal action.
"That incensed us even more," says Eastwood, who along with Reiff has filed a
$5 million lawsuit, charging that Greenies are "unsafe, inadequately labeled"
and ultimately caused Burt's death.
Invented by a couple plagued by their dog's chronic bad breath,
toothbrush-shaped Greenies are marketed as "multifunctional dental treats"
that, when used daily, reduce tartar by 62 percent and gingivitis by 33 percent. The company
stresses that owners feed the correct size Greenies for their dog's weight
and follow the feeding guidelines, which say the treats should not be fed to
dogs who "gulp." (For toy breeds, young puppies and the chew-averse, the company developed Greenies Lil' Bits. It also recently unveiled Feline Greenies for cats.)
Eastwood counters that Burt did not choke on his Greenie and was always
supervised when consuming the treat. "The Greenie was a foreign object in
S&M NuTec declined to comment on the litigation but disputes there is any
problem with the treat's digestibility.
"The digestibility testing that we have with Greenies shows them to be more
digestible than the average dry dog food when adequately chewed ... " reads
the company's e-mailed statement. "If a dog swallows a large piece of Greenies,
or a whole treat, the digestion process will be extended because of the
decrease of treat surface area to digestive liquids and stomach action."
Veterinarian Brendan McKiernan of Wheat Ridge, Colo., a board-certified
internist, disagrees. "They don't dissolve in the stomach," he says. "When
we take them out, they're not digested. And they are causing both esophageal and
intestinal problems in dogs to an extent that is concerning."
S&M NuTec says Greenies obstructions are "rare," with most caused by
improperly following feeding instructions.
But McKiernan believes incidents are underreported. Earlier this year, at a
meeting of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, a group of
gastroenterologists discussed obstructions caused by "compressed vegetable
chew treats" such as Greenies. By an informal show of hands, he says, "a
significant number said, 'Hey, we have problems.'"
Concerned about such cases in his own practice, McKiernan set out to study
reports of obstructions from 1999 to 2004 in the Veterinary Medical
Database, which records cases from two dozen vet schools.
The results, outlined in a multi-authored article soon to be submitted to the
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, found that, after
bones and fish hooks, compressed vegetable chew treats were the
third-most-common culprit in obstructions.
McKiernan notes that the cases mostly involved small dogs.
But big dogs have their issues with compressed vegetable chew treats, too.
Elaine Gewirtz of Westlake Village, Calif., says she fed Greenies to her
Dalmatians and "never had problems" - until Jimmy went to live with her
daughter and started getting more than his usual ration.
The 5-year-old Dal had three bouts of unexplained vomiting. As Gerwirtz
walked him outside the vet's office that last time, "he vomited, and there
was all this green stuff.
"I really think it's hit or miss," Gerwirtz says, noting that voracious
chewers like Jimmy may be prone to problems. Still, she no longer gives her
It's a decision that Eastwood wishes he had been given the opportunity to
make. "We always felt if this product had fair warning and fair labeling," he
concludes, "we would never have put our dog in harm's way."
WRITE TO Denise Flaim, c/o Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY