February is a busy month in support of our pets. It is Pet Dental Health Month, Have a Heart for a Chained Dog Month and then there is Spay Day USA. But before talking about those important issues, there is another scare circulating in the pet industry.
Greenies are hard bones, which are supposed to help with teeth cleaning. The dogs love them. The problem is, the dogs are not always chewing them thoroughly and they can become lodged in the esophagus or intestine. The packaging states that Greenies provide all of these benefits: "One-hundred percent edible and highly digestible, cleans teeth, freshens breath, reduces tartar and plaque, contains no by-products or artificial preservatives, colors or flavors and dogs love the taste."
It also clearly states that you must choose the right size Greenie for your dog. They come in four sizes and Lil' Bits "for toy breed dogs, dogs less than 6 months old or dogs who ‘gulp.'"
There are also Greenies for cats. My dog can go through the large size in no time at all. And they are expensive, approximately $16 per pound.
A CNN investigation discovered 40 cases where a veterinarian had to extract a Greenie from the esophagus or intestine since 2003. Thirteen of these dogs died.
Dr. Brendan McKiernan, a veterinarian from Denver, Colo., has seen seven cases in the past five years and claims that "compressed vegetable chew treats, of which Greenies are the most popular, are now the third biggest cause of esophageal obstruction in dogs behind bones and fish hooks."
Last year, 325 million individual treats were sold around the world which is three times the sales of its nearest competitor, Milk Bone.
Joe Roetheli, who developed the product, claims on the package that Greenies are saving dog's lives by lowering the risk of periodontal disease. He states that feeding Greenies is safer than putting a dog under anesthesia to clean teeth.
The moral of the story here is that we have to be aware of what our pets are chewing. If more dogs are ingesting fishhooks than Greenies, can we blame the fishhook manufacturer? But Greenies are made for dogs. We need to watch them when they are enjoying any large treat including rawhides, large real bones and the popular pig's ears. We know not to give dogs and cats poultry bones or other small bones.
One other concern just brought to my attention is the danger of dogs getting into medicine containers. Whether it is a prescription for pets or humans, or an over-the-counter medication, put the bottles in a safe place.
Pet Dental Health Month is a great time to form the habit of cleaning our pet's teeth. Start slowly, just rubbing your finger over the teeth and gums. When the dog or cat is comfortable with that, introduce a toothbrush.
Any small-headed soft toothbrush is OK but only use a cleaning product designed for pets. People toothpaste contains products that are not safe for pets. Besides reducing the likelihood of periodontal disease, bacteria from bad teeth find their way down to the internal organs and lead to kidney and liver disease and more. Brush those teeth.
Have a Heart
In prior years, we have emphasized Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Day which was Feb. 14. Lisa Boyle has promoted this project but this year is working full time on the feral cat problem. Even though we are not talking very much about it, the plight of the chained dog is awful. If you know of a chained dog, do what you can to improve its life. Talk with the owner about alternatives and maybe offer to help put up proper fencing. It can be done rather inexpensively. Every dog deserves not to be chained by the neck for its lifetime.
If your pet is chained, unchain it. If your pet is not spayed or neutered, make that appointment with your veterinarian today.
You will be glad you did and your pet will be much healthier and safer. Studies prove that neutered pets live longer, healthier and happier lives.
Our dogs do their best to take care of us. They depend on us to take care of them and provide for their safety and well being.