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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Greenies Safety

Tiffany asked a very good question...

I was doing some research about the chewy Greenies. I have already given my 2 dogs these chewies for the last week. I have a 6 year old winnie dog (male) and a 5 year old basset hound Blossom (female). Both dogs LOVE them!

But last night/today Gir was severely constipated and I'm worried perhaps its the Greenies? I have seen alot of bad press reguarding the Greenies but most of the damning reviews are from years ago and not so many either way in recent years. I read that the company did change their formula and supposedly that "corrected" some of the issues. I did read where you allowed a Greenie to soak overnight and it did dissolve. So that's slightly setting my mind more at ease about it.

I just ordered another 36 Greenies for my Basset hound and now I'm on the fence wither I should continue to allow them to consume them.

In your opinion as a veterinarian, I understand fully you havent seen or examined my animals, do you think the "new formula" Greenies are OK for dogs as long as they dont swallow them whole? I'm just getting conflicting opinions from my vet, the internet and friends.

Personally and professionally I'm a big supporter of Greenies.  They are one of the most effective methods of tartar control other than brushing the teeth and are considered safe.  The safety concerns started about 7-8 years ago and involved cases where dogs died or required surgery because of obstructions.  In all of these cases the dog had swallowed a large piece of the Greenie rather than chewed it into small pieces.  At the time the treats didn't dissolve easily, resulting in serious intesintal blockages.  This was absolutely a problem with the treats.  However, it involved a very, very small minority of dogs who used the treats.  I don't remember the actual number of cases, but it amounted to significantly less than 1% of the millions of dogs who were given them.  Though it was a legitimate risk and was talked about a lot in the media, it was actually not a wide-spread issue.

Because of these events Greenies changed their formula to make it easier to dissolve.  As I mentioned in the previous blog post I have personally seen it soften and break apart easily after soaking overnight in plain water.  Since that I have not seen any reports in the trade journals, newsmagazines, or even anecdotally of obstructions due to Greenies.  In my opinion and based on what I've seen (or not seen, as the case may be) the change in formula worked.

Pets should always be supervised when given chew toys and treats.  These things are designed to be chewed on gradually, not swallowed in chunks.  ANY toy or treat can cause a problem if a large section is ingested, so you should be very aware of your individual dog's chewing habits.  Dogs who are likely to swallow rather than chew shouldn't be given any treat like this.

A general warning for any pet very careful what you read on the internet, especially on message boards. is filled with details on various urban legends, especially emails that are passed around or posted on Facebook.  If someone sends you one of these chain emails or messages, always check Snopes first because odds are it's false.  In relation to pets you can find tons of reports of various foods or products causing pet deaths, serious illness, and so on.  In most of these cases the reports are overblown and are not a real concern. I've personally seen messages from people saying that "hundreds of pets have died!" but when you look at the FDA/USDA reports it turns out it was maybe a dozen and most of those were probably not related to the product people are worried about.  Always check around to various sources and ask for specific examples rather than a blanket statement of "I know someone who heard that a friend of theirs read a report...."  Then look at the true incidence compared to the number of pets who use such products.  Also keep in mind that many of these web pages or posters have a very personal vendetta against a product or vet and are griding their axe.  They may have a valid concern, but understand where they are coming from and why they are reporting the information.  Heck, take anything I say with a grain of salt!  I'm fully confident in my comments and firmly believe in having evidence to back up my opinion, but I'm not infallible and I don't know everything.

Tiffany, I hope this helps!


  1. Thank you, Doctor for answering this question. My wife and I adopted a homeless dog and want to take the best care of him. I think you are doing a valuable service with this blog.

  2. Thanks for the info because I have 2 Lhasa they really love the treat but not sure if I should give it to them dayly .

    1. Daily is most effective, though I recommend a minimum of 3-5 times per week.

  3. And, I was wondering if I could occasionally give my cocker spaniel a cat greenie?

    1. It's perfectly safe to do so, but the cat Greenies aren't going to help your dog's teeth. A cocker's teeth are too large for a treat that small to be of any benefit, but it's not harmful.

  4. Thank you for the information! A good friend and dog owner recently sent me a box of Greenies for watching her dog while she was away. My dogs LOVE them, and I wanted a good, unbiased, professional opinion about their safety.

  5. Thanks for the info. I bought the Teenie size for my Cavalier who is very small. We just got another rescue Cavalier who is bigger (23#). I gave him one and he took about 3 chews and swallowed it. We are monitoring him closely but I feel somewhat better knowing it should dissolve and not cause a problem. But no more for him. He was on the streets for months and is a scavenger but I didn't think he would almost swallow it whole. Any help on stopping his scavenger instincts?


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