Greenies are a brand of green, toothbrush-shaped dog treats developed to keep dogs' teeth and gums healthy and control "doggie breath." Dogs have to do a lot of chewing to get through one of the biscuits, which helps to keep their teeth clean and control tartar, and the ingredients are touted as providing better nutrition and bad breath control than other alternatives (such as rawhide chews).
November 2005, the above-quoted e-mail began circulating, warning readers that Greenies did not appear to be fully digestible. A 15 November 2005 consumer investigation by Seattle's KIRO-TV reported that Greenies and similar products could "pose a real danger to dogs." KIRO offered three accounts from dog owners whose pets had to undergo veterinary treatment for intestinal obstructions after being fed Greenies or other teeth-cleaning biscuits; two survived after surgery, and the third died. All in all, they found nine people who claimed their dogs had died after eating Greenie-like products.
S&M NuTec, the company that produces Greenies, furnished us a copy of the complete statement they sent to KIRO-TV, which touches on some of the cases discussed:
Our Commitment to Healthy Pets
Our company was founded and is staffed by people who are deeply passionate about pets and their welfare. In fact, my wife, Judy, and I developed Greenies® to solve our own dog Ivan's problem with bad breath. Ivan had kidney problems from birth and we did not want him subjected to anesthesia to have his teeth cleaned. Toothbrushing, as many dog owners will agree, was simply not a practical solution. Greenies® not only cleaned his teeth, but freshened his breath as well. Since its introduction, Greenies® have helped clean teeth and freshen breath for millions of dogs all over the world.
Doggie breath, along with many health problems in pets, can be avoided with proper dental care. Our product is proven to promote healthy teeth and gums. Also, Greenies® reduces the need for teeth cleaning via sedation, which carries its own unique risks and is quite costly.
Greenies® were the first dog treat in the world to earn the Veterinary Oral Health Council's Seal of Acceptance for both plaque and tartar reduction. The VOHC website states that the cause of gum disease is the same in dogs as it is in people. Gum disease is an infection resulting from build up of soft dental plaque on the surfaces of the teeth around the gums. If allowed to accumulate, the bacteria in plaque irritate the gum tissue which often leads to infection in the bone surrounding the teeth. Tartar (calculus) consists of calcium salts from saliva deposited on plaque. Tartar starts to form within a few days on a tooth surface that is not kept clean.
Untreated, the gums become irritated, leading to bleeding and oral pain. The roots may become so severely affected that some teeth become loose and fall out. Bacteria surrounding the roots gain access to the blood stream. Research studies have shown that dogs with severe periodontal disease have more severe microscopic damage in their kidneys, heart muscle and liver than do dogs with less severe periodontal disease.
VOHC.org also states that the key to management of gum disease is prevention of tartar and plaque build up that can result in gingivitis and periodontal disease. As long as the surfaces of the teeth are cleaned frequently, the gums will stay healthy. Excellent oral health is maintained by daily oral hygiene, whether by brushing or by chewing. Daily use of products that have been awarded the VOHC Seal — such as Greenies® — will help to keep your pet's teeth clean and the gum tissues and bone around the roots healthy.
The digestibility testing that we have with Greenies® show them to be about 85% digestible when adequately chewed — more digestible than the average dry dog food. The primary ingredient in Greenies® is wheat gluten, which is very digestible. 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. This would be similar if a dog swallowed a large piece of meat or vegetable.
Our Priority to Educate Pet Owners About Smart Treating
It is very important for pet owners to read the labels on any food or treat they feed, and follow the feeding guidelines. We suggest that pet owners monitor their dogs when feeding any food or treat. Our feeding directions can be found on our packaging and on our web site. The directions instruct dog owners to provide the correct size Greenies® for the weight category of their dog.
Greenies® are not appropriate for all dogs. The feeding directions state that Greenies® should not be fed to dogs less than six months old, dogs less than five pounds, and dogs who gulp food and treats. We offer an alternative called Greenies® Lil' BitsT. Lil' BitsT are made from the same ingredients as Greenies®; we simply chop them into smaller pieces for smaller dogs, puppies under six months, dogs with very poor teeth, or dogs that tend to gulp food or treats. Though injurious incidents with our product are rare, more often than not, the pet is not fed according to our feeding directions.
Our Responsibility to our Customers
This summer we were concerned when we learned about Matthew Balkman's dog, Beau. We completed a thorough investigation, including having our technical services veterinarian review Beau's medical file and speak with his veterinarian. Unfortunately, Beau, a Bernese Mountain Dog, ingested a large chunk of our product without sufficiently chewing it. Beau's veterinarian successfully removed the piece and we hope Beau has recovered well from his surgery.
In September, we were extremely saddened to hear about the death of Gilbert Wright's dog. We replied to his e-mail expressing our sorrow and offering to begin an investigation a few times, but our e-mails were not answered. In early November we were able to get in touch with Mr. Wright via regular mail and have offered to start our investigation. He has asked us to hold off for now. Because we have not yet conducted an investigation, we can't comment on this specific incident. We do wish his family the very best.
Millions of Greenies® are sold, and enjoyed by dogs, every week, without incident. I personally feed Greenies® to my dog, Max, every day. My children feed Greenies® to their dogs. Our employees feed Greenies® to their dogs. We receive testimonials from thousands of pet owners who love our product, and we receive story after story of how our product has saved their dogs' life by improving their oral health.
We are a responsible company, we love pets, and we continue to educate consumers on the benefits of treating your pets to smart products with healthy benefits, as well as the importance of feeding as directed.
CEO of S&M NuTec LLC (manufacturers of Greenies®)
A number of different pet products — from teeth-cleaning chews to doggie biscuits to chew toys — can potentially injure or sicken dogs under certain conditions and circumstances; we don't yet have enough information to know whether Greenies pose a greater than normal danger to dogs under ordinary use than other similar products, or whether we're just seeing a confluence of exceptional anecdotal reports.