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Are Greenies safe for dogs?

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Greenies StoriesGreenies dental treat
Greenies in the news

Greenies Lawsuit
Greenies Update: Greenies Reformulated

by Margaret Auld-Louie

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Greenies have become a wildly popular chew treat for dogs, due to their "healthy" appearance (a green-colored toothbrush shape) and the fact that most dogs love them. While thousands of dogs have eaten them without incident, we thought it important to let people know that some dogs have been harmed by them. Some dogs have even been killed by them.  Despite this, they are carried by almost all pet stores, even natural pet food stores, due to strong  customer demand.

One store owner, who doesn't like Greenies, explained to me that if she doesn't carry them, people just turn around and walk out her door. She said that by carrying them, she can at least keep the customers in her store so she can educate them. The online store SitStay.com, known for carrying healthy food, including frozen raw, reports: "We added this product at the request of our customers...There are reports on the Internet of dogs getting Greenies lodged in their throats. If this is a concern, please consider another product or watch your dogs very closely...Personally we don't feed our dogs Greenies. Since our dogs are on a raw diet, they don't need a manufactured product to clean their teeth." We feel it is unfortunate that these stores are pressured into carrying a potentially hazardous product due to customer demand, so this article explains some of the possible problems with using Greenies.

One of the dangers of Greenies is that some dogs gulp down whole Greenies or pieces of Greenies and choke to death or the Greenie fails to be digested further down in the digestive tract. However, even dogs that chew Greenies properly have been killed by them (see the story of Burt below). It appears that Greenies do not always break down in the stomach or intestines like other foods do. One website owner reports of doing a digestion test by agitating Greenies with vinegar and finding that they did not break down, even after many hours. While this is not a scientific test, it matches the results found in some dogs that have been harmed by Greenies. The Whole Cat & Dogs, too! store in Denver reports that Dr. Kris Ahlberg, DVM (who works there on Thursdays), removed a whole Greenie from a dog's stomach.

If you look at the ingredients in Greenies, you can see why they might become stuck in the digestive tract. The first ingredient is wheat gluten, which is the gluey stuff that makes certain grains sticky (gluten holds bread together and makes oatmeal gummy). Apparently what happens when dogs choke is the Greenie becomes "like cement" in the esophagus and gets stuck. Or it may swell up further down in the digestive tract and become stuck there. The complete ingredient list is: Processed wheat gluten, glycerin, natural flavor, powdered cellulose, monosodium phosphate, monoglycerides of edible fatty acids, magnesium stearate and chlorophyll.

This information on Greenies is one section in our Holistic Choices e-Book: Save Your Dog or Cat. Click the button on the right to read more about our e-Books.


We have always been wary of feeding Greenies to our dog (though she loves them) simply because it doesn't make sense to us to feed a treat made primarily from grains to a carnivore. Dogs are carnivores, meaning they are designed to eat meat, not grains. Nature's design for cleaning dog's teeth is for them to chew on raw bones. For those not comfortable feeding bones to their dogs (which could harm them if they swallow them whole), there are other alternatives such as daily tooth brushing, regular professional teeth cleaning and more digestible dental treats, like Merrick's dental treats. We used to give our dog an occasional Greenie (about twice a year) as a treat but after learning of some dogs that were killed by Greenies, we decided to no longer risk this. Our dog is a "food monster" and could very well swallow large pieces whole, particularly when she gets close to finishing the Greenie.

We recently saw a jar of Merrick dental treats at Doggie Pause daycare in Denver with a sign that said "these are not Greenies". It was heartening to see one place, at least, that is not caving into the customer pressure to carry Greenies.

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Greenies Stories

Following are some stories of dogs that were killed by Greenies that we
found on the Whole Dog News website when "Googling" for information on
the hazards of Greenies. We contacted the owners and got first-hand
confirmation and pictures of their dogs, so we are not just passing on
"Internet rumors". We are grateful to these grieving owners for sharing
their stories with us, for the benefit of other dogs.


PompiPompi was 8 weeks old when I began to care for her. I am 76 and so hoped that we would live out our lives together. We went through puppy training, obedience training and earned an AKC good canine citizen award. We then began agility training. She was almost always more advanced than me. Through the training and when I made the wrong move she would so inform me with a sharp bark. We did our first agility trial in El Paso where she won two blue ribbons. We were scheduled to compete in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Las Cruces, New Mexico and Odessa, Texas but then I made the fatal mistake of giving her that wretched Greenie. She was always such a happy little girl. I had been giving her these things for about 7 months without any ill effects and so trusted using them. I had not taken the time to do a Yahoo or Google search as to any problems. An hour after giving her the final Greenie, I found her on the floor. Her body was completely inert, but still warm. I tried mouth to mouth, CPR and the Heimlich and rushed her to a nearby dog training center for more knowledgeable help. It was futile. We at that time did not know the cause of her death. The next day our vet did an autopsy and found a chunk of that wretched Greenie lodged in her trachea. He told me that there was no way I could have removed it. We must inform everyone of the danger from these "treats". If I had had any warning in any way, this tragedy would not have happened. Please tell everyone. undigested Greenies chunck--Gilbert Wright

This picture on the left shows the Greenie fragment removed from the trachea.

Click here to view the death certificate by the veterinarian.



BurtOur wonderful dog, a healthy, 4-year old rescued Miniature Dachshund, named Burt, died July 25, 2005. He was killed by a Greenie.

Burt was promptly admitted to an emergency hospital after vomiting blood, bile and collapsing on the local vet's examination table. The doctor suspected an intestinal blockage and recommended exploratory surgery. What the doctor found inside of Burt was 3-1/2 feet of necrotic (dead) small intestines, as well as the "foreign body obstruction" behind the problem. The “obstruction” was none other than a well-chewed, partially digested portion of a Greenie.

Both the large mass of dead intestines and the Greenie were surgically removed from Burt. The Greenie was saved and was rubber-like and spongy. It had absorbed liquids and had expanded in size about 25%. It was the "toothbrush" end. My wife recognized the ribbed contours of the toothbrush immediately. But, it took me a bit longer to recognize it because it was well-chewed (like they say it has to be).

Burt tried as hard as he could but he just couldn’t hang on. He turned septic. He got pneumonia. He died 48 hours after the surgery with my wife and I by his side--after his 3rd cardiac arrest. The trauma was indeed too much for him and unfortunately the damage caused by the Greenie had already been done. Burt was killed by the Greenie. His problems would not have happened if it weren't for the wretched "treat" obstructing his intestines in the first place 

Prompted by my outrage over the unnecessary death of my dog, Greenies investigated. We shared medical records with them. They spoke with our vet. Then, they spoke with me. They can't find any fault in our actions, or the doctor’s actions, or the timeline of events--at least, that's what Dr. Brad Quest (Greenies on-staff veterinarian) told me over the phone. I voiced my concerns with the product with him and told him that the product needed to be recalled and reformulated. To this day, they have not responded to this request.

And all this from a product that comes with veterinarian recommendations and "highly digestible" and "edible" claims on its packaging and website. We read the packaging. We followed the instructions. We had been feeding Burt Greenies this way for well over 1½ years with no problems and we supervised him every single time. I guess on that day we won that statistical Greenies lottery. Hooray for us. I constantly wonder who will be next.

Burt died 3 years to-the-day that he came into our lives. He is dearly missed by his family. He is not replaceable. Burt will not die in vain. Please think twice about this product. Make smart choices for your pets. Why take any risk at all? Our new motto for the company is this: Greenies: your dog can live without them.


Mike Eastwood on behalf of Burt


MackMack the bulldog was ten weeks old and three lbs the day I took him home and became his caregiver. He didn't like to think of himself as a lapdog or even French for that matter, he was a construction site dog, a tough little guy. "I may be a runt, but I've got spunk!". The first meeting with Stella, the ridgeback, ended with Mack (5 lbs) chasing Stella (70 lbs) around the kitchen.

From the day Mack came home, he never left my side. In restaurants he would lie peacefully under the tablecloth cradled in my knees...in meetings, he would assume the same position on my knees and fall quickly asleep, "these humans are boring". Mack trusted me. I could pick him up in the air, on his back, his little legs would splay and he would be as relaxed as if he was spending a sunny afternoon at the ballgame (which we did). If I picked Mack up and he was on his belly, we'd play airplane, where I would hold his outstretched legs and he'd soar.

Mack was cream colored with the most amazing eyes that would peer deep into yours. This amazing boy seemed to be an old soul, wise and content. We were happy together. We were enjoying each other's company from morning to night, we had become a pack of two.

Last week while I was packing for our first camping trip together, Mack, now 16 weeks and 10 lbs, was enjoying a "Greenies" dog treat. I heard him choke and ran over to see if I could help. I tried to dislodge the chunk that he swallowed. I couldn't!!! I don't know if there is a doggie Heimlich maneuver, but I was trying it. I screamed for my neighbor who came upstairs and immediately tried to find help on the phone while I was still giving Mack the Heimlich and then mouth to mouth. The poor little boy's eyes were peering into mine silently screaming "Help me!". I kept doing both mouth to mouth and attempting to dislodge the Greenie, now with kitchen utensils. While giving Mack his last mouth to mouth, he spasmed, his little teeth dug into my mouth, and I saw the life drain out of my little boy. I clutched his limp body, and curled up in my tub sobbing hysterically. There had been nothing I was able to do to keep my little guy from suffocating. Please don't feed your doggies Greenies! Dedicated to the memory of Mack Stroub, 2005. Thank you Mack for six weeks of pure love.

--Robert Stroub, stroub@pacbell.net

LeoFrom an unsolicited e-mail sent to Optimum Choices on 2/26/2006:

My name is Kathie Hilpp and I live in Lebanon, Kentucky. I, too, almost lost my 3 year old Shih Tzu to a greenie. Leo (shown on left in picture) weighs 17 pounds and I had purchased the petite size for him. I gave him one on a Thursday about a month ago, and on Friday afternoon about l:00 p.m., he became very sick. He would look up at me and cry just like a baby. He couldn’t get comfortable. He vomited a little, and at the time I was watching him trying to figure out what was wrong.  I also have another Shih Tzu named Theo who is also 3 years old. They are not related, but have  grown up together and are just like brothers. They are inseparable. 

After watching Leo get progressively worse over a 30 minute time, I immediately called my vet. I rushed him to her office and upon X-rays, she said there was something lodged in his intestine. I immediately knew it was a greenie. I am with my boys 24 seven and automatically know if they bat an eye the wrong way. I told her about my suspicions . She said he would have to remain in the hospital overnight. She would try and flush it out, and if that didn’t work, he would have to have surgery. He had never been away from home and I was so worried about him. But he was so sick. I left him in her care and made her promise to call me before she left.  She and her husband (who is also a vet) live next door to their office, so they checked in him all during the night. Right before, they closed she called and said he had passed it and he would be fine.  She still kept him overnight to keep a watch on him, because there had been blood in his stool.

I was on the phone the next morning by 8 a.m. and she said he was ready to come home. I was there in 15 minutes. I brought Leo home and Theo was so glad to see him. He had paced the house looking for his brother and really missed him.  Leo slept most of the day, but it took him a couple of days to get back to his old self.

When I first started seeing all the news reports, I had to tell my story. Lebanon, KY is a very small town in the central part of Kentucky. I know of 4 cases where greenies have been the culprit of sick dogs. One was Leo’s cousin, Bailey who had the same problem as Leo. One other was one of the Schnauzers that belong to the groomer that grooms Leo and Theo. I can only imagine how many more are out there and have not been reported. 

We have 3 vet offices in our town. I have spent the day, taking information to them and they have promised to remove the greenies from their offices.  We have to get the word out and I want to do whatever I can to help. I can’t imagine what my life would have been if I had lost my Leo. He and Theo are the sunshine in my day. Unconditional love and something that cannot ever be replaced.

--Kathie Hilpp, khilpp@alltel.net


This information on Greenies is one section in our Holistic Choices e-Book: Save Your Dog or Cat. Click the button on the right to read more about our e-Books.


Greenies does make another product called Lil’ Bits, treats for pocket pets. They are made out of the same ingredients as the Greenie dog bones (toothbrushes) but are small bite-sized pieces. The manufacturer says they are recommended for puppies less than 6 months old, toy breeds, dogs weighing less than 10 pounds, dogs who have difficulty chewing or dogs known to "gulp" food or treats. While this may solve the problem of large size pieces getting stuck in the dog’s throat or intestines it does not address the problem of being hard to break down and indigestible or the fact that the processed wheat gluten and powdered cellulose are not native to a carnivore’s diet and can swell up inside the esophagus, stomach and intestines.

Another product by the same manufacturer is Feline Greenies. These are little fish-shaped pieces smaller than a dime. The ingredients list chicken meal, ground rice, ground wheat and corn gluten meal as the first ingredients. The chicken meal and ground rice are an improvement but there is still wheat and corn, two indigestible and unnecessary grains for obligate carnivores (i.e., cats). We gave a sample to our cat and she literally swallowed the fish-shaped piece whole without any chewing. That's the last Feline Greenie our cat will get from us. They are probably much safer than the dog Greenies, since the cat Greenies are quite similar in composition to dry kibble. However, dry kibble is not an appropriate food for cats and neither are Greenies, in our opinion.

To read more heartbreaking stories like these about dogs that have been harmed by Greenies, see the Whole Dog News website. If you do an Internet search on the topic, you can find many more stories from dog owners that have lost or almost lost their dogs to Greenies. Our intent at Optimum Choices is to educate people about healthy options for feeding their dogs and to avoid saying bad things about particular brands. However, we feel that dog owners need to be educated about products that could possibly harm or even kill their dogs so we are passing on this information about Greenies. After reading these stories, we do not feel comfortable feeding Greenies to our dog. We will leave it up to you to decide whether they are an appropriate treat for your dog.

Greenies in the news

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Following are links to stories in the media:

11/27/01 KOMO, Seattle
08/29/05 ABC, Denver
10/15/05 KIRO, Seattle
10/21/05 KTVU, Oakland
10/28/05 CBS, Los Angeles
10/30/05 KIRO f/up: FDA investigating
11/21/05 KTVU, Oakland, CA
11/21/05 NBC10, Philadelphia
11/28/05 KCAL, Los Angeles
12/8/05 WCBS TV, NY
12/19/05 Newsday
12/23/05 Kansas City Business Journal
1/4/06 WSMV, Nashville (for video, click on the "Concerns about pet treat" blue rectangle under the headline)
2/14/06 Paula Zahn Today on CNN (click on Watch link in middle of page)

Greenies Lawsuit

Following is a press release issued announcing a Greenie's lawsuit:

FROM:    The Romeo Group, Inc, 212-362-5930
              December 6, 2005

Manufacturer of Pet Treat "Greenies" Sued over Dog's Death

The popular dog treat sold under the name "Greenies" is the subject of a lawsuit filed November 30, 2005, with the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The complaint contends that the product, manufactured by Missouri-based S&M NuTec, is unsafe, inadequately labeled, and ultimately caused the death of the plaintiff's 4-year old dog, named Burt.
S&M NuTec has made claims that Greenies are "highly digestible", and the product comes with packaging statements such as "100% edible" and "veterinarian approved!" Given these claims, the plaintiffs were stunned by the cause of death of their family member Burt, a rescued Miniature Dachshund. Burt died this summer after an undigested portion of a Greenies dog treat became lodged in his intestinal tract. In an attempt to save his life, Burt underwent emergency surgery that resulted in the removal of over 3 feet of dead intestinal tissue along with the cause of the obstruction: an undigested piece of a Greenie. Despite the necessary surgical procedure, Burt died 48 hours after the surgery with the plaintiff's, Ms. Jennifer Reiff and Mr. Michael Eastwood, by his side.
Billed by S&M NuTec, as a way to "promote healthy teeth and gums," Greenies are an enormously popular dog treat sold by most pet supply stores. The plaintiff's have prepared the following statement:
"Our dog didn’t choke to death on the product. He died from it not digesting and obstructing his intestines. We followed their instructions. Burt was always supervised and he always chewed his Greenies well. Yet he died a painful, horrible death. We believe that S&M NuTec chooses to blame the dogs or their owners instead of taking responsibility. Many owners have come forward and shared their similar experiences, leading us to believe that the company is very much aware of the problem."

Ms. Reiff and Mr. Eastwood allege the "benefits" of Greenies do not outweigh the risks associated with the product. The indigestibility of Greenies is a defect, and had the manufacturer adequately warned of its dangers, the couple would not have provided the treat to Burt, thereby avoiding the cause of his death.

Their attorney, Alan Sash, partner at New York law firm McLaughlin Stern, represents the plaintiffs. The lawsuit seeks damages to be determined at trial for each of the 4 Causes of Action which include: Design Defect and Failure to Warn (Strict Products Liability), Breach of Express Warranty, Negligence and punitive damages in excess of 5 million dollars.

Please visit www.burtscause.com to download a PDF of the filed complaint and other relevant information. For more information, contact The Romeo Group, Inc., at 212-362-5930, or contact the law firm of McLaughlin Stern, 212-448-1100.

Greenies Update: Greenies Reformulated

In 2006, Mars acquired S&M NuTec. Mars provided S&M NuTec with new and advanced pet science data based on their research into biometrics. This helped advance the product development of the new “improved” Greenies. According to the manufacturer, "The new Greenies is an entirely “new generation” from the old one. Its new features include a chewy, flexible texture that allows dogs’ teeth to sink into the treat, as well as a recipe that is nutritiously balanced and easy-to-digest. The treats also are specially shaped, with unique ridges and valleys that help dogs chew."

November 01, 2006
“S&M NuTec, makers of Greenies, announced today the official launch of their new reformulated Greenies. The company says the new formula is more easily digestible.”

To date, Optimum Choices has not seen the widespread problems that plagued the original Greenies dental treats. Since 2006, we have only had one reported incident of a Greenies piece getting stuck in a dog and  not the multitude of vet reports, reports in the media and Internet regarding harmful consequences of dogs eating Greenies. Anecdotal evidence (or lack thereof), would seem to indicate the original Greenies formula was problematic and dangerous to some dogs while the new reformulated Greenies does not have the same indigestible problems, except in isolated circumstances. Although the manufacturer has reformulated Greenies, they still contain Wheat Protein Isolate and Soy Protein Isolate which we feel are inappropriate ingredients for carnivores and NOT high quality protein sources (meat protein is needed by carnivores not vegetable protein) as the manufacturer claims. Soy is especially bad for the hormonal system (especially the thyroid) of small animals (and people too). We still do not feel comfortable feeding Greenies to our dog but we will leave it up to you to decide whether they are an appropriate treat for your dog since good dental hygiene is important. See Animal Wellness Magazine, Volume 9 Issue 1 (Feb/Mar 2007) for several articles on natural canine dental care and how to minimize dental visits. If you are fortunate to have access to anesthesia-free teeth cleaning, that is your best option in our opinion.

This information on Greenies is one section in our Holistic Choices e-Book: Save Your Dog or Cat. Click the button on the right to read more about our e-Books.



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Nothing on this website has been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please see a qualified healthcare practitioner for any disease or illness.
Send e-mail to info@OptimumChoices.com
with questions or comments about this web site.
Optimum Choices, LLC     Copyright © 2021     Last modified: 04/10/21



Home Products Services Information Contact Us Shop Online
Nothing on this website has been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please see a qualified healthcare practitioner for any disease or illness.
Send e-mail to info@OptimumChoices.com
with questions or comments about this web site.
Optimum Choices, LLC     Copyright © 2021     Last modified: 04/10/21