The FDA says these dog treats are bad to the bone. How to protect your pet

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Myles Ma, CPFCSenior ReporterMyles Ma, CPFC, is a senior reporter and certified personal finance counselor at Policygenius, where he covers insurance and personal finance. His expertise has been featured in The Washington Post, PBS, CNBC, CBS News, USA Today, HuffPost, Salon, Inc. Magazine, MarketWatch, and elsewhere.

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Pet owners may want to reconsider giving their dogs a bone treat, the Food and Drug Administration warns. The FDA said it has received about 68 reports of pet illnesses and even some deaths related to them.

What's a dog bone treat?

Unlike an uncooked bone you might get from the butcher, commercially sold bone treats are often dried by smoking or baking and may be treated with preservatives, seasonings and flavorings, the FDA said. The treats related to the reported illnesses were marketed as "Ham Bones," "Pork Femur Bones," "Rib Bones" and "Smokey Knuckle Bones."

Many dog owners know to avoid giving turkey or chicken bones to their pets because they're too brittle, but bone dog treats may pose a bigger risk.

"Giving your dog a bone treat might lead to an unexpected trip to your veterinarian, a possible emergency surgery or even death for your pet," said Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA.

Why bone treats are a big problem

Pet owners and veterinarians sent reports to the FDA regarding about 90 dogs who got sick after being given dog treats, including about 15 dogs who died, the FDA said. The other illnesses included:

• Blockages in the digestive tract

• Choking

• Cuts and wounds in the mouth or on the tonsils

• Vomiting

• Diarrhea

• Bleeding from the rectum

The FDA also received complaints about the bone treats themselves, including some that appeared moldy or splintered when chewed.

Ignoring the FDA's warning poses emotional and financial risk. The loss of a pet is painful and treating illness is often costly. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners will spend $16.6 billion on vet care in 2017. (Policygenius can help you shop for pet insurance to help with Fido's medical bills.)

How to keep your dog safe

The FDA offered some tips to keep dogs safe. First, talk with your veterinarian about the appropriate treats to give your dog. There are plenty of options — pet toys are a $1 billion industry and growing, according to a report from Packaged Facts, a market research firm. You may also want to make your own dog treats.

Owners should also avoid giving dogs bones from chicken or other meats served at the kitchen table. To keep your dogs from getting injured, make sure they're out of reach when you and your family are eating. Also keep your dogs away from the trash so they don't help themselves to any bones tossed in there.

"We recommend supervising your dog with any chew toy or treat, especially one she hasn't had before," Stamper said.

Pet owners should call a veterinarian if anything is off, Stamper said. They can also report any problem products to the FDA.

For more on common dog ailments — and how to deal with them — go here.