When you're filling the Christmas stockings, don't forget the fur babies, but be careful what you fill that stocking with.  Most of us know not to give our pups a turkey or a chicken bone because they're too brittle.  Now, you may want to think twice about those bones you see at the store too.

The FDA has received about 68 reports of pet illnesses related to "bone treats,” which differ from uncooked butcher-type bones because they are processed and packaged for sale as dog treats. A variety of commercially-available bone treats for dogs—including treats described as “Ham Bones,” “Pork Femur Bones,” “Rib Bones,” and “Smokey Knuckle Bones”—were listed in the reports. The products may be dried through a smoking process or by baking, and may contain other ingredients such as preservatives, seasonings, and smoke flavorings.

According to Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at the FDA, “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.”

In the FDA's reports, pet owners and veterinarians said dogs that ate these bones experienced blockages in the digestive tract, choking, cuts, vomiting, diarrhea and in extreme cases, death. About 15 dogs died.

When it comes to bones, here are some tips to keep your dog safe:

  • Chicken bones and other bones from the kitchen table can cause injury when chewed by pets, too. So be careful to keep platters out of reach when you’re cooking or the family is eating.
  • Be careful what you put in the trash can. Dogs are notorious for helping themselves to the turkey carcass or steak bones disposed of there.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about other toys or treats that are most appropriate for your dog. There are many available products made with different materials for dogs to chew on.

“We recommend supervising your dog with any chew toy or treat, especially one she hasn’t had before,” adds Stamper. “And if she ‘just isn’t acting right,’ call your veterinarian right away!”

To report a problem with a pet food or treat, please visit FDA’s Web page on “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.