St. Louis, Mo., April 23, 2015 – Five years after alerting pet owners to possible dangers associated with Dynamic Pet Products’ Real Ham Bone for Dogs, Better Business Bureau (BBB) is seeing an increasing number of complaints against the Missouri company that manufactures the products.
BBB advises consumers to exercise caution when buying the bones, which are distributed under the Dynamic Pet Products label of Frick’s Quality Meats of Washington, Mo.
Nine consumers from across the nation have reported in the past six months that their dogs suddenly became ill or died after eating the Real Ham Bones. Several said veterinarians attributed the problems to bone fragments that became lodged in the animals’ digestive systems.
Many of the consumers described horrific scenes, saying they witnessed severe episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, bloody stools and other signs of distress in the animals within hours of ingesting the bones.
“It was devastating,” said a woman from Vista, Calif., near San Diego, who said her dog died last month after she gave it a Real Ham Bone. “I am never going to forgive myself.”
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, noted that BBB had seen a decrease in the number of complaints after issuing a news warning about the product in March 2010. “The increasing number of complaints in recent months, obviously, is very disturbing,” Corey said.
At the time the 2010 BBB warning was issued, the Food and Drug Administration said it was looking into complaints. “We take very seriously any potential harm to pets from products regulated under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and encourage consumers to report their concerns to the FDA,” the agency said in a statement.
One month later, FDA issued a news release warning that “bones are unsafe for your dog.” The release quoted an FDA veterinarian saying that “giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian’s office, possible emergency surgery, or even death.” The FDA release did not mention any specific product.
According to FDA records, the office received its first complaint about the Dynamic Pet Product ham bone in August 2006. An FDA representative said that a company official claimed at that time that Dynamic Pet Products had received no previous complaints about the bones. FDA records detail several similar complaints in the years that followed.
In a 2012 inspection report, an FDA investigator reported that David S. Frick, company president, said that “due to complaints, he has looked into updating a label with more warnings and bolder statements.”
In a statement issued April 14, FDA said that “adverse event reports have limitations in that they do not demonstrate causality or the proportion of consumers using the products who have filed a complaint. Additionally, such adverse event reports do not take into account other factors, such as existing disease, exposure to chemicals or contaminants, foods, or other medications, that may have triggered or contributed to the cause of the event.
“In general, the FDA advises pet owners not to give their dogs bones from animals/meats because they can obstruct the animal’s gastrointestinal tract,” the statement said.
The company has said it would not be inappropriate to warn about bones in general, but warnings should not be made about a specific brand. The company said its bones are the safest on the market.
In the St. Louis area, the Dynamic Products ham bone is sold in Walmart stores. Complainants nationally said they purchased the bones either at a Walmart store or a Jewel- Osco store.
Recent complaints have come from several states, including Illinois, Washington, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, California, Wisconsin and Oregon.
Melissa Hill, a spokesperson for Jewel-Osco told BBB that the company’s meat manager issued a “dump and destroy” order on the product in March, prompted by reports of problems with the bones. She said the bones are no longer sold in Jewel-Osco stores.
Walmart did not respond to a BBB inquiry.
A pet owner from Schaumburg, Ill., said she purchased two of the bones for a Christmas gift for her two small Shih Tzus. Four hours after chewing the bones, both dogs became seriously ill. She said one of the dogs improved, but she ultimately took the second animal to a local veterinary hospital which charged her $477 to treat the dog.
She said she was so concerned that she later went to the grocery store where she bought the bones and attached a note to the store container that said: “Don’t buy these bones; they will kill your dog.”
A pet owner from Vancouver, Wash., said she bought one of the bones for her 76-pound Labrador mix on Feb. 21. She rushed the dog to her veterinarian after it became violently ill. She said the doctor blamed the illness on the bone. “It was really scary,” she said.
A retiree from Salem, Ore., said his dog – an Eskimo and Pug mix – died in late March several hours after he gave the dog the bone. He said his veterinarian told him the cause of death was three balls of bone slivers that blocked the dog’s intestines. He said he is devastated by the loss. “There is a big hole in my heart,” the man said.
The company has responded to several complaints, saying it was sorry to learn of the problems. “The quality of our products and safety of the pets that enjoy the products are our top priorities,” a company spokesman said. The company notes that each package is labeled with instructions on how best to use the product. “Our customer satisfaction rate is 99.9988 percent.”
The company also has reported that it had reached a “satisfactory resolution” with some of the complainants. “Neither us nor the consumer are allowed to comment on the resolution,” the company said.
In an emailed statement, Dynamic Pet Products said, “we are taking seriously the concerns people have raised. We are working through public feedback in an effort to identify valid customer complaints.” The statement also said: “We have millions of customers who want a natural bone for their pets and safely use this product with a high level of satisfaction.”
Packaging labels ask that pet owners supervise their animals after giving them the pork bones. “Bone is to be chewed over several sittings, not eaten. Remove bone immediately if splintering occurs or small fragments break off.”
Several complainants said they did not read the labels. Others said they closely supervised their dogs, but the animals still got sick.
In its emailed statement, the company said it was adding the word “WARNING” in a yellow box on the product label. The new label is expected to be in stores this summer.
In a phone conversation on April 16, company president Frick told BBB: “We don’t think we have a problem.” He likened the sale of the bones to the sales of toys “like bicycles, skateboards and Legos.” The bones, like the toys, are safe when used properly, he said.
He said the increased number of complaints is likely the result of social media campaigns against the product and an increasing number of bones sold.
BBB suggests that consumers research a company’s history before purchasing a new product. Consumers can check on a business by searching the Internet and contacting BBB. Find a BBB Business Review by calling 314-645-3300, or by checking our website at www.bbb.org.
BBB also advises that consumers read all label information and instructions carefully before using the product.
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle L. Corey, President and CEO, (314) 645-0606, email@example.com; Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org; or Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, email@example.com
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.