ORLANDO, Fla. - Taking care of our pets is a big priority.
In fact, last year, Americans spent close to $20 million feeding their animals -- a lot of that on treats.
There are all kinds of goodies out there, but doctors say those treats can be dangerous.
Alex Diaz-Rivera has a tough time containing his emotions as he remembers his pet, Rickey.
"He was a great dog, so smart. I couldn't ask for better," says Diaz-Rivera.
And he never imagined Rickey would die from a dog treat.
"When I gave it to him, he loved it and I saw him," says Diaz-Rivera. "He was chewing it to pieces."
That treat was a compressed dental chew. We see all kinds of them on the market. But veterinarians say these products can get caught in your dog's esophagus or intestines.
"Once it gets mixed with saliva, it's essentially turning into cement," says Dr. Donna Schwartz. "Because it's gonna swell and it's going to get stuck and all of the swallowing that the animal is going to try to do is not going to help that pass."
"That's what makes no sense to me," says Diaz-Rivera. "If it's something that's edible, it should dissolve at least a little bit so it could continue to the stomach."
Dr. Schwartz says many dog owners don't even realize there's a problem until it's too late.
"The longer you wait, the greater risk you have for stricture formation, esophageal perforation, which is really the worst case scenario, and they rarely come back from that," says Dr. Schwartz.
Alex Diaz-Rivera recently adopted two more pups. But he says he's still heartbroken over what happened to his dog, Rickey.
"Unfortunately, I can't have my dog back. But I don't want this to happen to anyone else," says Diaz-Rivera.
A lot of those treats claim to be good for teeth cleaning. But vets say they're never in contact with your dog's teeth long enough to have any impact.
In the end, daily brushing and regular cleaning are the best ways to keep your pet's teeth fresh.
The maker of the dental treat that Rickey choked on says dogs should never be left alone while eating. And owners need to make sure their pets are chewing their food thoroughly.
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