Remember Dorothy’s mantra as they followed the Yellow Brick Road through the forest?: Lions and tigers and bears…oh my! Whipping her crew into a frenzy of unfounded fear, it only made matters worse for the gang. After all, it was the flying monkeys they should have been worried about.

This is how I feel about the Greenies issue.

Dog owners across the US have gotten a heavy dose of media-inspired, web-driven fear of these chewy green bones. Designed to clean tartar off teeth, Greenies seem like a great idea: yummy, healthy, and safe, according to the manufacturer. Their color suggests vegetable matter—something we all intuitively comprehend as good for us (nevermind that the green in Greenies will turn your dog’s poop green). So why wouldn’t it be good for our dogs?

Just like rawhide chews, cow hooves and pig ears, Greenies can cause gastrointestinal obstruction in dogs who manage to swallow a bigger piece than they should. Because the material in Greenies (as with most any super-chewy dog item) is not terribly digestible, a swallowed piece must be big enough to make it through a dog’s long and winding digestive tract.

At the hospital we get the inevitable, Oh-my-God-my-dog-swallowed-a-Greenie calls. They always add: He’s never done that before!

And, truth is, until your dog’s gulped down a treat and you feel the panic of the impending gastrointestinal consequences firsthand (like when my boxer choked on a rawhide, years ago), you might never get the chewie fear. Once it’s happened you’ll never look at any chewable the same way again.

What bothers me about the situation with Greenies, however, is the disproportionate degree of scrutiny these treats have received, relative to other products on the market. Pig ears, rawhides, bull pizzles (dried up bovine penises—would I lie?), cow hooves and other marvels of the canine masticatory market are all just as dangerous—if not more so. In fact, I retrieve more dog toys from intestines than any other class of foreign body. And cow hooves and pig ears can chip teeth on some dogs—veterinary dentists forbid these.

Why is this? Perhaps it’s that Greenies are labeled as safe. While most of understand intuitively that some dog toys and rawhide-like products are never safe around heavy chewers, we were led to believe otherwise of Greenies.

This is where common sense comes in. If you see your dog destroying a toy, you take it away. It’s just common sense. Most of us, because Greenies bear the word SAFE on its packaging, relaxed to the potential harm in the product. We allowed common sense to exit the picture.

When did we become a nation of Greenie-bashers? I think that happened when we got lazy and let Madison Avenue do our thinking for us.

Perhaps this post sounds disjointed: don’t use Greenies vs. don’t bash Greenies. Ultimately, my point comes around to using your God-given common sense to monitor your dog. If a certain food gives your dog diarrhea—don’t feed it to her. If he swallows Greenies whole—don’t give them to him.

Maybe some people just don’t understand these basics. They just want to make their dogs happy and have never heard of a thing as nasty-sounding as gastrointestinal obstruction--or flying monkeys, for that matter. If this is the case I hope this post has helped.

The upshot: Greenies can be great for some dogs. They hurt others. Remember—nothing is ever 100% safe, even if the product says it in big bold letters all over the packaging. Know your dog and trust your instincts.