Alex Diaz-Rivera's voice catches as he tells the story of what happened to his dog Rickey, a 7-year old Pekinese.
"He was a great dog, so smart. I couldn't ask for better," he said.
Diaz-Rivera never imagined his faithful companion would be harmed by a dog treat.
"When I gave it to him, he loved it and I saw him chewing it to pieces," he said.
The treat was one of several kinds of compressed dental chews on the market.
Veterinarians say these products present a risk of causing an obstruction in the esophagus or intestine.
"Once it gets mixed with saliva, it's essentially turning into cement and because it's going to swell. 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," said Dr. Donna Schwartz with Coral Springs Animal Hospital.
"That's what makes no sense to me," said Diaz-Rivera. "If it's something that's edible, it should dissolve at least a little bit so it could continue to the stomach."
Schwartz said many dog owners don't even realize there's a problem until it's too late.
"The longer you wait, the greater the risk you have for stricture formation or esophageal perforation, which is really the worst-case scenario, and they rarely come back from that," Schwartz said.
Diaz-Rivera recently adopted two more Pekinese pups but said he's still heartbroken about what happened to Rickey.
"Unfortunately, I can't have my dog back, but I don't want this to happen to anyone else," he said.
Schwartz said dog owners need to realize that any treat marketed as a dental chew really won't have much benefit for a dog's teeth.
"These products simply don't stay in contact with the teeth long enough to remove tartar. The only thing that's going to do that is actively brushing your dogs teeth and getting routine dental cleanings at your vet's office," she said.