FDA: Some Jerky treats making pets ill

The Food and Drug Administration is warning about potential pet illness and potential death as a result of eating certain Jerky treats manufactured in China.

Some dogs and cats have allegedly become ill after eating certain Jerky treats manufactured in China.
Some dogs and cats have allegedly become ill after eating certain Jerky treats manufactured in China.

The agency is asking for the public’s help in trying to find the cause of the illness.

“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” CVM Director Bernadette Dunham, DVM, Ph.D said in a press release on the FDA website. “Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it.”

In a letter addressing U.S. licensed veterinarians, the FDA is asking for help. The letter gives the information needed for labs to test treats and investigate illness and death associated with the treats. These include, in some instances, to provide blood, urine and tissue samples from their patients for further analysis. According to the site, FDA will request written permission from pet owners and will cover the costs, including shipping, of any tests it requests.

If you have a dog or cat that became ill after eating jerky pet treats, the FDA wants to know about it. According to a press release, since 2007 the FDA has received reports about 3,600 dogs and 10 cats that have become sickened by these treats. About 580 of the pets died. Despite extensive testing as well as visits to the pet jerky manufacturing plant in China, FDA reports that it has still not managed to find the cause of the illness.

The FDA is sending a consumer fact sheet to veterinarians so they can alert consumers to the problem. They caution that treats are not essential to a balanced diet. The fact sheet also gives details on how consumers can help FDA’s investigation by reporting potential jerky pet treat-related illnesses online or by calling the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator for their state.

The FDA gives the following symptoms for pet owners and veterinarians to look out for:

  • Within hours of eating treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit, some pets have exhibited decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, and/or increased urination.
  • Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder. About 60 percent of cases involved gastrointestinal illness, and about 30 percent involved kidney and urinary systems.
  • The remaining cases reported various symptoms, such as collapse, convulsions or skin issues.

Most of the jerky treats implicated were manufactured in China, according to the FDA. Manufacturers of pet foods are not required by U.S. law to state the country of origin for each ingredient in their products.

A number of jerky pet treat products were recalled in January 2013 after a New York State lab reported finding evidence of up to six drugs in certain jerky pet treats made in China. Some of these included Nestle Purina PetCare Co.’s Waggin Train, Canyon Creek Ranch treats, Del Monte Corp.’s Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers home-style dog treats simply resulted in fewer treats being available. In addition, three other smaller retailers recalled the treats.  While the levels of these drugs were very low and it’s unlikely that they caused the illnesses, FDA noted a decrease in reports of jerky-suspected illnesses after the products were removed from the market. FDA believes that the number of reports may have declined simply because fewer jerky treats were available.

Meanwhile, the agency is urging pet owners to be cautious about providing jerky treats. If you do provide them and your pet becomes sick, stop the treats immediately, consider seeing your veterinarian, and save any remaining treats and the packaging for possible testing.

“Our fervent hope as animal lovers is that we will soon find the cause of—and put a stop to—these illnesses,” Dunham said in the release.

The full press release appears on the FDA’s Consumer Updates page.

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