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Jerky Treats Mysteriously Kill Nearly 600 Pets and Leave Thousands More Sick

Jerky Treats Mysteriously Kill Nearly 600 Pets and Leave Thousands More Sick

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been issuing warnings about the dangers of jerky treats to consumers since 2007, but more pets have continued to get sick and die. There are still no answers as to why.

The FDA isn’t naming names, but notes that most of the jerky products implicated were made in China and that pet food manufacturers in the U.S. are not required by law to list the country of origin for each ingredient in their products.

As of September, more than 3,600 dogs and 10 cats have reportedly suffered from jerky-related illnesses, and 580 dogs have died as a result. Despite the attention this issue has received, some vets are still concerned that pet owners are unaware of the dangers associated with these treats.

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has taken a number of steps to solve the mystery — from testing treat samples for contaminants and nutritional content to verifying ingredients listed on labels and sending experts to China to inspect manufacturers to reaching out to companies in the U.S., researchers and foreign governments to share data — but the agency still hasn’t come up with anything conclusive.

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

Now the FDA is calling on pet parents and veterinarians to report information about cases and issued letters to veterinarians asking them to help spread the word to pet owners, in addition to sending out consumer fact sheets. The agency also stated that it will cover the costs of any tests requested and may request vets to provide blood, urine and tissue samples with owners’ consent.

Because no exact cause has been identified, there has been no recall. However, last January the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) found trace residues of several drugs that are approved for use in China, but are banned in the U.S. due to safety concerns. The discovery led to a few companies voluntarily recalling their treats. While the FDA doesn’t believe the drugs were causing the problems, the agency did see a decline in illnesses reported, which it suspects was due to having fewer products available on the market.

A Global Problem

The problem has affected pets in the U.S., Canada and Australia, and Australian researchers are concerned that our pets may be acting as sentinels for larger problems with a globalized food system. In a study published in the Australian Veterinary Journal they argued that the risk of intoxication isn’t confined to pets, but is more easily seen in them because their diets are so limited. They note that numerous products may be affected by contaminated materials that are being produced in poorly regulated markets and transported around the globe and that this is an issue that affects everyone and should be addressed with more urgency.

Signs Your Pet Has Been Affected

According to the FDA, symptoms can appear within hours of eating jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes or dried fruit. Affected pets are showing a loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and an increase in drinking and urination. More severe cases involve gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney failure, with some cases mimicking Fanconi’s syndrome, a disease that’s typically considered hereditary and rare. A few reported cases have involved collapse, convulsions or skin problems.

What to Do

The FDA and veterinarians are urging people not to feed their pets these types of treats. If your pet was affected, you can report it to the Safety Reporting Portal or to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator for your state. The FDA is also asking people to seal up treats in their original packaging and hang on to them in case they want them for additional testing.

If you’re concerned about pet food safety in general and want to advocate for more transparency in the industry, visit the recently established Association for Truth in Pet Food or sign up for recall alerts at Dog Food Adviser.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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143 comments

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5:03AM PDT on Jun 23, 2014

A kind of murder

4:34AM PDT on Jun 23, 2014

thanks for sharing

3:38AM PST on Nov 7, 2013

Iams never imports any ingredients for their products.

2:31AM PDT on Oct 30, 2013

98% of dog food mainly treats rhat come from china and Asian countries ARE ALL DEADLY TO OUR PETS .This was WELL publisised 3/4 years ago.I feel so sorry for people on benifis or lower incomes,you see in the £ shops and similar.Thinking they are buying they dogs a treat,when infact that treat is...slow painful death.All of this nasty poison MUST be banned and burned.Hasnt china and the like killed and tortued enough animals by now? Do they have to spread the nets of death world wide.I would BAN everything that comes from these countries!

9:26AM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

Since this first began,about 3 or 4 years ago, and shortly after getting my new furbaby, I've been watching what I give my dog. I look the entire package over, even American Kennel is manufactured in China. If its from China, I don't buy it. I only purchase that which is manufactured in the USA.

I now get (believe this or not) from Wal Mart - FULL MOON, manufactured in the USA. I consider it a top notch brand of treats for my dog, and her health is very important to me. And there's RIVAL that I get at Big Lots....only the rawhide nuggets. And Beggin Strips. These are all made in the USA with FDA approval.

Its hard enough to keep our pets healthy, but if its within my grasp/ability, I'll go the extra measure to protect her from harm.

5:41PM PDT on Oct 27, 2013

How convenient the FDA isn't naming names. Protecting their Chinese cronies at the expense of our beloved pets. Wait until China starts processing our dead chickens and shipping them to us to play Russian roulette with (thank the sorry ass USDA for this fine decision). Our government is throwing American citizens under the bus to appease the Chinese, Mexicans and Russians. It is scary how palpable the swiftness of our government devolving is.

1:19PM PDT on Oct 27, 2013

june t.--Part of the problem is that it does not have to be listed on the product where all the ingredients used in it come from.

B.J--I once heard someone speaking to a group. When someone said to him, "You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink," he promptly replied, "True. But you sure as hell can make him thirsty." That is also true.

In my opinion, all pet food and treats should have something on them indicating that some of the ingredients come from China. I don't know how this problem can be solved otherwise. The only other solution would be to keep all treats away from our pets. I would really hate to have to do that.

11:23PM PDT on Oct 26, 2013

ty for posting ... but did I miss what the name of the treats were ? ( Shame on me if I did)

9:51PM PDT on Oct 26, 2013

BAN all Chinese food imports.

8:56PM PDT on Oct 26, 2013

These jerky & sweet potato treats is what took the life of my beloved dog two years ago and I'm still grieving her loss. Both were made in China.

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