Why It’s a Bad Idea to Feed Your Pet Chicken Jerky Treats
While a number of companies are pulling their pet treats from store shelves following the discovery of illegal drug residues, the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) announced that it is soliciting veterinarians to submit any information they have on cases related to those notorious toxic chicken jerky treats from China.
The problems with these treats have been going on for a while now, yet no one seems to be able to pinpoint the exact cause. The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine has tested products for numerous contaminants and has sent experts to China to investigate plants, but hasn’t come up with a definitive reason for illnesses found in pets. Even with thousands of complaints, and years of investigating, the FDA can’t recall these products without a known contaminant.
Last spring, the FDA issued its third warning about jerky treats since 2007. As of December 17, 2012, the FDA had received more than 2,674 jerky pet treat reports about pets who have gotten sick involving 3,243 dogs and nine cats, of which 501 dogs and one cat died.
According to the FDA, most of the cases reported involve gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea to more severe signs, such as pancreatitis or gastrointestinal bleeding. More commonly, dogs showed signs related to kidney function, such as frequent urination, severe thirst and kidney failure, with some cases mimicking Fanconi’s syndrome — a disease that’s typically considered hereditary and rare.
This month, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) reported they had found trace residues of several antibiotics in these products, which led to the most recent recalls. However, the FDA stated that “there is no evidence that raises health concerns, and these results are highly unlikely to be related to the reports of illnesses FDA has received related to jerky pet treats.”
The drugs the NYSDAM reportedly found in these products include trace amounts of sulfaclozine, tilmicosin, trimethoprim, enrofloxacin and sulfaquinoxalins. These drugs are approved for use in China, where most jerky treats are made, but banned in the U.S. due to concerns about their safety.
Over the past few weeks, companies have been voluntarily pulling their products from the market, not because they’re concerned about the health of our pets, but as a result of the NYSDAM’s findings. The brands affected by the recalls include Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch dog treats marketed by Nestle Purina; Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers marketed by Del Monte Corp.; Publix Chicken Tenders Dog Chew Treats sold by the grocery chain Publix Super Markets; Cadet chicken jerky sold by IMS Pet Industries, Inc. and most recently Hartz Mountain Corporation announced it will be recalling its Hartz Chicken Chews and Hartz Oinkies Pig Skin Twists wrapped with chicken for dogs.
The FDA, veterinarians and animal advocates are urging consumers to steer clear of these chicken jerky treats. A veterinary toxicology and pathology team at VIN also wants to help and is asking vets to submit cases, especially those with lab data, and is asking pet parents to talk with their vets if they want their cases included in its database.
“We’re trying to establish a database that is only inputted by veterinarians to try to weed out cases that are really caused by other diseases, which is a real complicating factor in the FDA database,” said Dr. Kendal Harr, a veterinary clinical pathologist who is spearheading the effort.
“The cases that would be added into the VIN database could be critical to define a causal link between jerky treats and the Fanconi syndrome that has been associated with it,” she said.
Veterinarians who are members of VIN can access the online survey here. Veterinarians who are not members of VIN can call 800-700-4636 to get a temporary login and password to access the survey.
Photo credit: ishane