Toxic Jerky Treats Kill More Than 1,000 Dogs, FDA Still Has No Answers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just issued an update about its ongoing investigation into the illnesses and deaths associated with jerky treats from China and while the agency is continuing to caution people not to buy them, it still doesn’t have any real answers and has yet to take meaningful action to ensure pets are safe.

The FDA has beeninvestigating trouble with these treats since 2007, and while it claims it’s doing everything possible to determine what’s causing pets to get sick, seven years later it still hasn’t been able to identify any specific cause or contaminant. Meanwhile, potentially toxic treats are still sitting in stores and are still being bought by unwitting petsumers.

According to the latest update, as of this month the agency has gotten more than 4,800 complaints of illness in pets who ate chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats. The cases have now involved over 5,600 dogs, more than 1,000 of who have died, 24 cats and now three people. According to NBC, the human cases included two toddlers who ate them accidentally and one adult, who may or may not just have questionable taste it’s unclear why any were consumed.

The FDA stated that “approximately 60 percent of the cases report gastrointestinal/liver disease, 30 percent kidney or urinary disease, with the remaining 10 percent of complaints including various other signs such as neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms. About 15 percent of the kidney or urinary cases also tested positive for Fanconi syndrome, a rare kidney disease that has been associated with this investigation.”

Some of the signs pets may show include decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood), increased drinking and increased urination.

Among the non-news in the update, there are a few pieces of new information, including an announcement that the agency will be partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do a study comparing foods that were eaten by pets who got sick and those who did not, in addition to a statement that it discovered a new contaminant.

New Drug Found

The FDA also found a new drug, amantadine, in treats containing chicken. According to the agency, the antiviral drug, which is approved for use in people, was found in samples that were sold more than a year ago. Even though it’s been used in an extra-label manner as a painkiller for dogs, it’s been banned for use in poultry since 2007 and it definitely shouldn’t be present in treats. Yet the FDA doesn’t mention which products contained them and while Chinese authorities and companies in the U.S. were warned about its presence, consumers weren’t.

National Retailers Are Listening

At least two national pet stores are listening to concerned pet parents about the risks associated with jerky treats. Petco announced this week that it will stop selling treats made in China at its 1,300 store locations across the country and online by the end of the year.

“We’ve been following the FDA warnings and related customer concerns closely, and we’ve been actively reducing our China-made assortment and expanding our American-made offerings for several years now,” said Jim Myers, Petco CEO, in a statement. “We know the FDA hasn’t yet identified a direct cause for the reported illnesses, but we decided the uncertainty of the situation outweighs the lack of actual proof. It has taken some time and careful thought to get to this point, but we’re proud to make the change and we believe our customers will be pleased with it as well.”

Its move to put the welfare safety of our pets over profits was followed by an announcement from PetSmart that it will also have products removed from its stores in the U.S. and Canada by March 2015.

It’s hard to imagine how heartbreaking it must be to know that your pet got sick or died from something they were intentionally given as a treat. Something that made it all the way to a store shelf. Something that should have been safe for them.

At this point, it shouldn’t even matter why pets are getting sick, only that they are and that there’s an obvious link to jerky treats from China. The FDA should take immediate action to prevent more cases by stopping imports and figuring out the how and why of it all later. Until it actually does something, it’s up to us to be vigilant about the safety of the products we’re buying for our pets and to warn other pet parents about the dangers associated with these treats.

How to Report a Problem

If you’re a pet parent, you can report an issue with these treats, or ask your vet to report on your behalf, at the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal, or by calling the FDA’s Consumer Complaint Coordinator for your state.

Meanwhile, you can check past recalls and sign up for automatic recall alerts at Dog Food Adviser.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

Don't buy anything for instance seafood, from Canada either, they are cruel towards livestock, their animal welfare laws are weak, they import dog fur with no oversight, they massacre seals with no conscience, they are destroying their own environment rapidly with the Canadian government having China as the role model. Until they get rid of Harper and start getting with the civilized earth, I wouldn't trust food from Canada.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

China's barbarism in torturing and eating dogs, its viciously cruel "farming" of animals like tigers, sheepdogs, bears is reason enough never to buy anything from that polluted hellhole. Add to that China's poaching of endangered wildlife for their unlimited greed. Not only China does these crimes, their neighbors in Vietnam, South Korea and Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, etc are guilty of the most vicious crimes against animals and wildlife, not to mention their massive corporate greed raping and trashing of the oceans and forests. Nothing should be traded or bought from most of Asia, absolutely nothing. They don't deserve to have economies.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

Iams NEVER imports it's ingredients from China.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

The big problem is a product can be "made in the USA" but it uses Chinese ingredients. That will not help. We have to be sure it is grown in the USA as well as manufactured in the USA.

angela l.
Angela L4 years ago

just ban EVERYTHING from china, not just food. EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

If we know that something is killing dogs, why are we not doing more to stop it! Stop importing!!! Buy american! China has a total different view of dogs than we do. They consider them food. The FDA definitely needs take action however.... no excuses!!!

kathrynelizabet Etier

Oh...and another thing. I noticed when I did buy treats from China, that the damn things--if unopened for too long--were full of some kind of boring insects. And's that's not boring in the sense of "uninteresting." The treats would be full of holes from the insects eating their way through them. Ugh! The combination of that and the dog poisonings from jerky treats easily convinced me to buy American. Please don't tell me Milk Bones are made in China--unless it's true, of course.

kathrynelizabet Etier

Nope, I don't give my dogs jerky treats. I actually don't give them many treats at all since two of them are on diets to prevent obesity. We do keep Milk Bone on hand, but the minute someone tells me about problems with Milk Bones, I'll stop buying them, too. We have four dogs, and they all love treats, but that doesn't mean they get them regularly. Like a kid's allowance, treats should be earned.

Julia Cabrera-Woscek

Support USA business and buy AMERICAN. There are great choices out there (at least in my region) that makes great Jerky, granola and more for doggie treats.