Have you heard the reports of dogs and cats getting sick after eating jerky treats that were made in China? The Food and Drug Administration’s latest update on the situation notes approximately 2,200 reports of pet illness including 360 canine deaths and 1 feline death in the last 18 months alone. Chicken jerky treats, tenders, and strips are cited most frequently in the statement, but duck, sweet potato, and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes, or yams have also been implicated.
Despite running tests for “salmonella, metals, furans, pesticides, antibiotics, mycotoxins, rodenticides, nephrotoxins (such as aristolochic acid, maleic acid, paraquat, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, toxic hydrocarbons, melamine, and related triazines) and… other chemicals and poisonous compounds” and even making a trip to China to investigate manufacturing facilities, the FDA has not been able to identify a cause. Most recently, the agency has even expanded its testing “to include irradiation byproducts and is consulting with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) experts to discuss this possibility further.”
Signs of Illness
Most pets that have become sick after eating Chinese jerky develop a combination of symptoms related to gastrointestinal and kidney dysfunction. Signs to watch out for include:
- loss of appetite
- diarrhea that may contain blood
- increased thirst and urination
If you notice any or all of these clinical signs within hours to days of feeding your dog or cat a jerky treat, contact your veterinarian immediately. He or she will need to run blood work and a urinalysis to check for kidney failure and specifically for a type of kidney disease called Fanconi syndrome (increased glucose in the urine) that has been associated with these products.
No recalls have been issued in response to owner’s concerns about pet safety. According to the FDA:
There is nothing preventing a company from conducting a voluntary recall. It is important to understand that unless a contaminant is detected and we have evidence that a product is adulterated, we are limited in what regulatory actions we can take. The regulations don’t allow for products to be removed based on complaints alone.
The simplest way to protect pets from this threat is to stop feeding jerky treats that are made in China. Many other healthy types of pet treats are available that have not been linked to this outbreak. If your dog or cat looks forward to his jerky treat so much that you can’t imagine switching to another type of treat, make sure the brand that you choose is made in the United States.