Chicken jerky treats are still being investigated after 360 reported canine deaths and 1 feline death.
The majority of the treats (jerky, tenders, and strips) contain chicken but some have included duck, sweet potato, and yams.
To date, the FDA has not come up with the exact cause of these deaths. Most cases involve small dogs eating more than the indicated amount on the bag.
Reported symptoms are primarily gastrointestinal which include vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood and/or mucous. Other signs may relate to damaged kidneys which include increased urine, severe thirst, and glucose in the urine (Fanconi syndrome).
I had a case a couple of years ago in a small Yorkshire terrier. It involved the Waggin Train brand chicken jerky treats. The Yorkshire terrier had been given more than the normal amount for a small dog and developed signs of Fanconi syndrome and kidney disease. Luckily, this dog survived.
The FDA has tested many product samples for contaminants known to have caused symptoms and illnesses in pets. Examples of these contaminants are Salmonella, pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metals, furans, mycotoxins, rodenticides, and nephrotoxins such as melamine. Melamine was the cause of the big pet food recall several years ago.
The FDA has been investigating these treats from China since 2007. The FDA has conducted plant inspections during March and April of this year. The plants inspected were those with the highest number of pet illnesses. The FDA is placing inspectors in these plants to monitor production.
The reason many chicken jerky treats are made in China is due to the abundance of white meat available for export since the Chinese mainly consume dark meat.
Even though deaths have been reported, the products cannot be recalled until a specific cause is determined. It is up to you, the consumer, to educate yourself, read the labels, and feed as directed. Since these products can’t be recalled, they are still available.
Treats should only be given on occasion and not in excessive amounts. The FDA is reminding pet owners that jerky pet treats are not necessary for pets to have a fully balanced diet, so eliminating them will not harm pets. Commercially produced pet foods contain all the nutrients that pets need.
It is important to investigate any brand of treat or food you feed your beloved companion by checking the FDA website at www.fda.gov for any recent recalls or products that are under investigation. So before you fill up your dog or cat’s stocking for the holidays, support the USA and don’t buy treats from China.
Kim Donovan, D.V.M. is the medical director at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital in Seminole. She has over 15 years of experience. She has a special interest in feline medicine.