We’ve talked a lot about the subject of jerky treats made in China being linked to illnesses in dogs and cats. The lack of progress in determining a causative agent has been frustrating for pet owners and veterinarians alike. Now, a team of veterinary toxicologists and pathologists associated with the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) is hoping to help by collecting information about dogs that have become ill after eating jerky treats.

The team is asking that veterinarians who are members of VIN submit cases via a survey available on their website. Non-member veterinarians can call toll-free number (800-700-4636) to obtain a temporary login and password to access the survey.

The following was reported in VIN’s announcement of their study:

Dr. Kendal Harr, a veterinary clinical pathologist who is spearheading the effort, said, "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."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received more than 2,500 reports since 2007 of dogs that became sick after eating jerky treats, predominantly chicken jerky made in China. Its ongoing investigation has turned up no identifiable contaminants.

In aposting about jerky pet treats and illnesses dated Jan. 9, the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) speaks to confounding aspects of the jerky treat illness reports it’s received:

It is possible that other food or drug exposures caused the signs and symptoms reported in these reports; thus, there is no certainty that the reported jerky treat caused the adverse event. There may be one or more concomitant diseases, conditions, medications or other foods that can better explain the clinical signs seen. Sometimes a significant amount of time elapses between the date the problem occurred and the date the problem is reported and the reporter does not remember specific details (which can include the brand name or the names of other brands fed at the same time or prior to the report), so the report may contain erroneous information. Reporting bias also may exist in passive reporting systems. For example, increased media attention to specific products may cause increased reporting for those products for some period of time, causing an apparent sudden increase in the number of reports received. CVM Updates were publicly released September 26, 2007, December 19, 2008, and November 18, 2011, and all were followed by increased reporting activity after the update was issued.

To be considered a viable case for the VIN survey, dogs should have developed increased thirst and urination, loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and/or diarrhea within four days of eating jerky treats. Instances where laboratory results revealed electrolyte abnormalities in the blood and/or glucose and protein in the urine are especially valuable, as are

  • samples of suspect jerky, provided the package lot number is available
  • frozen tissue samples from necropsies
  • urine from active cases when samples are collected within 24 hours of jerky treat ingestion

If you are the owner of a dog that you suspect has become ill after eating Chinese jerky treats, talk to your veterinarian about participating in the study.

Dr. Jennifer Coates


VIN solicits jerky-associated illness reports. E Lau. The VIN News Service. January 15, 2013.

Image: dog–and-jerky by Theresa / via Flickr