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Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

FDA Issues Another Update on Jerky Pet Treats

June 06, 2014 / (13) comments

We’ve been following the saga of pet illnesses associated with jerky treats made in China for years now, and I have to say that the latest U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) update is the most concerning yet. It states, in part:


As of May 1, 2014, we have received in total more than 4,800 complaints of illness in pets that ate chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, nearly all of which are imported from China. The reports involve more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, three people, and include more than 1,000 canine deaths. The breakdown of symptoms associated with the cases is similar to that of earlier reports: 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.


According to NBC News:


The humans who consumed the treats included two toddlers who ingested them accidentally and an adult who may have been snacking on the questionable products….


One of the children was diagnosed with a salmonella infection, which can be spread by touching contaminated pet food and treats. The other child developed gastrointestinal illness and fever that mirrored the symptoms of dogs in the house that also ate the treats. The adult reported nausea and headache, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman.


Unfortunately, we don’t seem any closer in determining the cause(s) of all of these illnesses and deaths. The FDA has had the opportunity to perform necropsies (the animal equivalent of autopsies) on 26 dogs who were thought to have died as a result of exposure to jerky treats. Thirteen of these dogs died of unrelated health problems, including “widespread cancer, Cushing’s disease, mushroom toxicity, abscess, or internal bleeding secondary to trauma.” However, eleven dogs had “indications of kidney disease and two involved gastrointestinal disease” that could have been be associated with eating jerky treats.


You may have also heard that laboratory testing recently revealed the presence of the drug amantadine in some suspect jerky treats. Amantadine is an antiviral drug that also has pain relieving properties. It has been safely used for years in many species, including dogs, so I doubt that it has had anything to do with these illnesses, but its presence in pet treats raises further questions about the quality control measures employed by Chinese manufacturers.


Within days of the FDA’s most recent announcement, two major pet retailers announced that over the course of the next few months, they would join others and stop selling jerky treats made in China. This is good news, as a surprising percentage of pet owners are still unaware of the illnesses and deaths that have been linked to these products. For the sake of all our dogs, cats, and toddlers, please spread the word.


Dr. Jennifer Coates



Image: Africa Studio / Shutterstock