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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.

Jerky Investigation Widens

August 31, 2012 / (11) comments

Over on Fully Vetted, I’ve blogged a few times about the continuing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into the "potential association between development of illness in dogs and the consumption of chicken jerky products also described as chicken tenders, strips or treats."

To date, the FDA has received reports of more than 1,300 pets that have possibly experienced adverse health effects as a result of eating jerky manufactured in China.

Affected dogs have come down with a variety of symptoms. Some individuals experience gastrointestinal problems like vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea (sometimes containing blood). In other cases the kidneys are the primary target, leading to increased thirst and urination. Fanconi syndrome, a specific type of kidney disease characterized by abnormal levels of glucose, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, amino acids, and other substances in the urine has also been reported. Many animals have recovered, but unfortunately treatment has proven ineffective in others.

The FDA has not yet been able to determine the cause behind this crisis, but they have recently updated their public website concerning the ongoing investigation. The most important new information involves reports of illness associated with duck and sweet potato jerky treats. According to the website:

Since 2007, FDA has been actively investigating the cause of illness in pets reported in association with the consumption of chicken jerky products. More recently (2012), the product-associated complaints have expanded to other jerky pet treat products such as duck and sweet potato jerky treats. Samples have been tested by FDA laboratories, by the Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (Vet-LRN), and by other animal health diagnostic laboratories in the U.S for multiple chemical and microbiological contaminants.<

Product samples were tested 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 were screened for other chemicals and poisonous compounds. DNA verification was conducted on these samples to confirm the presence of poultry in the treats. Samples have also been submitted for nutritional composition (which includes glycerol concentrations), vitamin D excess and enterotoxin analysis. Some samples from recent cases (2011-2012) have been submitted for multiple tests and we are awaiting results. More samples are in the process of being collected for testing.

It’s interesting (and sad) to take a look at the list of complaints received by the FDA. The agency cautions that the record includes only the complaints received by their District Consumer Complaint Coordinators between January 1, 2007 and July 2, 2012 and do not include reports received through the electronic Safety Reporting Portal (SRP) system. Also,

The spreadsheet lists a "country of origin" (C.O.O.) column. A few entries list the United States as the C.O.O. This is not correct. The distributor is located in the U.S. but the manufacturer is located in China. In addition, one entry lists, "Afghanistan," as the C.O.O. It should indicate, "China," in the C.O.O. column. Freedom of Information laws require records to be released "as is" regardless of any perceived errors (either manual or human).

I noticed that record number of 101,655 involves two cats. Hopefully, this doesn’t represent the beginning of a new development in this continuing saga.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Chad Zuber / via Shutterstock

Comments  11

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  • Unreported
    08/31/2012 11:33am

    One has to wonder how many of these cases go unreported and how huge the problem really is.

    Seems to me that the safest thing to do is avoid all jerky treats for all critters.

  • 08/31/2012 10:30pm

    AMEN to avoiding ALL jerky treats !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    My two babies haven't lived to the ripe old age they are by me NOT being "over protective in EVERY aspect of their lives".

    I adore them w/all my heart & soul & would give my life for either one of them in a heartbeat.

  • 08/31/2012 07:31pm

    If you look at the list of potentially affected products you'll see it's quite long. I'd guess the stores don't want to empty their shelves of "jerky" treats when specific information about the cause/problem products is still lacking.

  • 09/18/2012 05:03pm

    You're quite right, Dr. Coates. I checked the four major retailers in town recently, and found that three of the four all offered the same chicken jerky dog treats. The fourth retailer, a primarily rural-farm-and-ranch franchise, offered a much better selection of pet treats Made In The USA.
    A letter mentioning the chicken jerky treats from china issue, to be published in the town's daily newspaper, will be thoroughly edited, citing 'liability' concerns, since all four retailers produce weekly shopping circulars that are inserted in the newspaper for distribution.
    As usual, 'profits' and 'politics' take priority over the health and well-being of our pets.

  • 08/31/2012 10:36pm

    It's called "profit" honey. Money is more important. You can bet that if those people have pets, they DON'T feed their pets this jerky garbage.........but since our pets are not their pets & they don't have to care for OUR pets, profit is more important to them.

  • Jerky treats
    08/31/2012 09:25pm

    I own a feed store and try very hard to carry only American-sourced, American-made treats. It is difficult because many times distributors and manufacturers both try to obfuscate where things really come from.
    I use only a few brands for my own dog (and I use small training treats, not the bigger jerky treats or tenders) and honestly, I make many of his biscuits and cookies myself. I also buy good-quality sliced turkey, chicken or roast beef at the grocery store and sometimes use low-fat string cheese.
    I wish the manufacturers could remember that their bottom line will suffer if they ignore the health of our dogs.

  • 08/31/2012 10:44pm


    You are one of a breed of people that are few & far between NOW honey. Thank you for caring enough to @ least try to do the right thing by our precious babies.
    BTW: I also share your name. L.

  • 09/01/2012 03:37am

    I think it's to a great embarrassment of the FDA that after all this time there were unable to figure out the cause, not take some action to get the products off the shelves, at least for the time being.

    How many dogs need to get sick before something gets done?

    Those of us, who spend time online and read blogs, know about the problem. But not every dog owner does that and they still keep buying this stuff and putting their dogs in danger without knowing. That is just horrible.

  • jerky deaths
    09/25/2012 04:53pm

    we just had to put down our 9 year old miniature schnauzer this last week. He got real sick and crashed in just a few days. I was reading the article about chicken jerky and thought maybe it had something to do with his demise. In a few days severe thirst, lethargic, bloody stool. Off to the vet. $1000.00 and 1 day later diagnosis. Diabetic, due to pancreatic damage. Liver enlargement, bladder stones, severe keytossis, acidec blood. Prognosis dim. Insulin shots twice a day for life, health issues, possibility of lodged bladder stones. Course of action. We put Buddy down. Up to a week or so before this he seemed fine. I had been giving them Ol' Roy Grilled Chicken Strips from Walmart, once in a while as a treat. Not having read the stories until today. I called the 1-800 number on the bag. They are made by the Del Monte Company. That makes 2 miniature scnauzers in 14 months. My vet said that it might have been genetic. Dogs were 2 litters apart. Now I'm not so sure. Going to show my vet this info about chicken treats. Maybe it will save someone else's dog. Thanks for letting me vent.

  • 04/18/2013 10:58am

    I agree with you, I too had my 12 year old chihuahua diabetic, blind and was now having liver failure! These were his favorites and I had thought about if they ok but I didn't see any recalls. It could be these treats or his body if having diabetes 5 years just gave up? I'm returning the two grand new bags I bought and won't ever give them to any of my future dogs again just in case these were the cause of his death!