Why Are You Still Buying Jerky Treats?
Another day, another warning about pet jerky treats. This has to go down as one of the most frustrating mysteries facing the pet owning community in memory. Every time we think we’re getting ahead of the problem, it just gets worse.
The first alarm bells sounded in 2007, when reports started coming in to the FDA about a variety of illnesses affecting dogs who had one thing in common: they recently ate chicken jerky treats manufactured in China.
Among the most alarming signs were the pets showing signs of Fanconi-like syndrome (FLS), which is normally associated with a rare genetic condition. When affected with FLS, the part of the kidney responsible for re-absorbing important nutrients fails to work, causing the nutrients to be lost in the urine.
In 2008, Australia banned certain treats thought to be associated with the onset of these diseases and cases dropped off dramatically. In the rest of the world, though, the problem continued on.
The FDA joined forces with the American Veterinary Medical Association to get the word out about previously healthy pets with sudden onset signs of GI distress or renal disease, and the reports poured in.
By the end of 2014, the FDA had received over 5,000 reports of illness; 1,000 of them involved the death of a pet.
Our inability to find the source of the illness hasn’t been due to a lack of effort from regulatory agencies, scientists, and the veterinary community. Despite all this, we’ve still been unable to pinpoint a cause.
Testing of suspect jerky has shown traces of antibiotics, DEET, and the antiviral amantadine. Sadly, even after the terrible events of the 2007 melamine recall, which made us more vigilant, it seems we are just unable to trust the safety of food supplies arriving from China.
Without proof of injury, companies were unwilling to change their protocols or invoke a voluntary recall. This left suspect products on the shelf and the burden on vets and pet lovers who were in-the-know to get the word out.
The solution, at least until we know the real problem, seemed for a long time to be this: Don’t buy chicken jerky treats from China.
That worked, at least until similar diseases starting popping up in pets who hadn’t eaten chicken jerky at all. The jerky they had ingested contained other ingredients, like duck or sweet potatoes.
This was the last straw in the eyes of many in the pet loving community, and after strong pressure from consumers, Petco was the first major pet retailer to announce in 2014 that they would stop carrying made-in-China treats by the end of the year.
Finally, we said. Whether or not we figure out what the problem is, 2015 will be a better year. With made in the USA products on the shelves, things are bound to get better, right?
I thought so, until the news came out this week that chicken jerky made in the USA may be associated with Fanconi-like syndrome in pets.
According to the VIN News Service and their interview with an FDA spokesperson, even the “Made in the USA” label may not be enough to prevent jerky associated illnesses.
So now what? The good news is that most cases resolved once the jerky treats were withdrawn, so owners who are concerned about jerky treats should discontinue feeding them immediately and talk to their vet if there’s any concern about their pet’s health.
As for me? I haven’t bought a jerky treat, from China or otherwise, since I first heard the reports. I have a dehydrator and make my own jerky from freezer burned chicken that I’d probably otherwise toss out, which has the double bonus of making my husband happy at my thriftiness while ensuring the ingredients in the treat are exactly what I want them to be.
Or, and this is even more often the case, I give Brody a different treat: apple slices, popcorn, he doesn’t care.
You know, I like treats as much as the next guy, but if you told me my chocolate chip cookie stood a chance of blowing out my kidneys, you bet I’d be looking up cupcake recipes stat. It isn’t worth the risk.
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang