Pet Jerky Treats from China: Information from the FDA

Dog Chew Toy

With the recent announcement from Petco that the company would no longer be selling dog and cat treats manufactured in China, many pet owners are wondering what exactly are the dangers associated with Chinese-made pet treats? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Animal and Veterinary Health Division provides concerned pet owners with useful information on this issue.

The FDA notes that this pet treat problem impacts mainly dogs that have fallen ill or died from ingesting jerky treats made in China. The FDA has received close to 5,000 reports of pet illnesses that are thought to be connected to the treats. Nearly 6,000 dogs (and a smaller number of cats and people) have been affected, with around 1,000 canine deaths. 60% of the reports are related to gastrointestinal illnesses and 30% to kidney/urinary issues. The other 10% are reports for skin and neurological problems.

The FDA experienced a big surge in reports after its first large scale public update in October 2013. At this time it also began to work with the American Veterinary Medical Association on this issue. Investigations of the reports have confirmed a significant number of adverse health effects related to the Chinese jerky treats, including a rare kidney disease called Fanconi Syndrome. Post-mortem exams of deceased dogs did not uncover a direct link between the treats and death, but kidney and gastrointestinal diseases were identified.

The FDA is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a study that will examine dogs sickened by the treats compared to a group of healthy control dogs. Researchers are particularly interested in studying Fanconi Syndrome and other kidney problems.

The majority of the Chinese jerky treats linked to illness are made from chicken. Some contain other ingredients. Many brands are involved, with the one common factor that they came from China. Pet owners should be aware that even if treats are not made in China, they could still contain ingredients sourced from China.

Some treat products were removed from the market in early 2013 after unapproved antibiotics were found in them. Testing of jerky treats has found a wide range of contaminants and toxins that are harmful to pets. These include Salmonella bacteria, pesticides, rodenticides, metals and mycotoxins (fungus and mold). The FDA more recently began testing for amantadine, an anti-viral drug given to the chickens, which is prohibited by the FDA.

What should pet owners do about jerky treats? The FDA notes that this type of product is intended as a small, occasional treat and not a main component of a pet’s diet. Owners who feed their pets these treats should watch for decreased appetite and energy, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased water consumption and urination. Stop feeding your pet the treats and have your vet conduct tests for kidney problems. Save the remaining treats in the original packaging. You can submit a complaint to the FDA and the treats can be tested.

For more info on this issue and to learn how to submit a report to the FDA, click HERE.

Image by Shane Adams [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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