Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Toxic Jerky Treats

The FDA released a report this week on the extensive investigation and testing they have done to try and determine why jerky treats are making pets sick.  As of September 24th 2013 the agency has received reports of 3,600 dogs and 10 cats becoming ill after eating jerky treats with 580 reported deaths.  This issue has been under investigation for the past six years and despite the FDA’s efforts little headway has been made.

What they do know is that the treats are a jerky style duck, chicken or sweet potato.  They are made by many different brands but almost all of them are made in China.  In January 2013 the New York State Department of Agriculture and Marketing found that many of the jerky treats contained antibiotic residue that was not allowed in food products.  This led to a recall of several brands and a sharp decrease in the number of reported illnesses.  While the FDA is still investigating, they do not believe that the antibiotic residue is the true cause of the toxicity related to jerky treats.

The FDA is now asking for all veterinarians to help spread the word and keep our eyes open for signs of jerky treat related illness.  They have provided detailed instructions for an online reporting system so that veterinarians know how to report a case and what samples to collect from affected patients.  This will be a combined effort between pet owners, veterinarians and the FDA to get to the bottom of what is in those jerky treats.

What you can do as a pet owner is to be aware.  Early signs of illness to watch for are decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and increased urination.  If you see these signs and have been giving your pet jerky treats stop the treats immediately and contact your veterinarian.  It is critical to tell the doctor that you had been giving the treats, as this will help guide us towards diagnostics and treatment.  If possible save the bag and any left over treats in case the FDA would like them for further testing.

I recommend avoiding all jerky type treats in general.  Your dog may love them but I guarantee there is another treat that he likes just as much that hasn’t resulted in widespread illness.  Also I personally avoid giving my pets something I know was made in China.  This is easy to avoid if it states “Made in China” on the label but companies are not required to list where each of their ingredients are sourced from and it can get confusing.  However, if the product carries a “Made in the U.S.A.” label then it must be made from all ingredients that originated in the United States.

For now, be informed, be alert and avoid giving jerky treats to your pets.  For more information on the FDA’s investigation please visit their jerky treat website by clicking here.