Treats made in China linked to dog deaths

Do you know where your dog’s treats were made? If the back of the bag reads “Made in China,” beware.

Chicken jerky treats, made in China, could infect a dog’s kidneys and result in complete renal failure.

Treats that could be dangerous for your dog are still being sold on store shelves nationwide.

In mid-February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced their intention to complete further testing of Chinese chicken jerky treats linked to dog illnesses and deaths.

The chicken jerky treats, all made in China, have been linked to hundreds of reported pet deaths since 2010, and the number of dogs affected as risen sharply; since the FDA initiated their official warning against the treats in November, 2011, nearly 500 reports of toxicity resulting in illness or death were issued with the FDA. The incidences are widespread, with owners across the country filing reports.

Stories of families losing dogs as a result of these tainted treats are as tragic as they are baffling. In some cases, owners reported feeding their dogs as little as half of a treat before the dogs fell ill. A Facebook group dedicated to spreading the word about the contaminated treats has grown by nearly 2,000 members in the past month.

Many of the dogs ingesting the tainted treats are coming down with a “Fanconi-like” syndrome. After eating one or more of these chicken jerky treats, a dog’s kidneys could become compromised. The kidneys then leak dangerous amounts of glucose and electrolytes into the dog’s urine. In serious cases, the dog will go into complete renal failure.

Symptoms to look for include excessive thirst, a lack of energy, frequent urination, a lack of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. Owners who believe their dog may be affected by tainted treats should seek immediate veterinary care.

The American Veterinary Medical Association urged dog owners to purchase treats with caution back in June 2011, when reports from Canada revealed potential toxicity in the same “made in China” treats. Concern about these treats, however, was reported by the AVMA as far back as September 2007.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) have both thrown their hats into the ring in the fight to have these unsafe products pulled from the shelves. Both have contacted the FDA repeatedly, urging the agency to announce a recall.

In a letter, Kucinich urged the FDA to recall the products and alert the public: “The FDA has clearly established an association between consumption of the chicken jerky and illness and death,” he stated. “It is simply not feasible to expect every dog owner to be aware of a modestly publicized warning from the FDA.”

If these treats are so dangerous, then why haven’t they been recalled? Though both government and independent animal health laboratories have tested samples of the chicken jerky treats, there have been no definitive contaminants or toxins determined – yet. The treat samples have been checked for a number of unsafe chemicals, including melamine, diethylene glycol, and arsenic.

As of the end of February, the FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network has tested 80 samples, with 153 samples to go. There is no word on when these tests will be completed or if they will yield results definitive enough for a recall to be ordered.

Pet food products produced in China were first linked to sometimes-fatal pet illnesses in 2006. Tests conducted in early 2007 revealed that certain pet foods made in China were secretly infused with a cheap additive called melamine, a substance made from coal that ended up poisoning and, in some cases, killing dogs and cats in the United States. The discovery led to the FDA recall of over 60 million packages of pet food.