FDA asks for pet owners’ help in finding source of China-made jerky treat illnesses

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is determined to figure out exactly why American dogs and cats have been falling ill — and even dying — after eating jerky treats made in China.

Since 2007, nearly 600 pets have died after coming down with pet treat-related ailments.

DogTime.com first told you about the possible link between these China-made jerky treats and a rash of severe pet illnesses back in March 2012. Though it’s been well over a year since the news broke, these chicken, duck, sweet potato, and dried fruit jerky treats are still making pets sick — and the FDA has had enough.

“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, Bernadette Dunham, tells FOX News. “Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it.”

Since 2007, the FDA has received numerous reports from pet owners claiming these jerky treats have caused serious illnesses in their pets. According to a statement released by the FDA on Tuesday, October 22, approximately 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. have come down with treat-related ailments. Nearly 600 of those animals have died.

In all reported cases, symptoms seem to arise within hours of ingesting even part of a jerky treat. Pets experience a sharp decrease in appetite, lethargy, vomiting, stomach pains, and diarrhea. Affected pets increase their water intake and exhibit increased urination. In some of the more severe cases reported to the FDA, pets have come down with kidney failure, bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and have even developed rare kidney disorders. According to the FDA’s data, close to 60 percent of these cases have involved GI conditions and about 30 percent involved issues with the kidneys and urinary tract.

Still other pets who came down with illnesses after eating China-made jerky treats were reported to have collapsed suddenly and gone into convulsions.

In January of this year, tests completed by New York state agriculture officials revealed that the treats in question were possibly contaminated with unapproved drugs, including poultry antibiotics sulfaclozine, tilmicosin, trimethoprim, exnrofloxacin, and sulfaquinoxaline, NBC News reported in early 2013. Though these antibiotics were only found in low levels, they are not approved for use in the United States.

These findings prompted two of the country’s top brands of chicken jerky treats — Nestle Purina’s Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek treats, and Milo’s Kitchen jerky treats, produced by the Del Monte Corporation — to enter into voluntary recalls of their products in early January.

These findings have been sent to the FDA, prompting the government organization to conduct 1,200 tests of their own to check for any unusual chemical or microbiological contaminants. However, results so far have been inconclusive. The agency is also meeting with Chinese authorities and regulators to determine what is making dogs and cats so sick. Until more is known, the FDA is warning pet owners to stay away from jerky treats altogether.

The FDA is also hoping pet owners and veterinary clinics across the country will help them in their investigation. The agency is sending out a letter to U.S. veterinarians that lists the kinds of information they need, including blood, urine, and tissue samples from patients they suspect have been sickened by these China-made jerky treats. They also plan to include a consumer fact sheet in these letters so veterinarians can reach out to their patients about these jerky treats as well.

“Our fervent hope as animal lovers is that we will soon find the cause of — and put a stop to — these illnesses,” Dunham says in a statement.

For more information on what the Food and Drug Administration is doing to protect dogs and cats in the U.S., check out their full statement and read a copy of their jerky treat consumer fact sheet. If you’d like to get involved in protecting dogs and cats from potentially dangerous China-made treats, consider joining the Animal Parents Against Pet Treats Made in China Facebook group today.

Sources: FDA.gov, NBC News, FOX News

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