The news this week has sparked a renewed concern over the safety of jerky pet treats. This is not a new topic of conversation, as this debate has been going on since 2006. However, on Oct. 22, the FDA released an update on the investigation, which has brought this concern once again to the forefront.
The products of concern are jerky pet treats imported from China. While chicken jerky is the most common of the products, there have been concerns also noted with duck and sweet potato jerky treats. Between 2006 and September 2013, the FDA has received more than 3,000 reports of illness, including more than 3,600 dogs and 10 cats. Of these FDA reports more than 580 have involved the death of pets; numbers this high certainly cause alarm amongst the veterinary and pet-owning communities.
Most often within hours to days of consuming these jerky treats, affected pets display signs ranging from lethargy, to vomiting and diarrhea or increased thirst and urination. While the gastrointestinal signs do seem to improve with time after discontinuing the product, the signs of increased thirst and urination may persist. These latter signs are often associated with kidney malfunctions. A syndrome known as Fanconi syndrome has been reported. This syndrome interferes with the functional components of the kidney and allows for the loss of a key component required to keep a balanced environment in the body.
To date, the underlying agent causing these problems has not been identified. The products have been tested for a variety of drugs, toxins, heavy metals and chemicals. In January 2013, several jerky treat products were removed from the market after low levels of antibiotics were found. However, it is not believed that these antibiotics could be responsible for the clinical signs that are being presented.
On Oct. 22 the USDA issued a letter to veterinarians asking for their assistance in resolving this issue. They provided us with resources to be able to report suspected cases and to ensure appropriate testing is available for the pets and the food products.
As a consumer and pet owner, it is recommended that you discontinue offering your pets jerky treats until this issue is resolved. If you have been feeding your pet any of these treats, do not dispose of the unused product or packaging. Hold on to it, just to be safe, in case it is needed for a reference. And if any concerns arise, do not wait; contact your veterinarian right away.