Jerky pet treats, mostly imported from China, are now linked to more than 1,000 deaths in dogs and illness in some 5,600 others – along with sickness in 24 cats and at least three people, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a recent press release.
But after seven years of investigating and testing, the FDA still doesn't know exactly why.
“The agency continues to caution pet owners that jerky treats are not required for a balanced diet, and encourage them to consult with their veterinarians, both prior to feeding treats and if they notice symptoms in their pets,” the FDA reported in an update on its investigation on May 16.
Since 2007, the agency has received more than 4,800 complaints from consumers whose pets fell ill after consuming chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats usually made in China – including 1,800 reports since its last update in October 2013. About 60 percent of cases -- some of which affect more than one family pet -- involve symptoms of gastrointestinal or liver disease, 30 percent involve kidney or urinary disease, and 10 percent involve other complaints, including neurological or skin ailments.
The three humans include two toddlers who accidently ate the snacks, and one adult who may have purposely eaten them. One child was diagnosed with salmonella infection; the other developed fever and GI distress that mirror the symptoms of dogs in the same home that also ate the treats. The adult reported nausea, according to an FDA spokeswoman.
The FDA now plan to team up with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to launch a study to compare foods eaten by sick dogs with “controls” that did not fall ill “in order to determine whether sick dogs are eating more jerky pet treats than health dogs are,” the FDA reported.
In its new report, the FDA said it detected in some China-made chicken jerky samples the antiviral drug amantadine, used to treat the flu and Parkinson’s disease. The agency said it doesn’t believe that amantadine contributed to illness or death in pets but has warned suppliers, both in China and the U.S., that its presence is an adulterant and could be grounds for banning of the sale of those products.
The tainted treats are not sold by a single manufacturer. Based on demand, some U.S.-based companies that sold the China-made treats are now manufacturing them in this country, using only American-sourced ingredients.
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