Today, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released an updated report about its ongoing investigation into the illnesses and deaths of pets that ate the mostly Chinese-made jerky pet treats.
As of late September, 2013, the FDA had received over 3,000 complaints of pet illness after eating the chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats. Animals involved included mostly dogs and 10 cats. Almost 600 deaths have been reported.
About 60% of the complaints received were reports of gastrointestinal illness, some with elevated liver enzymes. About 30% related to kidney or urinary tract issues. The other 10% reported involved such issues as hives, tremors, seizures and skin irritations.
The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has conducted more than 1200 tests trying to find the cause of so many dogs and cats becoming ill or dying. They visited jerky pet treat manufacturing plants in China, worked with academic colleagues, industry, data labs, and foreign governments. They still don’t know the cause.
The Chinese facilities inspections didn’t reveal any causes, but they did indicate other areas to investigate, such as the supply chain of some ingredients in the treats.
They also found that one firm used “falsified receiving documents for glycerin,” an ingredient in jerky. Chinese officials informed FDA that they seized products from the firm and suspended its exports.
Now the FDA is reaching out for help from veterinarians and pet owners across America. A letter went out to veterinarians, listing the information needed for lab testing of suspected treats and investigation of any associated treats.
The agency also sent out a consumer fact sheet for pet owners along with the letter to veterinarians. To read this fact sheet, go to http://www.fda.gov/downloads/newsevents/newsroom/factsheets/ucm371715.pdf
The rate of complaints associated with jerky pet treats dropped after January, 2013, when a New York State laboratory found low levels of antibiotic residue in the products. The FDA believes that the drop is due to some many of the jerky treats being recalled and very few being available on store shelves.
That is certainly possible, but I believe the drop is caused by more public awareness. Consumers have received enough information that they know not to feed the potentially harmful treats to their pets.
FDA will continue testing and investigating to find the source of the problem. Meanwhile, if your pet should eat jerky pet treats and become ill, watch for decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption, and increased urination. See your vet at once!