You may already be familiar with reports of dogs and cats becoming sick after eating jerky treats imported from China. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently released a report summarizing pet deaths linked to the jerky treats. The FDA states that since 2007 they have received approximately 2,200 reports of pet illnesses possibly related to the consumption of jerky treats. While most of the complaints are related to chicken jerky treats (which may be sold as “tenders” or “strips”) there have also been reports related to duck, sweet potato and yam jerky treats.
The FDA further reports that, during the past 18 months, 360 canine deaths and one feline death have been linked to the consumption of the jerky treats. Despite extensive testing since 2007, to date, the FDA has not determined a specific cause for the illnesses and they have expanded their testing to include irradiation byproducts as a possible cause. According to the FDA, the symptoms of illness include gastrointestinal distress such as vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood and/or mucus), and may include serious symptoms such as pancreatitis and intestinal bleeding. Some pets have also had symptoms related to kidney function such as frequent urination, excessive thirst, and kidney failure.
You might wonder why most of the chicken jerky treats involved come from China. Because the majority of chicken consumed in China consists of dark meat, there is a large quantity of light meat chicken available for export from China. The FDA notes that the volume of pet food exported from China has grown 85-fold from 2003 to 2011.
Although these treats are still available for purchase, until a cause of the pet illnesses has been identified, the best course of action is to avoid feeding your pet jerky treats manufactured in China. As the FDA notes, “…jerky pet treats are not necessary for pets to have a fully balanced diet, so eliminating them will not harm pets. Commercially produced pet food, which is very safe, contains all of the nutrients that pets need.”