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Chicken Jerky treats return to store shelves, but are they safe?

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Last year in February, chicken jerky treats were voluntarily recalled by the various manufacturers due to hundreds of deaths and thousands of pets becoming ill from the treats. Now, two brands are planning to return the treats to store shelves, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is no closer to finding out what was causing, mostly dogs, to become ill from the popular treats.

Despite engaging private labs for testing in addition to the FDA's own testing labs, no definitive cause has been found.

To date, FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has conducted more than 1,200 tests, visited jerky pet treat manufacturers in China and collaborated with colleagues in academia, industry, state labs and foreign governments. Yet the exact cause of the illnesses remains elusive.

According to an NBC news report, Nestle Purina Pet Care will reintroduce Waggin' Train treats for dogs and Del Monte Foods Corp. announced they would resume selling Milo's Kitchen Chicken Jerky Strips and Chicken Grillers Recipe treats. Both pet food companies have made changes in the supplies that go into the treats. Nestle has secured a single source supplier in China and will use U.S.-sourced products and Del Monte will be using U.S.-sourced meat, according to the NBC report.

Since 2007, chicken jerky treats have resulted in the illness of more than 3600 dogs, 10 cats and include nearly 600 pet deaths. This also included 135 cases of Fanconi syndrome, a dangerous kidney disease.

The majority of complaints involve chicken jerky (treats, tenders, and strips), but others include duck, sweet potato, and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes, or yams.

The FDA reported that there was a drop off in complaints after the treats were recalled last year. Whether the sourcing of meat ingredients will affect whether these treats will be safe is yet to be tested. There has been no clinical testing of the new treats.

Pets don't need treats to supplement their diet, though pet guardians want to reward their pet and treats are one way to make their pet feel special. For those who choose to try the new treats to be on store shelves next month, the caution remains to give the treats in limited quantity and to be vigilant in changes in your pet's behavior. The FDA continues to request that individuals and veterinarians report any illness that may be related to chicken jerky treats or any pet product. If you suspect your pet became ill from eating chicken jerky treats, you can make a report online.

If you haven't already found a chicken jerky treat recipe you can make at home, there are a number out there. It's a simple treat to make yourself, whether you coat them with oil to add a bit of dog-friendly seasoning, or leave them plain, you have a treat they will enjoy.