Nearly 600 pets have died and more than 3,600 have become ill in an ongoing, mysterious outbreak linked to jerky treats from China, federal animal health officials said Tuesday.
Most of the cases have been in dogs of all breeds, ages and sizes, after eating chicken, duck and sweet potato jerky treats. The pace of the reported illnesses appears to have slowed, but federal Food and Drug Administration officials are now seeking extra help from veterinarians and pet owners in solving the ongoing puzzle.
Martine Hartogensis, with the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine says, “To date, testing for contaminants in jerky treats has not revealed a cause for the illnesses. Despite these warnings, we have continued to receive reports of illnesses in both cats and dogs.”
FDA officials are uncertain about the source of the problem that has led to reports of illnesses and warnings about the possibility of Fanconi syndrome and other kidney problems in animals that ate jerky treats.
An initial report of deaths and illnesses prompted jerky treats recalls from several brands, including Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch treats made by Nestle Purina PetCare Co. and Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers home-style dog treats from Del Monte Corp.
The illnesses go back further than January, however, pet owners have been reporting deaths and illnesses since 2007.
Hartogensis told NBC News, “We still are extensively testing treats for a number of things. We do seem to be getting some leads, but we still have a little bit of a ways to go.”
Because there's no official recall, it's not possible to list affected brands, although a previous FDA analysis indicated that three of the top-selling brands of jerky treats sold in the U.S. were mentioned in connection with pet illnesses.