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Pet jerky FDA deaths: 1,000 dogs dead, 5,600 ill, FDA warns of pet jerky treats

Pet jerky FDA reported deaths of more than 1,000 dogs and pet jerky illnesses of more than 5,600 dogs and 24 cats have pet owners on edge and asking, which pet jerky treats are killing our pets? The pet jerky treats which have been linked by the FDA to more than 1,000 deaths in dogs include chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats “nearly all of which are imported from China,” reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 16.

A gravestone marks a pet's final resting place at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory on April 30, 2012 in Hartsdale, New York. The cemetery, established in 1896, is the oldest pet cemetery in the United States and serves as the final resting place.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Since 2007, the FDA has received reports from pet owners and veterinarians that something mysterious is killing dogs or is making them sick. In the time frame from Oct. 22, 2013, to May 1, 2014, the FDA received the frightening report that in less than seven months, 1,800 additional cases were reported to the FDA.

As of May 1, the total number of canine deaths due to pet jerky treats has reached more than 1,000. In addition to the deaths, 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, and three people have fallen ill. The people adversely affected by the pet treats include two toddlers and one adult who accidentally consumed the treats. Because of the link between pet treats and people, the FDA has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep track of reported cases of illnesses. However, the study is ongoing and not yet conclusive.

In October of 2013, the FDA sent out letters to veterinarians asking them to share case information about pets that have died or fallen ill after consuming pet treats. Necropsies ((post-mortem examinations) of 26 dogs showed that about half of the canines had died due to the consumption of jerky pet treats. The cause of death was determined to be kidney disease and gastrointestinal disease. While the necropsies of 26 dogs might appear to be insufficient to issue a pet jerky treat warning, the FDA has many more test treat samples, tissues, blood, urinary and fecal samples that need to be examined.

What the FDA does know so far is sufficient to issue a warning on pet jerky treats. “The breakdown of symptoms associated with the cases is similar to that of earlier reports: approximately 60 percent of the cases report gastrointestinal/liver disease, 30 percent kidney or urinary disease, with the remaining 10 percent of complaints including various other signs such as neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms. About 15 percent of the kidney or urinary cases also tested positive for Fanconi syndrome, a rare kidney disease that has been associated with this investigation.”

Dog owners and veterinarians are reporting that animals have been stricken with a range of symptoms within hours or days of eating chicken jerky, including serious problems such as kidney failure and Fanconi syndrome.

Fanconi syndrome can occur in pets and people and the symptoms can include excessive urination, excessive thirst, reduced appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and/or poor body condition. The causes behind the Fanconi syndrome are due to the body’s inability to absorb water, sodium, potassium, glucose, phosphate, bicarbonate, and amino acids from the kidneys. Instead of absorbing these, the body excretes them through the urine.

Fanconi syndrome (as well as the gastrointestinal and liver disease symptoms found in the affected pets) can be caused by drugs. In its testing of pet jerky treats from China, the FDA found the drug amantadine in some samples containing chicken. Amantadine is an antiviral that is FDA-approved for use in people but should not be present at all in jerky pet treats.

Chinese authorities have been notified of the presence of amantadine in pet jerky products and reportedly have assured the FDA “that they will perform additional screening and will follow up with jerky pet treat manufacturers. “

Unfortunately for pet owners, it is unknown which manufacturers are responsible. As reported by Dogs Naturally, one “Houston woman said she went through a nightmare involving deadly dog treats while visiting relatives in Connecticut last week. Sallie Des Biens said she bought some Waggin’ Train chicken jerky treats at a grocery store for her daughter-in-law’s dog, Major. After Des Biens fed Major a few treats, the dog went into liver failure and died.”

In response to the reported death after consuming Waggin’ Train pet treats, the company said that it “has a comprehensive food safety program in place to ensure the safety of our products. We only use high-quality ingredients in our products, and the production facilities are designed and operated to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards. We have a dedicated team of quality control experts in China – particularly, in the plants – when Waggin’ Train products are being produced. They monitor various steps of the manufacturing process for safety and quality of the product.”

However, many pet owners know that Waggin’ Train pet treats as well as other pet treats by other manufacturers have been recalled several times during the past years. Except of empty shelves in stores, there are no warnings or no signs why all of a sudden those treats disappear.

The pet jerky deaths reported by the FDA are a reminder that even though a product is advertised as “natural” and “healthy” for your pet, this might not be the case. The FDA is asking pet owners (who notice signs of illness due to jerky pet treats) to please report it to FDA. “If your dog is currently sick or has recently been sick, and you believe it is connected to Jerky Pet Treats, we urge you to work with your veterinarian in submitting information through the Safety Reporting Portal.”

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