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Pet jerky deaths baffle FDA: 1,000 dead dogs, 4,800 sick, symptoms advisory list

The pet treat mystery continues for the FDA after seven years of investigating the deaths and illness of dogs linked to pet jerky. The latest numbers reported have over 1,000 dogs dead and thousands falling ill, linked to the pet jerky products that are mostly imported from China. Along with the dogs and cats, now for the first time people who have ingested the product have also gotten sick, reports NBC News on May 16.

Dogs dying from pet jerky treats baffles the FDA after seven years of testing
Bear/ Roz Zurko

The Federal Food and Drug Administration officials are still baffled by the specific cause of these reported deaths and illnesses. For seven years, the FDA has investigated the claims coming from pet owners and tested the products in question. Their latest update was released Friday on the FDA website.

While it is the jerky treats that seem to be killing and causing illness in the dogs, the specific contamination in the product has not been singled out. The FDA has received reports of more than 1,000 deaths in dogs and over 4,800 reports of illness from these jerky products. For the first time three people were reported to have fallen ill after eating the jerky.

Two of those cases reported are toddlers who accidentally ate their pet’s treat. The third was an adult, who apparently like to snack on the pet jerky treats, according to 11 Alive News.

The FDA said the items reported to have caused the sickness include chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats. About 1,800 new reports of deaths and illness in dogs has come into the agency since its last update back in October. Some of these reports involve more than one pet in a household.

The total numbers have topped 5,600 dogs, 24 cats and three people. According to the FDA, about 60 percent of the cases involve symptoms congruent with gastrointestinal trouble and liver disease. Kidney disease was involved in about 30 percent of the cases, with 10 percent involving neurological problems and skin conditions.

Tests have come back positive for Fanconi syndrome, a rare disease, in about 15 percent of the kidney and urinary cases. Fanconi syndrome has been tied to the pet treats.

This pet treat death and illness is baffling because it has been tied to many different product brands, according to FDA officials. While the reports of death and illness keep stacking up, “despite extensive testing, no specific cause of the illness has been linked to the products.”

Anyone who owns a pet have probably seen the pet food section of their local grocery stores looking more like a book store these days. People are stopping, taking out their reading glasses and looking for the country of manufacturing on the pet food and treat supplies.

Since the majority of the tainted treats have come from China, pet owners have taken to buying food that is manufactured and distributed within the United States. While a company may have their food and treats stamped “distributed in the U.S.,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is “manufactured” in this country. It is the “manufactured” country that tells you were the food was made.

What to look for in your pets:

FDA advises:

"Signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the jerky treat products are decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption and/or increased urination."

"Severe cases are diagnosed with pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, and kidney failure or the resemblance of a rare kidney related illness called Fanconi syndrome."

"If your pet has experienced signs of illness, please report it to FDA."

It seems that the only strong link between all of the pet jerky products in question is that most were manufactured in China. The investigation is on-going as the FDA tries to weed out just what these products contain that could be causing all these deaths and illnesses in dogs.

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