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FDA Probes Dog Illnesses Tied to Jerky Treats

Since 2007, about 580 pets have died as a result of illnesses related to the products, experts say

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Meat or plant-based "jerky" pet treats have been tied to mysterious illnesses in thousands of dogs, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is asking the public for help in getting to the bottom of the issue.

"This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement on the agency's website. "Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it."

In some cases, pets have become severely ill after eating the treats, which are sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes or dried fruit. Since 2007, about 580 pets have died as a result of illnesses related to the products, the FDA said.

The agency said it remains unclear why these pets are getting sick. With the outbreak under investigation, the FDA is calling on pet owners to come forward if they have a pet that became sick after eating jerky treats.

Most of the treats involved in these incidents were made in China. The FDA said pet-food manufacturers are not required by law to reveal the country of origin for each ingredient in their products.

The agency said it has begun conducting DNA tests on jerky treats, as well as additional screenings for a variety of chemical and microbiological contaminants, including antibiotics, metals, pesticides and Salmonella.

After performing more than 1,200 tests, visiting manufacturers in China, and consulting with researchers and officials here and abroad, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine still does not know the exact cause of the illnesses among pets that have consumed jerky treats.

In order to gather more information, the agency is asking veterinarians and pet owners across the United States for information that it hopes will provide insight into the deaths and illnesses linked to these treats.

Veterinarians are being asked for blood and urine samples from pets that are affected. Pet owners are being asked to cover the costs of these tests as well as the shipping fees involved.

As the investigation continues, the FDA said it will alert consumers about the issue through a fact sheet distributed with a letter to veterinarians. The agency also advised pet owners to remember that treats are not necessary and are not an essential part of a well-balanced diet. Pet owners are encouraged to report any illnesses that may be tied to jerky treats by calling the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator for their state.

The FDA advised pet owners to remain cautious about providing jerky treats to their pets and to be aware of potential symptoms of gastrointestinal or urinary problems, since about 60 percent of cases involved gastrointestinal conditions and about 30 percent involved kidney and urinary function.

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