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Healthy Pets

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Some Pet Treats Could Be Hazardous to Your -- and Spot's -- Health

WebMD Pet Health News
Reviewed by Annie Finnegan

July 18, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Before you reward Fido with a yummy dried pig ear or rawhide bone, be forewarned! You could be endangering the health of both your beloved pet and yourself. FDA researchers have found that nearly half of the imported animal-derived dog treats they tested were contaminated with various strains of salmonella.

The infamous bacteria, which can lurk in undercooked eggs, meats, and poultry, on unwashed fruits and vegetables, and even in under-treated swimming pool water, generally causes a nasty case of the "stomach flu." But for the very young, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, the severe and painful diarrhea, vomiting, and fever can prove deadly.

Recently, Canadian scientists tracked a salmonella outbreak to dried pig-ear dog treats, prompting the FDA to examine similar items imported into the U.S. The researchers randomly sampled about 160 imported pet treats made from animal parts bought at U.S. retailers. The products included dried pig ears, snouts, skin, lungs, and leg bones, and beef ears, ribs, knuckles, and hooves.

Almost half the samples were contaminated with salmonella. In all, the researchers identified 27 different types of salmonella, including strains uncommon in the U.S. and some that were highly resistant to various antibiotics. According to researcher Shaohua Zhoa, DVM, PhD, this means that these products could be contributing to the very real and growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

Zhoa, who presented the findings here Tuesday at a meeting on infectious diseases, is with the FDA's division of animal and food microbiology. Due to "regulatory concerns," she told the gathering of doctors, scientists, and reporters, she is unable to divulge which countries produced the contaminated treats, what is being done to eliminate the bacteria and ensure the safety of imported goods, or the status of similar items produced in the U.S.

Since the study, several manufacturers and distributors have voluntarily withdrawn their contaminated products from the U.S. market. To date, no treat-related cases of human or animal illness have been reported in this country.

Until there is more information available, some experts suggest avoiding pet treats made from animal parts. If you must give your pet rawhide, pig ears, or similar products, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water before touching your mouth or handling food.

Consumers can contact the FDA at 888-INFO-FDA for more information.

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