Pets in California and elsewhere are falling ill and even dying, illnesses and deaths that appear to be associated with eating chicken jerky treats.
The Food and Drug Administration issued consumer warnings regarding the products in 2007 and 2008 and again last November after seeing a rise in the number of complaints it received of dog illnesses associated with consumption of chicken jerky products imported from China.
The FDA received more than 900 complaints after the November 2011 warning and updated its information on July 18.
The FDA warning refers specifically to chicken jerky products imported from China.
The dried chicken products may be labeled as jerky, tenders, strips or treats.
Signs of illness being reported include decreased appetite and activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; and increased water consumption and urination. The signs may occur within hours to days of feeding the products.
Last week, Senator Barbara Boxer sent a letter to the FDA, urging the agency to take greater steps to alert consumers to the potential danger of feeding the treats as well as to find the source of the contamination.
The FDA and other animal health diagnostic laboratories have tested samples for multiple chemical and microbiological contaminants, including Salmonella, heavy metals, pesticides, antibiotics, mycotoxins, rodenticides and other chemicals and poisonous compounds, but have been unable to determine a cause for the reported illnesses. The samples also underwent DNA verification to confirm the presence of poultry in the treats.
Because no contamination has been found and because the FDA does not have recall powers, most of the treats remain on the market.
Pet supply stores and discount retailers have not pulled them from shelves because no direct link between the illnesses and the jerky products has been found.
On Friday, however, Arthur Dogswell LLC recalled 1051 cartons of Catswell VitaKitty Chicken Breast with Flaxseed and Vitamins after discovering the treats contained high levels of propylene glycol, which can cause anemia in cats. The lot codes, found on the bottom right back side of the package, are SEW12CH032701/03c and SEW12CH032702/03c, with best-before dates of 9/10/13 and 9/11/13 respectively. Consumers can return the treats to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Until the chicken jerky mystery is solved, it’s best to avoid giving the treats to your pets.
If you continue to buy them, check the label for country of origin and avoid products made in China.
Give only small amounts, especially to small dogs or to cats. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you see a decrease in appetite or activity level, any vomiting or diarrhea, or unusually high levels of water consumption and urination. Blood tests should be run to check for kidney failure or an increase in liver enzymes and urine tests to check for increased glucose levels. Treatment involves supportive care such as fluids and electrolyte supplements.
Me? I’ve never bought them, and I quit letting the neighbors give them to my dogs a couple of years ago. If I want to give my dogs chicken jerky, I’ll make it myself.
Pet of the Week: Ready for some pint-sized excitement in your life? Consider adopting the two month-old short-haired Chihuahua pictured to the right of this column from Orange County Animal Care. Find the pup at the under ID #A1190170 at OC Animal Care, 561 The City Drive South in Orange.