Update on Jerky-related illness

Since 2007, the FDA has received reports of over 3600 pet illnesses which may be related to the consumption of jerky treats. Most of the reported illnesses involve treats that were sourced from China. Of these cases, there were more than 3600 affected dogs, and 10 affected cats; more than 580 of these cases were fatal. Smaller numbers of affected dogs were seen in Canada and Australia as well. The majority of the complaints involve jerky treats made of chicken, but other affected jerky treats included duck, sweet potato, yam, and duck or chicken jerky wrapped around fruit. There are many different brands of jerky treats that have been implicated. The FDA is heading up the investigation into these events. They are currently testing samples from suspected tainted treats looking for numerous chemical, microbiological, or heavy metal contaminants. They have traveled to China to investigate facilities where the treats are made, and have even started to make their own jerky treats to better understand the process and where the problems may lie. Frustratingly, despite in-depth investigation over the last 6 years, little is still known about the potential contaminant or contaminants causing these illnesses.

Many pet owners have been avoiding any treats or snacks branded with a “Made in China” label. The most recent posts from the FDA indicate that this precaution may not be enough, noting “Pet owners should be aware…that manufacturers do not need to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products.” This means that products may contain ingredients sourced from China, even if the label indicates that it was manufactured in another country.

There are a number of symptoms associated with consumption of these contaminated treats. Approximately 60% of reported symptoms are for gastrointestinal illness, about 30% are related to kidney or urinary issues, and the remaining 10% have a variety of other symptoms such as convulsions, tremors, hives, or skin irritation. Most pets will recover fully, but a small number are left with lasting illness and there have been approximately 580 deaths amongst the 3600 reported cases. The most common symptoms typically present hours to days after feeding the affected products and include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased activity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus)
  • Increased water consumption and/or
  • Increased urination

If you suspect a treat-related illness with your pet, stop feeding the product immediately and contact your veterinarian. In addition, please retain the product in its original packaging. Information such as manufacturer, lot number, etc. is important for the investigation. Also, the product may or may not be requested by the FDA for testing. The FDA requests that you place the product (in its original packaging) inside a larger sealable container or bag. Additional information about this ongoing investigation can be found at the FDA’s website at: www.fda.gov.