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Published On: Wed, Oct 23rd, 2013

Cause of pet jerky illnesses remains unknown as nearly 600 dogs have died

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the cause of jerky pet treat-related illnesses involving 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. since 2007, which includes approximately 580 deaths, continues to elude investigators ans the federal agency is asking the public to contact them if your pet became ill after eating jerky pet treats.

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To gather even more information, FDA is reaching out to licensed veterinarians and pet owners across the country. “This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” says CVM Director Bernadette Dunham, DVM, Ph.D. “Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it.”

In a letter addressing U.S. licensed veterinarians, FDA lists what information is needed for labs testing treats and investigating illness and death associated with the treats. In some cases, veterinarians will be asked to provide blood, urine and tissue samples from their patients for further analysis. FDA will request written permission from pet owners and will cover the costs, including shipping, of any tests it requests.

Meanwhile, a consumer fact sheet will accompany the letter to veterinarians so they can alert consumers to the problem and remind them that treats are not essential to a balanced diet. The fact sheet also explains to consumers how they can help FDA’s investigation by reporting potential jerky pet treat-related illnesses online or by calling the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator for their state.

The FDA says pet owners should look out for the following symptoms that appear within hours of eating treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit: some pets have exhibited decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, and/or increased urination.

Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder. About 60 percent of cases involved gastrointestinal illness, and about 30 percent involved kidney and urinary systems.

The remaining cases reported various symptoms, such as collapse, convulsions or skin issues.

Though the treats suspected of causing the harm to pets span across multiple brands, they hold one thing in common; all were chicken-flavored treats manufactured in China.

A number of jerky pet treat products were removed from the market in January 2013 after a New York State lab reported finding evidence of up to six drugs in certain jerky pet treats made in China. While the levels of these drugs were very low and it’s unlikely that they caused the illnesses, FDA noted a decrease in reports of jerky-suspected illnesses after the products were removed from the market. FDA believes that the number of reports may have declined simply because fewer jerky treats were available.

Inspections of the facilities in China that manufacture jerky products associated with some of the highest numbers of pet illness reports did not identify the cause of illness. However, they did identify additional paths of investigation, such as the supply chain of some ingredients in the treats. Although FDA inspectors have found no evidence identifying the cause of the spate of illnesses, they did find that one firm used falsified receiving documents for glycerin, a jerky ingredient. Chinese authorities informed FDA that they had seized products at the firm and suspended its exports.

To identify the root cause of this problem, FDA is meeting regularly with regulators in China to share findings. The agency also plans to host Chinese scientists at its veterinary research facility to increase scientific cooperation.

FDA has also reached out to U.S. pet food firms seeking further collaboration on scientific issues and data sharing, and has contracted with diagnostic labs.

“Our fervent hope as animal lovers,” says Dunham, “is that we will soon find the cause of—and put a stop to—these illnesses.”

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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