They are the dried meat treats that dogs across the globe love to eat, but according to the Food and Drug Administration, there have been more than 580 deaths and 3,600 reports of illnesses reported, which have been associated with these type of pet treats.
One of the first people to notice a problem with jerky treats was Dr. Richard E. Goldstein, the chief medical officer at the Animal Medical Center in New York, who started seeing problems back in 2006: “We’re still seeing patients now, and a lot of vets don’t know about it.”
What causes the poisonings is still a mystery, but according to vets, dogs are suffering from gastrointestinal illness, kidney ailments and other afflictions which include convulsions, tremors and skin irritations. And many of the dogs contract Fanconi syndrome, a disease that attacks the kidneys, but is also a very rare disorder in dogs.
The poisonings have affected all kinds of dog breeds, but vets are still at a loss as to what is causing the illnesses.
The jerky affected contains chicken as a main ingredient and also includes duck, sweet potatoes, yams and dried fruits. Officials from the F.D.A. went to China (where many jerky treats are manufactured) to inspect the factories out there, and although they could not find a reason for the poisonings, they did uncover one factory that had falsified papers about glycerin. This however, is quite a common ingredient in the foods and in small quantities is not considered to be harmful to dogs’ health. The company involved did have their products confiscated by the Chinese authorities and exports to the United States were suspended, pending further enquiries.
Some brands involve include Waggin’ Trail and Canyon Creek Ranch, who voluntarily removed their products after officials from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets found low levels of antibiotic residues in some of their products. Manufacturers of these products – Nestlé – issued a statement in which they confirmed that the antibiotic residue did not pose a safety risk.
Despite this F.D.A. technicians ran a series of tests on samples collected from 2007 to 2011, and samples connected to consumer complaints. They also performed tests on samples bought at retail stores. In all, the F.D.A., has now carried out more than 1,000 tests on jerky products.
However, as the deputy director of surveillance and compliance at the agency, Dr. Martine Hartogensis, states, testing jerky products is not easy: “They’re very hard and dry, not soluble, more challenging than a raw or fresh product,” she said. “It’s harder to establish methods for testing them.”
Nonetheless, F.D.A. technicians have run tests on all kinds of germs and toxins including Salmonella, mold, yeast and fungus. They have looked for additives and preservatives including nitrites and sulfites. They have screened for lead, zinc, titanium and a range of other toxic metals. And they have used the latest technology, including a gas chromatography mass spectrometer to search for toxic chemicals.
In all their tests they could not identify what was causing the poisonings in dogs. Dr. Hartogensis said: “We have a staff in our office of research working on jerky pet treats exclusively, and through our veterinary lab network, we have numerous labs throughout the country working on it.”
The F.D.A has since put out an alert to veterinarians, asking them to report any cases concerned with eating jerky products, and asked them to provide them with urine and blood samples from affected dogs. Dr. Hartogensis says:
“We’ve put out a lot of consumer alerts but this is the first time we’ve talked to vets, our eyes and ears out there. We’re trying to get samples from active cases where the animal is currently sick. We really need more tissue, urine and blood samples,” she said. “That’s where toxins are concentrated.”
The three popular jerky treats that are said to be affected are:
- Waggin’ Train Jerky Treats or Tenders (Nestle Purina)
- Canyon Creek Ranch Jerky Treats or Tenders (Nestle Purina)
- Milo’s Kitchen Home-Style Dog Treats (Del Monte Corp)
There is a Facebook campaign to get these products banned for anyone who is interested.