Concerns around a rash of cats and dogs becoming ill or dying due to eating jerky pet-treats have the United States Food and Drug Administration appealing to the public on both sides of the border for help in their investigation.
The agency said in a report on Tuesday that since 2007, it has received reports of jerky pet treat-related illnesses involving 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. and six provinces in Canada – with roughly 580 of those pets dying. Most of the treats connected with this outbreak have been made in China, the FDA said.
In an attempt to gather more information, the FDA is reaching out to licensed pet owners and veterinarians in both Canada and the U.S., and is conducting more than 1,200 tests while visiting jerky pet treat manufacturers in China. They’re also collaborating with colleagues in academia, the pet food industry, state labs and foreign governments.
However, the exact cause of the illnesses still cannot be pinpointed.
“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” Centre for Veterinary Medicine Director Bernadette Dunham, Ph.D. said in the FDA’s consumer report.
The illnesses have been linked to several brands, which have not been identified by the FDA, of jerky treats and strips, and in the majority of the cases they were imported from China. Some of these products were removed from the shelves in January 2013 after the New York State Department of Agriculture and Marketing Food Laboratory reported finding six unapproved antibiotic drugs in certain jerky pet treats made in China.
To date, inspections conducted on-site at facilities in China that manufacture the pet jerky products associated with the highest number of pet illnesses, did not reveal a cause. The FDA will continue to meet regularly with regulators in China to share findings and identify the root cause of the illness.
If your pet has recently eaten jerky products made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit, the FDA says to watch for your pet having: a decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomitting, diarrhea, increased water consumption and/or increase urination.
If you believe your pet has an illness linked with jerky treats, contact your veterinarian immediately and report it to the FDA.