Animal & Veterinary

Jerky Pet Treats

dog laying down

The problem

Since 2007, FDA has received reports of illnesses in pets associated with the consumption of jerky pet treats. As of September 30, 2014, FDA has received approximately 5000 reports of pet illnesses which may be related to consumption of the jerky treats. These include about 270 reports received since FDA’s last update in May 2014, a decrease from the 1800 complaints received in the previous six-month period. The reports involve more than 5,800 dogs, 25 cats, three humans, and include more than 1,000 canine deaths.

Although it is impossible to determine in every case whether the events reported were in fact caused by eating jerky pet treats, FDA continues to believe that there is an association between some of the reports and consumption of jerky pet treats.

What we are doing

After testing various jerky pet treats for antibiotics and antivirals, FDA has implemented an Import Alert that directs its field investigators to detain shipments of products from companies with positive tests. These products cannot enter the U.S. unless the manufacturer or shipper can provide third-party documentation that the products don’t contain illegal antibiotic or antiviral residues.

FDA continues to work with laboratories across the country to investigate causes of these illnesses. To date, testing for contaminants in jerky pet treats has not revealed a cause for the illnesses.

We have tested for:

  • Salmonella
  • Metals or Elements (such as arsenic, cadmium and lead, etc.)
  • Markers of irradiation level (such as acyclobutanones).
  • Pesticides
  • Antibiotics (including both approved and unapproved sulfanomides and tetracyclines)
  • Antivirals (including amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and others)
  • Mold and mycotoxins (toxins from mold)
  • Rodenticides
  • Nephrotoxins (such as aristolochic acid, maleic acid, paraquat, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, toxic hydrocarbons, melamine, and related triazines)
  • Other chemicals and poisonous compounds (such as endotoxins).

Testing has also included measuring the nutritional composition of jerky pet treats to verify that they contain the ingredients listed on the label and do not contain ingredients that are not listed on the label. Another area of investigation includes the effects of irradiation and its byproducts.

FDA has also had the opportunity to perform necropsies (post-mortem examinations) on dogs suspected of having jerky pet treat-associated illness. We have completed 72 of these as of September 30, 2014. The FDA performed necropsies on as many cases as possible in order to learn more about the cause of death, even when reported symptoms did not appear to be related to eating jerky pet treats. About 54 percent (39 dogs) were found to have died from identified causes such as widespread cancer, Cushing’s disease, mushroom toxicity, parvovirus enteritis, bacterial meningitis, abscess, pneumonia, cardiac lesions, infarcts, or internal bleeding secondary to trauma. In the remaining 33 dogs, necropsy did not identify specific causes and jerky pet treats could not be ruled out as contributing to the deaths. Twenty-six of these dogs had indications of kidney disease and two dogs had gastrointestinal disease.

Few of the necropsies (5 of 72) revealed indications of the Fanconi syndrome (or Fanconi-like syndrome or FLS) that has become the hallmark of the investigation, perhaps because some dogs diagnosed with FLS either improved or recovered with appropriate veterinary care and removal of the treats from the diet. Additionally, the necropsies of three of the dogs who tested positive for FLS revealed causes of death unrelated to jerky pet treats.

Although the majority of the dogs reported as testing positive for FLS survived, and their FLS seemed to resolve once the treats are no longer fed, it is important to note that most of these cases also received veterinary care, including hospitalization, intravenous fluids, etc., during the duration of their illness.

Find out more.

What consumers can do

Watch your pet closely. Signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the jerky treat products are decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption and/or increased urination. Severe cases are diagnosed with pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, and kidney failure or the resemblance of a rare kidney related illness called Fanconi syndrome.

If your pet has experienced signs of illness, please report it to FDA. Once a consumer has filed a report with their local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator, or electronically through our safety reporting portal, FDA will determine whether there is a need to conduct a follow-up phone call or obtain a sample of the jerky pet treat product in question. While FDA does not necessarily respond to every individual complaint submitted, each report becomes part of the body of knowledge that helps to inform FDA on the situation or incident.

What veterinarians can do

The “Dear Veterinarian” letter to veterinary professionals explains how they can provide valuable assistance to the agency’s investigation, requests that veterinarians report to FDA any cases of jerky pet treat-related illness that come to their attention and, when requested, that they also provide samples for diagnostic testing by the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), a network of veterinary laboratories affiliated with FDA.

Page Last Updated: 04/29/2015
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