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  1. Science & Research

Vet-LIRN Diagnostic Test Results for October 2013 – September 2014

A. Microbiological Testing

We tested jerky pet treats for the presence of B. cereus, S. aureus, and C. perfringens, and for toxins produced by microbial contamination. Sixty-one unopened bags of jerky pet treats (10 case-related samples, and 51 store-bought samples) were cultured for B. cereus, C. perfringens and S. aureus. Two samples were positive for B. cereus and all other samples were negative for all three microorganisms. Of the case-related samples, only unopened bags were cultured for bacteria. Open bag consumer samples were not cultured due to possible contamination from various sources after opening. We also submitted 68 case-related samples and 21 store-bought samples for Shigatoxin and S. aureus enterotoxins testing. All samples were negative.

B. Compositional Testing

 A total of 174 samples were tested for the presence and concentration of various analytes: glycerol, protein, fat, moisture, lysine, monosodium glutamate, sulfur dioxide and total sulfites. Some samples contained glycerol however package labeling did not have glycerol listed as an ingredient. Some samples were correctly labeled but had very high glycerol content (up to 200,000 ppm, or 20 percent). More tests are planned to better understand how the content of glycerol concentration varies from product to product.

C. Chemical Toxicology Testing

Seventy-one samples (11 store-bought and 60 case-related samples) were screened for a variety of analytes in jerky pet treats using multiple analytical methods, including gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and high resolution mass spectrometry (Exactive screen). Twenty-seven samples tested positive for amantadine (antiviral drug). Multiple samples showed variations from package labeling with regards to propylene glycol and sorbitol content–these ingredients were not listed on a labeling. Two of the 71 samples tested positive for ethylene glycol (one had 21 ppm, and the other one had a trace). Traces of monensin (a drug used to control certain gastrointestinal parasites in chicken) were detected in 16 samples. Additional analytes found in the samples included nicotine (3 samples), creosol (2 samples), xylitol (1 sample) and 4-Ipomeanol (1 sample). The significance of these findings is still under review.

D. Evaluation of Jerky Treat Irradiation

We continue to seek ways to detect and quantify the irradiation-specific markers 2-alkylcyclobutanones and 2-tetradecylcyclobutanones (2-ACB’s and 2-tDCB’s) in jerky pet treats in order to help determine the dose of irradiation that was used during production and to ensure that they were properly handled during the irradiation process. Preliminary testing of 21 case-related and store-bought samples indicates that some of the samples show signs of irradiation even though they were not labeled as being irradiated. More work is needed in order to confirm these findings and their significance.

E. Radiation testing

Store-bought and case-related samples were tested for gross alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. Gross alpha analysis of samples did not detect any alpha activity. Gamma-ray analysis results showed existence of Potassium (K) – 40, which is a naturally occurring radioisotope emitting both gamma-ray and beta particles. Gross beta analysis detected beta activity that was consistent with the gamma analysis finding for K-40. These finding indicate that jerky samples are negative for harmful radioactive compounds.

F. Formaldehyde Testing

We tested six consumer complaint-related samples for formaldehyde to determine if it was potentially used as illegal food preservative. All samples were negative.

Diagnostic Samples

G. Fecal cultures

In order to evaluate the role of pathogens in reported gastrointestinal cases, we have cultured fecal samples from 12 dogs with severe diarrhea. Cultures for Salmonella (8 samples) and for C. perfringens (4 samples) were negative.

H. Fanconi Urine Panel

As of September 30, 2014, Vet-LIRN, in collaboration with U. of Pennsylvania’s PennGEN laboratory, has tested 147 dogs for urinary Fanconi markers. A total of 81 dogs tested positive for Fanconi syndrome markers. Of the 81 positive dogs, 73 were tested a second time, and 76% (56) of these dogs continued to show markers of Fanconi, such as amino acids in the urine. The FDA continues to monitor these dogs to determine how long Fanconi panel markers remain in the urine after treats are no longer fed. We encourage veterinarians to alert FDA of potential Fanconi cases.

I. Necropsy examinations

As of September 2014, we have completed necropsies (post-mortem examinations) on 72 dogs. Thirty-nine (54 percent) of these dogs had causes of death that we do not believe are related to consumption of jerky pet treats. These included widespread cancer, Cushing’s disease, mushroom toxicity, parvovirus, bacterial meningitis, abscess, pneumonia, cardiac lesions, infarcts, or internal bleeding secondary to trauma. Of the remaining 33 cases, jerky pet treats could not be ruled out as to contributing to the illness. Twenty-six of these 33 cases had renal disease, and we are evaluating the cases with renal involvement further by preparing additional histologic specimens and consulting with several veterinary pathologists with expertise in renal pathology.

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