May 7, 2021

FDA Cautions Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky

The FDA is reminding consumers that chicken jerky products for dogs, sold as chicken tenders, strips, or treats that are imported from China may be associated with illness in dogs.

The FDA issued a cautionary warning about those products in September 2007, and a Preliminary Animal Health Notification in December 2008. The number of complaints from pet owners decreased, but in 2011 the complaints rose again. In fact, there have been more than 600 reports of illness in the last few months.

Those products are intended for a treat only, and are not a substitute for a balanced diet.

If you feed your dog chicken jerky products, watch for signs of a Fanconi syndrome-like illness:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased activity level
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea, sometimes bloody
  • Increased water consumption and/or increased urination

If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, take them to a veterinarian. The FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (VLRN) is available to your veterinarian to support diagnostics.

The government hasn’t been able to identify a contaminant or cause for these illnesses.

On February 7, 2012, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) brought this issue to the Senate floor, urging the FDA to accelerate its investigation. The Senator’s office issued a news release about this issue two weeks later.

There is a twist in this story. Because of labeling laws in this country, chicken imported from China can be “substantially” altered in the United States and used in a product without indicating the country of origin. “Substantial” alteration includes cooking and mixing.

So if a chicken jerky treat you purchased for your pet is labeled as a product of the U.S., that might not be technically true. If you choose to purchase this type of product, call the company and ask for the country of origin details about all of the ingredients they use.

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