March 22, 2018

FDA Updates Jerky Pet Treat Investigation

The Food and Drug Administration has updated its investigation into pet illnesses and deaths in animals that ate jerky pet treats. FDA is collaborating with the CDC on a new case control study. The government has not been able to identify a specific cause for the reported illnesses and deaths.

Since the last update on October 22, 2013, there have been 1,800 more reports of illness and death. As of May 1, 2014, they agencies have received more than 4,800 complaints of illness in pets that ate chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, nearly all imported from China. Those reports include more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, and three people. More than 1,000 dogs have died.

The symptoms break down as: 60% gastrointestinal/liver disease, 30% kidney or urinary disease, and the remaining 10% neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms. About 15% of the kidney and urinary cases also tested positive for Fanconi syndrome, which is a rare kidney disease associated with this investigation.

The government sent out a letter to veterinarians across the country last fall. In response, they have received many well-documented case reports. The FDA has performed necropsies (post-mortem examinations) on 26 dogs. Thirteen of those cases did not appear to have the cause of death related to the consumption of the treats.In the other 13 cases, an association with the jerky pet treats could not be ruled out. Eleven of those dogs had kidney disease; two had GI disease.

Testing by the New York State Department of Markets and Agriculture in 2012 detected low levels of antibiotics in the treats. Testing of the jerky pet treats from China has found the presence of the drug amantadine in some chicken flavored products. Amantadine is an antiviral that is FDA-approved for use in people. It is also used in an extra-label manner in dogs for pain control. FDA doesn’t think that amantadine contributed to the illnesses because the known side effects associated with amantadine do not correlate with the symptoms seen in the jerky pet treat cases. FDA has notified the Chinese authorities that the presence of amantadine is an adulterant.

The government continues to tell pet owners that jerky pet treats are not required for a balanced diet. If your pet does develop an illness you think is related to pet jerky treats, report it to the FDA.

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