Jerky Pet Treat Safety Scare: What You Need to Know

An FDA veterinarian called the spate of illnesses from the treats "one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered."

More than 3,600 pets have gotten sick. Close to 600 have died. Jerky treats appear to be to blame, federal safety regulators have warned — so what do you need to do before you give your pet such a snack as a reward?

Veterinarians still aren't sure why exactly so many dogs and cats are falling sick. "This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," said Bernadette Dunham, the Food and Drug Administration's veterinary director.

Vets do, however, have some advice for pet owners.

What's to Blame

The treats include ones sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes or dried fruit. Most of the jerky treats implicated in the spate of illnesses are from China, the FDA says, though pet food manufacturers aren't required to say where all their products' ingredients come from.

It's unclear what brands are included, but there have been voluntary recalls of brands like Nestle Purina PetCare Co.’s Waggin Train and Canyon Creek Ranch treats, plus Del Monte Corp.’s Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers The FDA has a long list of some of the treats that have sickened pets so far this year, too. (Warning: Large PDF file.)

But it's unclear what's in the treats that's causing the trouble. Antibiotics? Metals? Pesticides? Salmonella? The FDA is testing treats for all of those things and more, in its efforts to get to the bottom of the illness. So far, FDA inspections of Chinese factories linked to the problematic treats haven't yielded any answers yet.

What to Look Out For

Pets affected by the sickening jerky treats could exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • decreased appetite
  • decreased activity,
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus)
  • increased water consumption
  • increased urination

Some have also had more severe problems, including:

  • kidney failure and/or a rare kidney disorder
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • collapse
  • convulsions
  • skin issues

What You Can Do

If your pet becomes sick with any of the above symptoms, even the mild ones, stop giving it the treats, save the remaining ones and their packaging for possible testing — and consider taking your pet to the vet, the FDA says.

Also, if your pet gets sick and you think jerky treats might be to blame, you can also help the FDA with its investigation by providing it information on your pet's symptoms, as well as the lot number of the treats you fed it. You can also let the FDA test your pet to find out what's making it sick.

And in the meantime, if your pet is still healthy, consult your vet before feeding your pet jerky treats, the FDA advises.

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