Approximately 580 dogs have died and 3,600 reported sick in a mysterious connection with consuming Chinese jerky treats, according to a new update from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The problems date back as far as 2007, when FDA first began receiving a higher volume of reports of dogs exhibiting symptoms such as decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. The apparent commonality was a diet including various brand-name jerky treats, all of which were manufactured in China. Food Safety News reported on the issue in March 2012, speaking with several dog owners who said they lost their dogs to medical complications from days to years after they began eating the treats. The treats are commonly sold as “jerky tenders” or “jerky strips” and are primarily made with chicken, although combinations may also include duck, sweet potato, and dried fruit. FDA has conducted more than 1,200 tests on various brand-name treats in an attempt to discover some type of common contamination, but those tests have not revealed any clear cause of the illnesses. The agency sent inspectors to China last year to investigate several jerky treat facilities in person. Those tests included checking for a number of microbial contaminants, antibiotics, metals and pesticides. Some tests even examined DNA and nutritional composition. But nothing has yet stuck out to investigators as a likely cause. “This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” said Dr. Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, in a news release. “Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it.” FDA is now asking pet owners and veterinarians to assist in the investigation by reporting any complaints linked to pet food. In an open letter to veterinarians, the agency has requested samples and information regarding potential illnesses related to the treats be submitted to FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network, a network of diagnostic laboratories. The agency has also asked vets to distribute jerky treat fact sheets to pet owners and report any observations of pet illnesses related to jerky treats. In some cases, reports have said dogs fell ill within hours of eating the treats. Other customers have said their dogs have eaten the treats for years without any ill effects. In severe cases, dogs have suffered kidney failure, intestinal bleeding and a rare kidney disorder called Fanconi syndrome. A smaller number of cases involved collapse, convulsions or skin issues. Earlier this year, Purina and Milo’s Kitchen recalled several jerky treat brand names – including Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch – because they contained trace amount of antibiotics that are approved in China and Europe but not in the U.S. FDA advises pet owners who observe symptoms after feeding jerky treats to dogs to stop serving the treats immediately, consider contacting a veterinarian, and saving the remaining treats and packaging for possible testing. In July 2012, FDA released an unprecedented collection of data on the 285 tests it had conducted on jerky treats up to that time. In an interview with Food Safety News, author and microbiologist Phyllis Entis criticized the agency for what she viewed as a lack of a systematic approach to solving the problem, calling FDA’s efforts at the time “scattered” and saying that the agency was not investing sufficient resources into the investigation. “To identify the root cause of this problem, FDA is meeting regularly with regulators in China to share findings,” the latest FDA update read. “The agency also plans to host Chinese scientists at its veterinary research facility to increase scientific cooperation.”

  • If 580 people had died from eating jerky, the issue would have had hundreds of investigators and dozens of labs right on top of finding the cause. The takeaway from this is do not feed any packaged “treats” to any of your pets because those charged with making sure they are safe, do not have the budget or whatever to do the job.

    • Oginikwe

      One of these days it is going to be people. We need to take control of our food system back from the global corporations.

  • Oginikwe

    Thank you FSN for first reporting on this in March of 2012 and then having a follow up in May and again in January of this year.

    More Than 900 Complaints to FDA Blame Jerky Treats for Pet Illnesses (Food Safety News) 5/24/2012:

    Transparency Challenges Make Food Safety a Tough Beat
    for Reporters (Food Safety News) 1/10/2013:

    This is why I like to start my day on FSN: to find out what I need to avoid that day and who I need to email to warn. An article on FSN kept one of my sons away from sushi for lunch when that salmonella outbreak started making the rounds. (Multistate Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Raw Tuna Grows to 425 (Food Safety News) 7/26/2012:
    Thank you FSN for the work that you do. 🙂

  • Jamie

    After reading this I’m certain that my pug that I lost suddenly in 2007 was impacted. My mother often fed him treats, jerky treats, etc…wish I knew all of the names now. He was overweight but healthy. Then suddenly got sick, stopped drinking, eating. He was diagnosed with diabetes. He never got better, in fact within a couple weeks he was very sick. This time took him to emergency hospital, wasn’t comfortable with the level of care at old vet. They ran up the bill with test after test but nothing made him better. They let him come home and the next day we had to put him down to stop his suffering. It was Christmas eve…I wish I knew some of these things back then. Might have been able to save him.

    • Sad to hear – you are probably right about the treats being source.

  • i thought at one point it was melamine they were adding claiming more protein, but never mentioning melamine which is a plastic that they used to use for plastic dishes when they first came out. i do think that was resolved. just don’t buy anything that says made in china period

    • The label of a product will not tell the story, as people always find a way to cheat on them. The Chevy, Buick, or Cadillac you buy as made in USA? Engine, transmission, and rear and shipped here or Canada from Chinese factory owned by GM and then assembled here.

      • there was a problem a while back with flea products it was highly advertise that this product is not safe for your animal cat or dog. yet the product remained on the shelves – people purchased them. that is why people need to check things out prior to purchase. some of these big company’s just do not care. as long as you buy they will sell

      • Casually_Insane

        We are talking of food, and a whole different animal. FDA protects from what you mentioned above. If that’s why so many companies recall , and pretty fast after first release

  • Barbee yorkielover

    I have finally started to make my own dog food and dog treats.The dogs seems to be more energetic and they never get upset tummies anymore.I have Yorkies and their tummies can be pretty touchy but they took to the home made food and treats right away.I add vitamins & minerals to the food, so that I know that they are getting a healthy diet.I won’t be going back to regular dog food.

    • Casually_Insane

      Ah how I wish I had the time a also knew how to do that… Maybe some advice?

      • Barbee yorkielover

        Type your reply…

  • ahubbs

    There is a warning from the FDA concerning glycerin from bio-diesel derived from the Jatropha curas plant- not to use this glycerin in pharmaceuticals or food products. Currently, according the FDA website, they have no method to test for these Jatropha-toxins, phorbol esters. Do the chicken jerky manufacturers know for certain the origin of their glycerin?

  • Inshock

    We lost two of our King Charles cavalier within thirty days after they were given Costco’s sweet potato/chicken wrap snacks made in China (by some one else). Both were diagnosed with diabetes, pancreatic failure, liver failure, and internal digestive bleeding. There was an extremely rapid onset even though a couple of weeks passed before the second dog died she was sick until her death. The vet’s and animal hospital were unable to do anything for either dog. Please do not feed your pets any food or snacks made in China, and watch what others give your pets.

    More investigation must be conducted, most of these deaths and illness are not reported.

    • lisa

      I’ve just returned from the Vet. My beautiful Sheena passed away after eating Chicken treats purchased at Costco. She was diagnosed with Pancreatitis and Diabetes. She was never, ever sick. We had her 6 years and came to us as an adult. Again, extremely healthy. I noticed about four, five days ago she started vomiting and unable to keep her water and food down. I rushed her to the vet and they gave her IV fluids for dehydration and insulin. She was fine for the evening and next morning, but then it begain all over again. Rushed her to the ER Vet, but told they would charge me again thousands, but no guarantee that it won’t happen again. She again needed IV fluids for vomiting and hospital stay for five days. She suggested putting her to sleep and not letting suffer since she was in pain. The thought of letting her go through more pain without guarantee of feeling better and to continue in pain and suffering was more than I could bear.