Chicken Jerky Treats from China Associated With Pet Illness

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has issued a bulletin expressing concern about chicken treats imported from China. There was a problem back in 2007, but more recently there have been additional complaints filed by owners and veterinarians. The FDA is not sure why pets are getting sick from the treats, but the kinds of problems they are having can be very serious.

The FDA’s bulletin is below. I’ve made the most important points bold.

FDA Continues to Caution Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products
November 18, 2011

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is again cautioning consumers that chicken jerky products for dogs (also sold as chicken tenders, strips or treats) may be associated with illness in dogs. In the last 12 months, FDA has seen an increase in the number of complaints it received of dog illnesses associated with consumption of chicken jerky products imported from China. These complaints have been reported to FDA by dog owners and veterinarians.

FDA issued a cautionary warning regarding chicken jerky products to consumers in September 2007 and a Preliminary Animal Health Notification in December of 2008. After seeing the number of complaints received drop off during the latter part of 2009 and most of 2010, the FDA is once again seeing the number of complaints rise to the levels of concern that prompted release of our earlier warnings.

Chicken jerky products should not be substituted for a balanced diet and are intended to be fed occasionally in small quantities.

FDA is advising consumers who choose to feed their dogs chicken jerky products to watch their dogs closely for any or all of the following signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the products: decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination. If the dog shows any of these signs, stop feeding the chicken jerky product. Owners should consult their veterinarian if signs are severe or persist for more than 24 hours. Blood tests may indicate kidney failure (increased urea nitrogen and creatinine). Urine tests may indicate Fanconi syndrome (increased glucose). Although most dogs appear to recover, some reports to the FDA have involved dogs that have died.

FDA, in addition to several animal health diagnostic laboratories in the U.S., is working to determine why these products are associated with illness in dogs. FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (VLRN) is now available to support these animal health diagnostic laboratories. To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses. FDA continues extensive chemical and microbial testing but has not identified a contaminant.

The FDA continues to actively investigate the problem and its origin. Many of the illnesses reported may be the result of causes other than eating chicken jerky. Veterinarians and consumers alike should report cases of animal illness associated with pet foods to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in their state or go to http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

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16 Comments

Filed under news, toxicology

16 responses to “Chicken Jerky Treats from China Associated With Pet Illness

  1. Chris

    Why are we importing dog food and treats? What ever happened to “Made in USA”? Forewarned is forearmed. I’ll be checking labels more carefully.

  2. Denise M. Byers

    Is there a list of brand names that come from China? I know there are distributors in the U.S., but the packages don’t list where they come from. Also, are other treats affected? We give our dog jerky strips, but I think they are beef. Any information would be helpful. Thank you.

  3. Some quick research indicated that ANY meats from Asian manufacturers might be suspect. There were no suggestions on how to find out where the products are made, unfortunately. I think it might require some online research or a call to the manufacturer of the treats you’re buying. I would hope that US manufacturers would proudly display “made in the USA” or “Made from US ingredients” or something, but I’m not sure if they do or not.

    I would suggest avoiding jerky treats altogether as the absolute safest path to take. I’ll look into the treat situation further over the weekend and add another post on the blog to address your questions further. Thanks for commenting!

  4. L Fitzpatrick

    We had to put our Australian Shepherd to sleep in June of this year. The emergency vet said that she looked as if she was in perfect condition but ran 106 temperature and was totally unresponsive in a matter of 10 hours. We had been been feeding our dogs chicken jerky treats as treats, thinking they were all natural. Now, we wonder if they played a role in her death. She was my husband’s service dog, certified TDI , and agility dog, Perfect condition makes you wonder??

  5. I’m very sorry for the loss of your dog. That’s an astonishingly quick decline for an otherwise healthy pet, and it sounds like you were left with more questions than answers.

    It’s incredibly frustrating that no specific bacteria or toxin or ingredient has been identified in the chicken jerky. Tests are ongoing to try to identify what’s causing the problem. Until a specific agent is identified, the best way to protect pets is to carefully scrutinize what is being given for food and treats.

  6. You’ve touched on a very political topic! 🙂 Investigating exactly where things are made and how is going to become a far more critical part of not only our pets’ health but our own as time goes on. It’s important for consumers to ask companies the “what, where, and why” questions.

  7. Carol

    another vet blog mentioned a possible mold contamination, that some of the treats seem to be discolored. I really could use some Brand Names to help figure this out. I’ve been giving my wheaten and schnauzer occasional Milo’s chicken jerky treats, just ordered a large bag of them and now I see in the tiniest print ‘made in china’ GRRR
    Really need some more info on this and also wonder why on earth we don’t have reasonably priced healthy dog products from the US…

  8. Fungal contamination is definitely a possibility. The bulletin I saw noted that testing was being done for microorganisms, but I’m not sure if that includes molds or not. The toxins that some molds produce can produce neurologic, kidney, or liver problems — so fungal toxins could be the answer.

    I may have at least one brand for you to check out. I was home with my family for Thanksgiving. My mother feeds her dog Wellness brand dog jerky treats. I looked at the package and it stated “Made in the USA.” It didn’t elaborate on the source of the ingredients specifically, but it at least did NOT say “Made in China.” I will keep looking for other brands.

    In the meantime, it may be useful to do some searching for homemade dog treat recipes. I’m sure that there are acceptable options out there. The one suggestion I have up front about jerky recipes is to OMIT GARLIC. Garlic (and onions) can be toxic to dogs (if enough is consumed). Since we’re trying to avoid illness in our pets from treats, play it safe and just leave the garlic out of the recipe.

  9. wendy ahrens

    One brand of Chicken Jerky treats Waggin Tails proudly stares USA (smaller letters claim “company” and made in China) Killed my service dog and disabled my other.

  10. I’m so sorry about the loss of your service dog. It’s terrible that we have to learn about this sort of problem through a tragic loss and an illness. :(.

    Thank you for sharing the brand of treat so others can be aware of it.

  11. wendy ahrens

    There are two brands sold through Costco. The first Kingdom Pets (they killed my rottwweiler within 6 weeks of ingestion) and Wagon Trails who both import product. Both are sold in the US and Wagon Trails are sold in Canada and the US. There are issues and I am planning on suing the manufactuers and distributors for the death of my service animal.

  12. wendy ahrens

    please contact me [redacted] I am planning on suing the companies involved. When I asked where I should send my vet bills after the death of my service dog (and best friend) I was put in touch with the manufactuers attorney. Looking for a fight! I’ll give them one!

  13. Thank you again for sharing this information with other readers. Please keep us up to date with any information you can share.

  14. editorial note: I approved this comment even though it’s advertising because I also listed specific brands that I found myself in a pet supply store. It seemed only fair.

    I just worked a craft show over Thanksgiving weekend. I had flyers about the recent 2011 FDA warning about Chinese chicken treats and was giving them out and educating anyone I could stop who answered “yes” to the question, “do you have a dog or cat?”

    A groomer I spoke with that weekend told me that she had a client whose dog just passed away from Chinese chicken. My dogs are my children, truly. I can only imagine how devastating that was for that family…

    If you’re looking for a REAL ‘American Made’ chicken treat, we started making our own Chicken Jerky after we ran across the FDA warning of 2008 about Chinese chicken treats making dogs sick or killing them. It turned into a cottage business and we now sell our TriPom Chews online and in 20 stores in the New England area. Our products are the only ‘Maine Made’, ‘American Made’, chicken jerky produced from whole, restaurant-quality chicken breasts containing NO Additives and NO Preservatives. We had to make them super wholesome as our 3 Pomeranians (our babies) taste test every batch for quality.

  15. There is a NEW article (December 28, 2011) on MSNBC which reports that the FDA is now saying that 353 dogs have gotten sick or died from eating Chinese chicken treats this year. The link is: http://on.msnbc.com/vKKHKK

    Personally, I think the number of dogs sick this year is well over one thousand from the number of websites I’ve visited where I have seen dogs that are ill or that have died being discussed. I am almost certain it is something the Chinese are feeding the poultry used for their treats.

    Did you know, according to Wikipedia and a New York Times article, that the Chinese fed Melamine to livestock? Melamine, as you may know, was the non-listed ingredient responsible for the pet food recall a few years ago. If you haven’t, you should search for “Melamine” on Wikipedia and read the article.

    Melamine is a principal ingredient in making Formica countertops and causes kidney failure if eaten. The Chinese were also caught putting Melamine into kids’ milk and infant formula.

    The only truly safe treat is one that you make yourself or that you buy from a company you trust.

  16. holly lu conant rees

    we just lost our great-hearted bruna, almost certainly as a result of chicken jerky treats, which we had no idea were imported from china, nor that there are 100s of reports of illnesses and deaths associated with these products. we had just opened a bag of these treats–the company used to be called waggin train, but apparently after the first wave of incidents, they not only changed their name (to canyon creek ranch) but have the phrase “an american company” emblazoned on the front of the pkg–it’s only on the back that the microscopic words “made in china” appear. pls tell everyone you know who has a dogly family member, & consider signing the petition below to ban these deadly items.
    http://www.change.org/petitions/ban-dog-treats-imported-from-china

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