Contaminated jerky pet treats linked to at least 1,000 canine deaths

(WJLA) - Do you feed your dog jerky pet treats?

If so, you'll want to know a widespread problem with treats imported from China.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the majority of the problem jerky treats are imported from China, with flavors that include chicken, duck and sweet potato.

The agency said it has received reports of illnesses in at least 5,600 dogs, 24 cats and three humans, and are aware of at least 1,000 canine deaths.

According to a statement on the FDA's website, officials said "FDA is working with laboratories across the country to investigate causes of these illnesses. To date, testing for contaminants in jerky pet treats has not revealed a cause for the illnesses."

The statement indicates testing for the following contaminants has been conducted, with no findings:

• Salmonella
• Metals or Elements (such as arsenic, cadmium and lead, etc.)
• Markers of irradiation level (such as acyclobutanones).
• Pesticides
• Antibiotics (including both approved and unapproved sulfanomides and tetracyclines)
• Antivirals (including amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and others)
• Mold and mycotoxins (toxins from mold)
• Rodenticides
• Nephrotoxins (such as aristolochic acid, maleic acid, paraquat, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, toxic hydrocarbons, melamine, and related triazines)
• Other chemicals and poisonous compounds (such as endotoxins).

Officials added, "Testing has also included measuring the nutritional composition of jerky pet treats to verify that they contain the ingredients listed on the label and do not contain ingredients that are not listed on the label. Another area of investigation includes the effects of irradiation and its byproducts."

Officials said the FDA has also had the opportunity to perform 26 necropsies, or post-mortem examinations, on dogs suspected of having jerky pet treat-associated illness, as of May 1.

"In half the cases, dogs displayed evidence of other diseases, such as widespread cancer, Cushing’s disease, abscess or internal bleeding secondary to trauma," the statement said. "In the remaining 13 dogs, jerky pet treats could not be ruled out as contributing to the illness."

Officials warn pet owners to closely watch their pets for signs of illness if they have been fed jerky treats recently.

"Signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the jerky treat products are decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea - sometimes with blood or mucus - increased water consumption and/or increased urination. Severe cases are diagnosed with pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, and kidney failure or the resemblance of a rare kidney related illness called Fanconi syndrome."

If your pet has experienced signs of illness, you can report it to FDA online.

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