The controversy surrounding jerky treats for pets has resumed following an announcement that two major pet treat manufacturers will soon return their products to stores' shelves.
The treats in question had been voluntarily recalled, though members of the public were warned by the Food and Drug Administration through a report that approximately 4,500 dogs had reportedly gotten sick and nearly 600 dogs had died, allegedly from consuming jerky treats.
Ultimately, an identifying cause of the illnesses and deaths was never found.
Because of the cause for concern, veterinarians are offering a different approach. Instead of purchasing processed treats for pets, consider providing a healthy alternative.
"The most important part of treat time is the attention you give to your pet," said Dr. Jennifer Welser, chief medical officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners. "Consider giving your pet chopped vegetables or fruits, like carrots and apples, or giving them a piece of their own food, but emphasizing the same level of enthusiasm."
However, some human foods are toxic to pets. Onions, garlic, chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, the sugar substitute xylitol, and raw or undercooked food can create major problems for pets.
"Most importantly, we suggest discussing treat options with your family veterinarian to determine what kind of treats would be best to give your furry friend," Welser said.
What to look out for:
Within hours of eating treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit, some pets have exhibited decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, or increased urination.
Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder. About 60 percent of cases involved gastrointestinal illness, and about 30 percent involved kidney and urinary systems.
The remaining cases reported various symptoms, such as collapse, convulsions or skin issues.
Most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China. Manufacturers of pet foods are not required by U.S. law to state the country of origin for each ingredient in their products.
A number of jerky pet treat products were removed from the market in Jan. 2013 after a New York State lab reported finding evidence of up to six drugs in certain jerky pet treats made in China. While the levels of these drugs were very low and it's unlikely that they caused the illnesses, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration noted a decrease in reports of jerky-suspected illnesses after the products were removed from the market. FDA believes that the number of reports may have declined simply because fewer jerky treats were available.