FDA says jerky treats making pets sick

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Food and Drug Administration says jerky teats may be making your pets sick. Now it's asking for pet owners' help in getting to the bottom of it.

Since 2007, at least 3,600 dogs and 10 cats have become ill after eating jerky treats. Of those cases, 580 have died.

The FDA has conducted more than 1,200 tests, tracing the treats back to China, but the agency still hasn't been able to pinpoint a cause of the illness.

The agency is asking pet owners to let it know if their pets have become ill after eating jerky treats.

While most of the treats have been traced to China, pet food manufacturers are not required to state the country of origin for each product. So that's what makes it so hard to pinpoint.

It's a scary thought for many dog owners who never looked at treats as a danger.

"I do buy a lot of off-the-counter, over-the-shelf treats," dog owner Phinarak Hao said. "You think they're all safe if they're on the counter, but that is a concern."

Dr. Matthew Wilson, of Monument Road Animal Hospital, said since he heard about the treats causing illness a few years ago, issues related to the treats have kept popping up. In fact, he treated a dog just months ago as a result of eating the treats.

"The dog was drinking a lot, peeing a lot," Wilson said. "We did some test and it did have mild kidney disease, so we went though everything. We realized she was actually on the jerky treats."

The dog's owners stopped giving it the treats immediately, and in months, Wilson said, the dog was healthy again.

He says if you're concerned about your dog's treats, be on the lookout for certain health changes.

"The main signs that we're seeing, about 60 percent of the pets are showing gastrointestinal signs, vomiting, diarrhea," Wilson said. "Thirty percent are renal, which means drinking more, peeing more a lot of the times."

Some pets have a decreased appetite and decreased activity, and in severe cases, kidney failure.

"We just tell people to stay away from the jerky treats especially made in China," Wilson said. "There are some vets that are saying stay away from food made in China, period."

Location is something Hao said he never looked at on a label, but now if it means keeping his dogs healthy, he will.

"When I look at the ingredient labels and stuff, but I really don't pay attention to where they're coming from," he said. "So that's a little bit of a concern, and I doubt many people do really think about it."

The FDA also issued a "dear veterinarian" letter telling vets it may request urine and tissue samples to follow up.

If you see these issues in your pet, call the FDA at 866-337-6272.

Officials in New York removed several brands of the treats from store shelves in January after an investigation, and they said since then reports of illnesses dropped.