Dog Illnesses, Deaths Linked to Jerky Treats Still a Mystery for FDA

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The deaths of more than 1,000 have been reported to be connected to pets’ consuming jerky treats – mostly imported from China – but federal investigators remain uncertain what is causing the fatalities.


File photo of a canine companion (Credit: Steve Baker/flickr via Creative Commons)

In an update on its seven-year investigation into pet illnesses and fatalities associated with jerky pet treats, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday said it has requested help from the CDC, which primarily tracks illnesses in humans.

“So far, testing for contaminants in jerky pet treats has not revealed a cause for the illnesses,” the FDA has stated on its website.


The FDA became aware of an increasing number of complaints about pet illnesses associated with jerky treats in 2007, when it first issued a warning to consumers.

Since May 1, 2014, the agency has received 4,800 reports of illnesses “may be related to consumption of the jerky treats.” About 1,800 complaints were received since an FDA update published in October 2013.

More than 5,600 dogs are involved in the reports, which also cover 24 cats and three people. The cases include more than 1,000 canine deaths.

Most complaints involve many brands of jerky products sourced from China, the FDA stated.

“Unfortunately, FDA has still not been able to identify a specific cause for the reported illnesses or deaths,” an FDA statement issued Friday said.

Bernadette Dunham, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA, called the jerky-treat illnesses and deaths “one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” the Washington Post reported.

Going forward, the Centers for Disease Control will help the FDA with testing that will compare cases of dogs that were sickened by the treats with dogs that did not become ill.

“Data collected during this investigation will allow federal investigators to better understand what is making pets sick,” the FDA stated Friday.

Because there’s no specific cause, the agency has not announced a recall but has urged pet owners to watch their animal companions closely after feeding them jerky treats.

Animal owners who suspect jerky treats are associated with their pets illnesses are urged to report symptoms to the FDA.

One Northridge woman who shared her story with KTLA said she hoped retailers would post information on store shelves, even if there’s no specific FDA guidance for particular brands.

“They should at least post the warnings, the stores that are supplying these products,” said Deanne Grimes, whose 7-year-old dog Finn died suddenly.

Finn’s symptoms matched other dogs’ ill effects from jerky treats, Grimes said.

“I just want other pet owners to know,” she said.