Image from Vin News Service (http://news.vin.com/VINNews.aspx?articleId=22697)

Image from Vin News Service (http://news.vin.com/VINNews.aspx?articleId=22697)

The FDA is calling for help to determine the source of roughly 580 deaths and over 3600 illnesses (gastrointestinal and kidney) related to jerky treats that were made in China. The  mystery dates back to 2007 when illnesses were first being reported by pet owners.  Most of the victims have been dogs, although 10 cats have become sick from eating these treats as well.The FDA has tested treats for contaminants including chemical, microbiological/bacterial, antibiotics, metals, and pesticides in addition to DNA and nutrient analyses. Such tests, however, have come up inconclusive for a specific contaminant. Similarly, testing of facilities that make the treats in China have come up empty-handed. Some products have been recalled due to the detection of unapproved antibiotic residue. However, the FDA believes a recent decline in new cases is really related to reduced availability of the treats as opposed to antibiotic risk.

The FDA has requested veterinary records from affected animals as well as urine samples for analyses. They are also asking pet owners for detailed information from necropsies.

According to a statement released by the FDA today, “some pets have exhibited decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, and/or increased urination” from eating treats containing chicken, sweet potatoes, duck and fruits. The statement went on to say, “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.”

For more information, see the FDA Consumer Updates report released today.