Good old China is at it again. From lead based paint on baby toys, melamine contaminated pet food (in 2007), to our latest travesty wreaking tragedy on our unsuspecting family members: illness and death caused by jerky treats. At first, it was believed that only chicken jerky was responsible for the problem, but further review has determined that all manner of jerky textured treats are responsible, even fruit and sweet potato….and the vast majority are processed in China. To date, over 3000 dogs and 10 cats have become sick, and 600 dogs have died following consumption of jerky treats.
The treats cause a combination of illnesses that range from gastrointestinal upset, beginning with vomiting and diarrhea, and often progressing to pancreatitis and gall bladder disease. In other pets, we see liver damage, or an otherwise rare form of kidney failure known as Fanconi’s Syndrome. Some really unfortunate pets experience all of the above. The most frustrating aspect of the illness and death that can result from consumption of jerky treats is that to date, the causative agent within the treats has not been determined. Whether it is contamination, a particular ingredient, or a byproduct associated with the processing of the treats, there is no conclusive at this time that singles out the cause; research is ongoing.
As much as I would like to bash China for having such little regard for both human and furry life for continuing to export these treats, I am more appalled at our FDA for not banning them. Their excuse for allowing them to continue to be sold is simply that the exact causative agent that is making our pets sick has not been identified. I cannot wrap my head around why the mere knowledge that jerky treats are responsible for severe illness in 3010 pets and 600 deaths is not enough for them to ban their import and sale, but that remains their position: until the direct reason for pet illness and death from jerky treats is conclusively established, they will continue to allow pets to get sick and die from them.
The final villain in this story is the retail pet stores that sell the treats. They do not need a directive from the FDA to stop selling items that commonly lead to illness and death in the creatures that they claim to exist to serve. The problem is that pets generally go nuts for jerky treats: they love them, so the pet owners buy them, and the pet stores do not want to give up that profit source. So instead of doing the right thing by pulling them off the shelves and using their position and resources to create awareness of the danger, perhaps even put pressure on the FDA to ban jerky treats once and for all; they turn a blind eye, enjoy their profit source, to the peril of the customers…corporate greed at its finest.
Thus the only solution to this problem lies with those of us who actually care for the pets we serve. It is up to veterinarians, veterinary technicians, groomers, breeders, pet store personnel who possess both a soul and a conscience, boarding kennels, word of mouth among pet owners, etc. To my readers, listeners, and viewers, please spread this post as far and wide; you will be saving countless innocent lives by doing so.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.