October 15, 2007


 Jerky treats from China could be causing illness in pets

Posted Oct. 1, 2007

The AVMA staff has been in communication with veterinarians who believe certain brands of jerky treats from China could be causing illness in pets. Signs of illness have included vomiting, lethargy, and anorexia.

The Food and Drug Administration is aware of consumer complaints relevant to chicken jerky for dogs. Laura Alvey, director of the communications staff at the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the agency is actively investigating the situation.

Alvey said the FDA has analyzed products for multiple microbiologic and chemical contaminants, but the agency had not detected any contaminants as of Sept. 14.

Wal-Mart pulled a type of chicken jerky for pets off store shelves July 26 after receiving complaints about the product, manufactured by both Import-Pingyang Pet Product Co. and Shanghai Bestro Trading. A laboratory that tested the jerky product reported finding low concentrations of melamine, one of the contaminants that led to massive recalls of pet food earlier this year.

Alvey said the FDA has reviewed the laboratory report, which found 20 ppm of melamine in one sample. The agency has not been able to verify the finding. Alvey added that the FDA would not expect the low concentration of melamine to result in any illness.

Dr. Richard Goldstein, an associate professor of small animal medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, has been collecting data on cases of pets that became ill after ingesting jerky treats from China. He is the primary author of an informational document available on the Web site of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, www.acvim.org.

According to the document, ACVIM diplomates who work in nephrology and urology became aware of an unusual number of dogs with similar presenting complaints and clinicopathologic testing results in association with the ingestion of various brands of jerky treats, mostly chicken jerky. The dogs are typically small and have a history of vomiting, lethargy, and anorexia.

Blood chemistry in many cases has revealed hypokalemia and a mild increase in liver enzymes. Blood gas analysis indicates acidosis. Urinalysis has consistently shown glucosuria and granular casts. The findings suggest an acquired Fanconi syndrome, according to ACVIM diplomates, and Fanconi screens on urine have been positive.

The ACVIM document recommends treatment consisting of supportive care, electrolyte supplementation, and blood gas monitoring. These cases appear to warrant liberal potassium supplementation. In some cases, veterinarians should consider long-term bicarbonate supplementation.

Most of the dogs have recovered from their acute disease and have not required long-term treatment. Dr. Goldstein at Cornell asks veterinarians who can contribute data on these cases to e-mail him at rg225@cornell.edu. The AVMA will provide updates about the situation at www.avma.org as new information becomes available.

Veterinarians who see any illnesses that they suspect might relate to a pet food should contact an FDA consumer complaint coordinator and the manufacturer or retailer. A list of phone numbers for FDA complaint coordinators in each state is available at www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html.