Safety Alert on Jerky Treats for Pets

 

Update October 22, 2013: The FDA has issued an update on the alert and issued a call for additional surveillance and testing. Visit the FDA Jerky Treats page for more information.

Watch AVMA's Dr. Doug Aspros talking about the situation on Fox News.

 

 




Background:

 
In September 2007, the AVMA issued an alert that stated we had been receiving calls from veterinarians reporting Fanconi syndrome-like disease in dogs; the veterinarians reported that the problem appeared to be associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats made in China. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was alerted and investigated the complaints, but testing of the products did not identify any toxins or contaminants. The AVMA continued to receive occasional reports of suspected cases through February 2009 and sporadic reports since that time.
 
On June 15, 2011, the AVMA received notification from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) that they have received reports that mirror the cases reported in the U.S. in 2007. The AVMA issued an alert to its members on June 16, informing them of the situation in Canada and recommending vigilance for any suspected cases in the U.S. The AVMA also issued an alert on June 17 to the state veterinary medical associations and allied organizations represented in the AVMA House of Delegates.
 
The information below is what we currently do and do not know about this situation. We will update this page as more information becomes available.
 

What we currently know:

  • No recalls have been issued for any chicken jerky treat product associated with this problem. Several recalls were issued in early 2013 for antibioitic residues or potential Salmonella contamination, but these recalls were unrelated to this problem.
  • Several cases in Canada have been reported to the CVMA and they have notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The FDA has been made aware of the cases in Canada and their resemblance to the earlier and ongoing cases in the U.S.
  • In 2013, a report in the Australian Veterinary Journal provided a summary of 102 cases of kidney disease in dogs exposed to a Chinese-origin chicken jerky treat. The majority of the dogs affected were small or toy breeds, and 6 of the 102 died or were euthanized due to the illness.
  • To date, it appears that the products affected were made in China and/or contain Chinese-origin products. They may be sold as tenders, strips or treats.
  • According to media reports based on FDA information gained through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, the three most commonly affected products are Waggin' Train (a product of Nestle Purina PetCare), Canyon Creek Ranch (a product of Nestle Purina PetCare) and Milo's Kitchen (a product of Del Monte Corp.).
  • The FDA's alert has been expanded to include chicken jerky treats, duck jerky treats and sweet potato jerky treats.
  • Based on very preliminary information, it appears that this problem is more likely to occur in small-breed dogs that are fed these treats regularly and/or in amounts exceeding the label-recommended frequency or amount. However, dogs of all sizes and various breeds have been affected, and in some dogs illness was reportedly associated with consumption of one treat.
  • Affected dogs usually have a recent history of vomiting, lethargy and anorexia within hours to days following consumption of jerky treats. The complaints have included liver, gastrointestinal and/or kidney disease. The cases originally brought to AVMA's attention in 2007 were limited to a specific kidney disease that was similar to Fanconi Syndrome, which is a very uncommon condition. The initial alert was raised when veterinarians were seeing increasing numbers of dogs affected with this problem, when under normal circumstances a veterinarian might see only one or two cases of this disease in their entire career.
  • A review by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine of the 2007 cases stated that blood chemistry in many cases revealed hypokalemia and a mild increase in liver enzymes. Blood gas analysis indicated acidosis, and glucosuria and granular casts may be seen. Fanconi screens on urine were positive. At the time, the ACVIM recommended treatment consisting of supportive care, electrolyte supplementation (including potassium supplementation) and blood gas monitoring.
  • In 2007, most of the dogs affected recovered with proper treatment.
  • Although chicken jerky treat consumption was a common thread in the cases reported to the CVMA recently and to the AVMA in 2007-2009, a definitive cause-and-effect link has not been established. 
  • Melamine, the contaminant that led to the wide-scale pet food recalls of 2007, is not the cause of the current situation. Product testing in 2007 and since that time has been negative for melamine or melamine-related products, and the disease caused by melamine is different from that seen in these cases.
 

What we don't know:

  •  All of the brand(s) and types of jerky treats that may be affected by this alert.
  • The cause (contaminant, toxin or otherwise) of the problem and the exact mechanism by which it causes the illness.
 

What we recommend for veterinarians until we know more about the situation:

  • Veterinarians who suspect a pet illness associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats should report the case to the FDA. Canadian veterinarians should report cases to CVMA Member Services unless directed otherwise by the CVMA.
  • For more information about diagnosing and treating the condition, please refer to the ACVIM's recommendations, which will be updated as needed.
  • If a dog presents with a history of vomiting, lethargy and anorexia, coupled with a history of consumption of chicken jerky treats, the following tests may be indicated to indicate Fanconi syndrome-like disease: complete blood chemistry, blood gas analysis and urinalysis. A review by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine of the 2007 cases stated that blood chemistry in many cases revealed hypokalemia and a mild increase in liver enzymes. Blood gas analysis indicated acidosis, and urinalysis consistently showed glucosuria and granular casts. Fanconi screens on urine were positive. During the 2007 cases, the ACVIM recommended treatment consisting of supportive care, electrolyte supplementation (including liberal potassium supplementation) and blood gas monitoring.
  • Read the FDA's FAQ for more information.

What we recommend for pet owners until we know more about the situation:

  • It is up to you to decide whether or not you will feed your dog chicken jerky treats. If you choose to do so, we recommend that you feed them in small quantities and only on occasion. This is especially important for small-breed dogs.
  • If your pet is vomiting, lethargic, or does not want to eat, consult your veterinarian, especially if there is a history of chicken jerky treat consumption. If your pet is showing these signs, it does not necessarily mean that your pet has been made ill by chicken jerky treats – your veterinarian will likely need to perform tests to determine the cause of the problem.
  • If your pet becomes ill and you and/or your veterinarian suspect(s) the illness may be associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats, discontinue feeding the treats and save the treats and packaging (storing them out of your pet's reach and in a place where a family member will not mistakenly feed them to your pet) in case they are needed for testing. Report the illness to the FDA.
  • Read the FDA's FAQ for more information.