Pet Illnesses Related to Jerky Treats Continue to Increase, but at Slower Rate

The FDA says there has been 200 reported cases of sick pets, down from 270 the previous year

Pet Illnesses Related to Jerky Treats Continue to Increase, but at Slower Rate
Image: Pixabay
May 17, 2016

Jerky treats are still making pets sick, but at a much lower rate than in previous years, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In its latest update to pet owners, the FDA said that between September 2014 and the end of 2015 there were 200 reports of pets becoming ill after they eat chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats.

Since 2007, the FDA has received about 5,200 complaints of pet illnesses associated with the treats, which are made of chicken, duck and sweet potato, and imported from China. The reports include more than 6,200 dogs, 26 cats and three people, who likely got sick from handling the treats, not from ingesting them. More than 1,140 dogs have died.

Between 2007 and May 2014, the FDA had 4,800 complaints on file, but the numbers dropped sharply between then and September 2014, when only 270 reports were submitted. This prompted the agency to scale back its notification process, opting to update consumers on the issue yearly instead of bi-annually.

The FDA continues to investigate the exact cause of the illnesses, which have proven to be quite elusive. In 2015, agency researchers detected antimicrobial and antiviral residues in an imported duck jerky treat and added it to the investigation and an existing import alert.

The consumer backlash regarding the potential danger of these jerky treats has been big enough that both PetSmart and Petco stopped selling pet treats that are made in China.

Pets might love them, but jerky treats aren't essential to a healthy or balanced diet. The FDA continues to caution pet owners against feeding them to their companions. Those that do should call their veterinarian immediately if they notice decreased appetite and activity, vomiting, diarrhea – sometimes with blood or mucus – and/or increased water consumption or urination. The FDA is also encouraging pet owners to report any illnesses to the agency.

If you do want to treat your pet to a tasty meat indulgence, you can try your hand at making your own jerky using your oven or a meat dehydrator. Doing so allows you to control where your meat comes from and which ingredients are included.