Illness and Deaths Related to Jerky Treats Continue to Baffle FDA

In a mystery that has spanned 7 years the FDA is still unable to determine what is causing illness in dogs and now people, who have eaten pet jerky products.

By | Posted: May 17, 2014, 9 a.m. PST

jerky treatsPet jerky treats, which include chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats, have now been linked to more than 1,000 deaths in dogs, more than 4,800 complaints about animal illness, and three human deaths: two toddlers and one adult, says a report by Of these totals 1,800 reports of illnesses and deaths have occurred since the Food and Drug Administration’s last update in October. But Food and Drug Administration officials say they still can't find a cause.

See the 2013 Report on Jerky Treats>>

To shed a little more light on the reported numbers, agency officials have only been able to perform examinations on 26 of the dogs who died of reported jerky related incidents. Of those, 13 of the cases appeared to be directly related to the jerky treats. Although there are likely incidents in the previous numbers that were attributed to the jerky treats incorrectly, even 50 percent of the deaths and illnesses are too many.

While I realize most people don’t snack on dog treats, it seems like a good time to mention the importance of keeping dog food and human food separate and out of reach of young children. Dog food is often at risk of bacteria such as salmonella and while small traces may go unnoticed by pets, it can be deadly to humans. Proper handling and cleaning techniques are essential.

Here are a few prevention tips that are always a good idea for dog food or treats:

  • Store food in a clean, air-tight container. Wash container with hot, soapy water every time you bring home a new bag to prevent contamination.
  • Keep food in a cool dry place. Food can go rancid if overheated or if kept too long.
  • Cut the barcode off of the bag and save it in case of a recall
  • If food or treats falls on the counter or floor, use a cleaner anywhere the food might have touched.  
  • Wash bowls regularly.
  • Clean area around the food dish and food storage areas regularly.
  • Keep out of reach of small children
  • Never eat your dogs food or treats

Get more prevention tips>>

The FDA continues to caution pet owners that jerky treats are not required for a balanced diet. In a statement to NBC, they encouraged people to consult with their veterinarians, both prior to feeding treats and if they notice symptoms in their pets.

So what are the symptoms?

Well, it depends. One of the children was treated for salmonella, which includes symptoms of diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The other child developed gastrointestinal illness and fever that mirrors the symptoms of dogs in the house that also ate the treats. The adult reports nausea and headache, says Siobhan DeLancey, a spokeswoman for the FDA.

In NBC’s report they details that about 60 percent of the cases involve symptoms of gastrointestinal trouble and liver disease, 30 percent involve kidney disease and about 10 percent involve other complaints, including neurological and skin conditions, the FDA said.

What’s next?

As the concern around jerky treats hits its seventh year, many owners are wondering what’s next? When is it going to end?
The FDA is continuing to try to pinpoint the cause. Its next step is to join with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a study similar to investigations used with people, comparing foods eaten by sick dogs with foods eaten by pets that did not get sick.

In NBC’s report it is noted that the FDA has detected the antiviral drug amantadine in some Chinese chicken jerky samples sold more than a year ago. While the drug is not considered to be a contributing, it doesn’t belong in jerky treats and could be grounds for banning the treats in the U.S.

So what is a pet owner to do?

Use caution. Avoid treats not made in the U.S. Many companies have listened to consumer demand, changing formulas and using U.S. meats and manufacturing that have resulted in less incidents of illness, but it is still important to use caution when feeding your dog any type of jerky treats. Overall, the jerky treat illnesses and deaths have been associated with many different product brands, FDA officials say.

If at any time you think your dog may exhibit symptoms or illness related to food (or anything) take them to the vet immediately. 

Make Your Own Dog Jerky Treats>>

Get Important Dog Food Recall News and Alerts>> 



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Drusmomma   International

5/21/2014 5:25:08 AM

The most logical route would be stop selling treats in the USA & Canada that were made in China!!! They have no proper safety standards there. They eat cats and dogs in some parts of that country, that could be what these treats could be made out of, who knows what the heck is in those. Make your own treats for your dog & cat, at least you will know what goes in them. Boycott CHINA, everything from there is made for pure profit!

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Gail   Allentown, Pennsylvania

5/20/2014 7:00:17 PM

Stop import of all jerky from China .our dogs deserve better.its too risky.stop imports

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western23   Columbus, MT

5/20/2014 3:19:22 PM

The Chinese send all of there toxic waste that they can get away with in all the p0roducts they send to the USA. They don't have an EPA over there. They have to get rid of it somehow. A few short years ago their tainted dog foods poisoned and killed thoussands of pets across this country and we still get our pet foods from them? Who is in charge of this situation? No more lead in toys, toxic waste in drywall, tires and now dog treats ok? I am baffled the FDA can't get brand names from pet owners and get positive tests for toxic waste, lead etc., in these current chicken, duck and other jerky pet products. I bought some duck and chicken dog treats from Costco months ago and nothing happened to my Aussie. What fly by night outfit is carrying this stuff?

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Alex   Chicago, Illinois

5/20/2014 3:02:53 PM

Seven years is outrageous! Ban all jerky treats from China, period. What's the point of the FDA that in seven years it still can't take the correct step to protect our pets and people? We should be using only U.S. food products that are easily traceable.

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