Consumers and Vets Asked To Help FDA Deduce Jerky Threat

Posted on October 23, 2013

Recently, safety advocates and regulators have been stymied in their efforts to determine why animals, dogs in particular, are becoming ill after consuming jerky under a number of brands.  The items, which hail chiefly from China, have led to numerous sicknesses and fatalities, causing warnings about their continued consumption and alarm among pet owners.

The Food and Drug Administration is hoping to get to the bottom of this issue, and to that end, they’re asking for your help in a new consumer health update.  The hope is that, by acquiring reports from pet owners and veterinarians alike, the FDA will be able to determine what causes these illnesses and take steps to ensure that pets are kept safe from harm.

First, some background is in order.  Concerns came to the fore way back in 2007, when pet owners began to report their animals becoming ill after consuming jerky.  Over the course of the ensuing years, the number of such reports has increased dramatically, with the FDA now figuring that they have received 3,600 illness reports involving dogs (ten reports have been filed involving cats).  Among those, 580 involved a pet fatality.

This has put pet owners on watch as to the types of things that should prompt a visit to the veterinarian.  Pets who have become ill in association with the consumption of jerky (including that made from fruit, chicken, duck, and sweet potatoes) will likely exhibit lethargy.  They may cease eating but start drinking a profuse amount of water, while all the while they could be vomiting or experiencing diarrhea.

If these types of symptoms are left unchecked, they can progress to far more serious circumstances.  Kidney failure has been one commonality, as has gastrointestinal bleeding. Still other pets have collapsed or convulsed.  Skin problems have also manifested.

Starting in 2011, the Center for Veterinary Medicine of the FDA initiated tests on jerky products to determine what was going on.  But even with 1,200 tests carried out, answers have still not been forthcoming.  Toward the beginning of this year, tests by New York health officials determined that one set of products had heightened levels of drugs, but even though they were pulled from the market, the FDA is not convinced that these findings alone could account for the widespread illnesses.

In addition to inspecting facilities and supply chains in China, the FDA hopes public input can help them solve this conundrum.  Persons with sick pets are encouraged to file an incident report with the FDA, while veterinarians are being asked to take certain tests which can then be sent to the agency as needed.  In this way, the hope is that the illness threat can be put behind us once and for all.

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