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News and Information about Dogs, Cats, and Pet Products

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Back in 2006, reports linking grave illness to various pet treats imported from China began to pop up here and there. If you were to search Google and YouTube for various news reports, you might notice that the dried treats associated with these problems go by a wide range of names: twists, tenders, chews, bites, strips, chips, and many more. In the fall of 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) started to issue formalized consumer warnings about these treats, increasing the frequency and urgency of these warnings as reports of illness continued escalating right through 2011. By 2012, thousands of complaints had been logged throughout the U.S. and Canada, including reports that several hundred pets had died.

Over the past year, additional dried treats imported from China have fallen under suspicion as well, including chicken jerky, duck jerky, and dehydrated sweet potato/yam treats. Health officials are beginning to express concern that the problem may even extend to pork products like pig ears, as well as certain cat treats made in China. As we move into 2014, this “suspect” list remains longer than ever.

All of these treats have been associated with liver problems, and/or a certain type of kidney failure in dogs. This kidney condition is called Acquired Fanconi Syndrome, and it’s already killed some animals while leaving others with chronic and debilitating lifelong kidney disease. If an animal does recover from this condition, recuperation can take 6 months or more — so it’s important to closely monitor your pet’s behavior. Affected dogs may exhibit any (or all) of the following signs:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • Increased drinking and urination

According to most vets, blood tests will sometimes show increased creatinine and BUN (which are signs of kidney failure), along with low potassium, mildly increased liver enzymes, and acidosis. Urine tests may show glucose and granular casts.

Jerky Treat Worries

Posters and signs like the ones shown above have begun to appear in the offices of concerned vets and independent retailers across the U.S. and Canada, as reported problems with jerky treats imported from China continue to escalate.

 

Interestingly, this exact problem surfaced in Australia around the same time we began noticing symptoms here in the U.S. However, reports of Fanconi-like syndrome in pets decreased sharply there — after certain products were completely recalled in 2008 and 2009. Unfortunately, the FDA’s web site maintains that it can’t issue an actual recall of these treats in our country until it’s able to isolate the definitive agent(s) or ingredient(s) causing the illness.

In early 2012, the FDA began inspecting several facilities in China that produce pet jerky treat products, but these findings have yet to be publicly released. So as pet parents, it’s important to realize that the companies importing these treats have so far refused to stop marketing them; and most stores that sell them (with the exception of certain independent pet food stores) have not removed them from shelves. As you read this, these products can currently be found and purchased at large, reputable stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Petco, PetSmart, and major grocery store chains.

To date, according to the FDA, approximately 600 dogs have died and more than 3,600 have gotten sick after consuming these imported chicken, duck, and sweet potato jerky treats. More than 10 cats have also fallen ill. The FDA reports that most of the treats in question were made in China, but it’s the how and what that remain a mystery – what specific processes and ingredients were used? Many vets consider these numbers quite worrisome, suggesting that pet owners may want to avoid these treats completely. For example, Dr. Tony Buffington, a veterinary nutritionist at Ohio State University’s Veterinary Medical Center, recently created a poster to warn clients about the potential risks of feeding their pets these types of products. An excerpt from this poster reads, “Until a cause or explanation can be found, we urge our clients not to purchase or feed” such products to their pets.

Seeking out safe treats can be tricky, though, because product marketing and strategic packaging can obscure the issue. A product may trumpet the words “manufactured in the U.S.,” for example, without revealing that its ingredients were sourced from China. In other cases, the words “Made in China” may appear in tiny print on the back or bottom of the package. To be absolutely safe, stick with treats you know for certain are made using wholesome and/or human-grade ingredients from a documented source with a proven track record of safety. Two Bostons, for example, refuses to carry foods or treats that have been manufactured in, or sourced from, China until more information is known. Healthy, safe, satisfying chew alternatives we carry include Bully Sticks, Texas Taffy, Himalayan Dog Chews and Puffs, Sam’s Yams, and more. We also carry an extensive range of nourishing treats and festive bakery case items that are made locally, with human-grade ingredients, to industry-leading safety standards.

Rawhide and Treat Alternatives

Concerned, independent retailers like Two Bostons make it our mission to do our homework on your behalf. Our award-winning selection of tasty treats and chews includes only products made with pure, whole-food ingredients to the most stringent, documented safety standards.

 

If your pet experiences any of the symptoms noted above after eating treats imported from China, it’s a good idea to stop feeding those treats immediately. If signs are severe or persist for more than one day, get right to your vet for tests and treatment. It’s also important to save the bag of treats in case they’re needed for testing in the future. The FDA suggests that you and your vet file an FDA report; and alert both the company that manufactured the treats, and the corporate office of the store where they were purchased.

The sobering take-home message is two-fold: 1) buyer beware, because the “treats” we give our furry friends can serve up tragic consequences; and 2) there are safe, healthy alternatives available, if you simply know where to look. Do your homework — and when you shop for your pet, never take things at face value. At Two Bostons, we welcome and encourage your specific questions. It’s our mission to empower you with the knowledge you need to safeguard the health and well-being of your pet!

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[…] ingredients and practices that might place our pets in jeopardy. We also discussed some of the well-documented risks of pet chews and pet chew ingredients sourced from China – and the fact that these products are still being sold in the […]

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