On May 16, 2014, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided an update on its ongoing investigation into pet illnesses and deaths in animals that ate jerky pet treats. This update included the latest results of FDA’s collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in case studies and testing. Unfortunately, FDA has still not been able to identify a specific cause for the reported illnesses or deaths.
However pet owners should still be cautious when feeding pets jerky pet treats, especially if they are imported from China. Jerky pet treats are not required for a balanced diet, and please consult with veterinarians, both prior to feeding treats and if ever notice symptoms in pets.
The FDA has received in total more than 4,800 complaints of illness in pets that ate bulk beef jerky, chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, nearly all of which are imported from China. The reports involve more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, three people, and include more than 1,000 canine deaths.
The reports involve more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, three people, and include more than 1,000 canine deaths. The breakdown of symptoms associated with the cases is similar to that of earlier reports: approximately 60 percent of the cases report gastrointestinal/liver disease, 30 percent kidney or urinary disease, with the remaining 10 percent of complaints including various other signs such as neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms. About 15 percent of the kidney or urinary cases also tested positive for Fanconi syndrome, a rare kidney disease that has been associated with this investigation.
Latest update on testing results:
Testing of jerky pet treats from China has also revealed the presence of the drug amantadine in some samples containing chicken. These samples were from jerky pet treats that were sold a year or more ago. Amantadine is an antiviral that is FDA-approved for use in people. It has also been used in an extra-label manner (using an approved drug in a way that isn’t listed on the label) in dogs for pain control, but FDA prohibited its use in poultry in 2006.
FDA does not believe that amantadine contributed to the illnesses because the known side effects or adverse events associated with amantadine do not seem to correlate with the symptoms seen in the jerky pet treat-related cases. However, amantadine should not be present at all in jerky pet treats, and the agency has notified the Chinese authorities that the presence of amantadine in these products is an adulterant. Chinese authorities have also assured us that they will perform additional screening and will follow up with jerky pet treat manufacturers. FDA has notified the U.S. companies that market jerky pet treats found positive for amantadine of this finding and are testing both imported and domestic jerky pet treats for amantadine and other antivirals.
The FDA continues to conduct investigations towards establishing the actual cause behind the sickness of the pets that has resulted in the death and works with its counterparts in china towards information gathering and accessing. If your pet has experienced signs of illness that you suspect is related to jerky pet treats, please report it to FDA. While FDA does not necessarily respond to every individual complaint submitted, each report is valuable and becomes part of the body of knowledge that helps to inform our investigation.