The chicken jerky treats made in China have been associated with kidney disease for a few years. Ever since the association between these products and illness was made in 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cautioned consumers to not give these treats to their pets.
While the treats are typically referred to as jerky, they may also be labeled tenders or strips.
Signs may occur within hours or days after a dog eats the treat. Signs include decreased appetite; lethargy; vomiting; diarrhea (sometimes bloody); and increased thirst and urination. Contact your veterinarian if the signs last for more than 24 hours, or if they seem severe.
If your dog is vomiting, lethargic, or does not want to eat, and has recently eaten these jerky treats, it does not automatically mean your dog has kidney disease from them.
Test results on affected dogs have shown kidney problems. The kidney problems are often similar to Fanconi disease. (Fanconi disease is an inherited disease in which electrolytes and nutrients are lost in urine.) Although many affected dogs can be treated and get well, some jerky treat-related deaths have been reported.
In 2007, affected dogs were seen in Australia and the United States. That original outbreak ended in 2009 after all the affected treats had been pulled from the market. However, similar cases have been seen since then in the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, the definitive cause of the problem is still unknown.
The FDA has prepared a “Caution” statement.
In June 2011, the Canadian government sent out notices about the about jerky treats causing Fanconi-like signs in Canadian dogs; in March 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association sent out a new alert about Canadian cases. In May 2012, the FDA updated their public information on their concerns about chicken jerky.
The FDA continues to investigate complaints and test products eaten by affected dogs. No specific brands have been recalled as of this time because there are only complaints, not evidence. However, there are a number of dogs with some level of kidney illness who have eaten the China-produced chicken jerky treats, so pet owners should be cautious about giving those.
Anecdotal reports from veterinarians indicate similar concerns about sweet potato pet treats made in China. Although no evidence is available that these sweet potato treats cause kidney issues similar to those related to chicken jerky treats, pet owners should be aware of the possibility.
If your pet has the signs listed above, and has eaten chicken jerky or sweet potato treats made in China, contact your veterinarian. Save the treats and packaging so that they can be tested by the FDA if they are suspected to cause the illness.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.