Vet: Avoid jerky treats

Published 10:26 pm Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Suffolk veterinary clinic is advising pet owners to completely avoid jerky treats, after the Food and Drug Administration reached out to veterinarians nationwide to help solve a persistent tainted product issue it says has killed at least 580 pets since 2007.

Beside the deaths, the FDA says bad jerky treats have reportedly made 3,600 dogs and 10 cats seriously ill.

“It’s a real risk,” warned Megan Taliaferro, a veterinarian at Nansemond Veterinary Clinic. “What’s most concerning as a veterinarian is the FDA has done extensive testing, and has not been able to find out what is making animals sick.”

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Taliaferro said the clinic is asking clients not to feed any jerky treats, even though the FDA says most jerky treats implicated in illnesses or deaths were made in China.

“Even if it says ‘Made in the U.S.,’ you can’t guarantee every ingredient comes from the U.S.,” she said.

“Across the board, it is not worth the risk — don’t feed it to them.”

In the past, the FDA has issued repeated alerts warning consumers about jerky pet treat-related illnesses and deaths. Its Center for Veterinary Medicine has conducted more than 1,200 tests, visited jerky treat manufacturers in China, and worked with academia, industry, state laboratories and foreign governments toward a solution.

The federal authority now says it wants to hear from pet owners as well as licensed veterinarians — to whom it has directly communicated the appeal — about any suspected cases.

As well as information, veterinarians may be asked to provide blood, urine and tissue samples from patients, the FDA says, adding that in such cases it will request written permission from pet owners and cover costs.

“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” CVM Director Bernadette Dunham stated in a consumer alert on the FDA website.

Pet owners should look out for increased water consumption and urination, as well as vomiting, diarrhea and/or lethargy, Taliaferro said.

“The cases have all centered around intestinal illness or a problem with the kidneys,” she said.

The U.S. does not require pet food manufacturers to state on product labels the country of origin of each ingredient. The FDA says “a number of jerky pet treat products” were taken off shelves in January, after a lab reported evidence of up to six drugs in certain products made in China.

Laboratories have been testing for a variety of chemical and microbiological contaminants, pesticides and salmonella, as well as analyzing DNA and nutritional composition, according to the FDA.

Pet owners should seriously consider cutting treats entirely, Taliaferro said.

“It’s always fun to give your dog (treats), but it is not part of a complete, balanced diet,” she said. “They need a high-quality dog or cat food.”

For pet owners who can’t give up the treats, shun jerky in favor of dry biscuits, or make them at home, she said, adding Nansemond Veterinary Clinic has recipes posted at

No Suffolk veterinary clinics have seen any suspected cases of jerky-treat poisoning, according to a phone survey.