Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Current Events: Tainted Jerky Treats for Pets Can Be Fatal!

From Doggie Care Resort

Recently the FDA issued a warning to the public about possibly contaminated jerky treats for pets that are causing illness and could potentially be fatal.  Since 2007, 3600 dogs and 10 cats are reported to have been affected, and 580 of those pets have died.  Even more alarming is the fact that, despite extensive testing, no causal agent has yet been isolated.  This means that there can be no product recall, so whatever is causing the problem is still available at your local stores with no warnings posted unless the vendor has a conscience.  Consequently, we as pet owners must be proactive, avoiding suspicious products and staying informed about any new developments.

According to the FDA, jerky treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes, and/or dried fruits seem to be the main culprits.  Within hours of eating contaminated products, a dog or cat may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

1) decreased appetite;
2) decreased activity;
3) vomiting;
4) diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus);
5) increased water consumption;
6) increased urination.

Other symptoms, such as collapse, convulsions, or skin issues have also been reported.  Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder, all of which can eventually be fatal.

Most of the suspect jerky treats have been made in China.  Also, remember that pet food manufacturers are not required to list the country of origin for all ingredients used, so while the main ingredients may indeed be made in the USA, additives may not.  This is of real concern as one ingredient in particular, called glycerin, is being being suggested as the possible culprit.  Glycerin is a plant-based product added to foods to soften texture.  Most food grade glycerin is safe, but glycerin made from the seeds of a shrub called Jatropha curcas is known to contain toxic substances.  Jatropha seeds are a cheap source of glycerin, since glycerin is a byproduct in the production of biodiesel fuel.  As long as it is labelled industrial grade even this product is not a problem, but should unscrupulous pet food producers decide to use this type of glycerin rather the food grade type a serious issue could arise.  Even worse, at present there is no test for tracing this contaminant, so affected products cannot be identified and the FDA would be unable to advise companies to issue a recall.

So what is a pet owner to do right now?  The best suggestion is to avoid all jerky-type treats for pets.  If you prefer to keep feeding these types of treats, check the packages for any "Made in China" labeling.  Be aware that these labels are sometimes very tiny.  Even for packages labeled "Made in the USA", if any of the products listed by the FDA are contained in the product, or if glycerin is an ingredient, be safe and call the manufacturer to confirm that all ingredients are made in the USA.  A toll-free number is usually printed on the package, or you can find one online.  Don't be satisfied if the customer service personnel tell you that none of their products have been recalled (remember, the FDA is unable to identify the causal agent, so they cannot advise a recall).  If you are not satisfied in any way with the answers you receive, let them know and/or discontinue use of their product (let them know this as well).  Go to this link for a list of recently recalled pet food items.  Please note that these recalls are not necessarily related to this particular problem, or if they are, the products are only being recalled because the manufacturers have voluntarily decided to recall them (and should be commended for doing so).

If you feel that your pet has suffered an illness due to the consumption of jerky pet treats, the FDA is asking that you submit any information you and your veterinarian may have about your pet's condition to the FDA.  This information could be crucial in determining the exact cause of this alarming trend, so please help this research endeavor if you are in a position to do so.  Losing a pet is always heartbreaking, but no one should have to suffer loss of a dog or cat due to contaminated food products, and the sooner this mystery is resolved the more pets that can be saved from this fate.

I am not normally an advocate of boycotting products from other nations.  However, there have been far too many instances of contaminated products, not just for pets but for children as well, coming from China and being recalled in recent years, so I have decided to purchase as few products from that country as possible.  Admittedly this will be difficult, as so many of the goods available to us come from China, but I will at least make a conscious effort to avoid all food products and any items such as dog toys which could be ingested.  We can only hope that over time all nations will be better able to regulate the safety of all products, but until then we must, within reason, do all that we can to ensure our own safety and that of our loved ones.

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