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Free testing for pets sickened by jerky treats at veterinary university

The University of Georgia Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories announced they are collaborating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN) to evaluate diagnostic samples from companion animals in suspect cases of exposure to contaminated pet treats at no cost to pet parents.

The University of Georgia Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories, part of University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, will test blood, urine and feces samples from ill pets as well as test the suspect treats. The laboratories also will conduct autopsies on any dogs or cats that die after consumption the suspect jerky treats.

University of Georgia is just one of the thirty-five Vet-LIRN labs participating in the national effort to assist the FDA in confirming what many pet parents already know: That treats from China may kill your pet.

Despite extensive media coverage of the illnesses associated with these products and outreach efforts through the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) website, there are still pet owners who are unaware of this issue. And for those unfortunate few who may not have been aware of that fact and have a sick pet who has recently been fed the suspect jerky treats, help is available.

Help is available

The program, designed to assist veterinarians with cases of jerky pet treat-related illness, is part of the FDA’s continuing coordinated effort to get veterinarians to report such cases and provide samples for diagnostic testing by the Vet-LIRN network of veterinary laboratories across the country affiliated with FDA.

Vet-LIRN is a coordinated network of facilities, equipment, and professional expertise of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the country and Canada that is actively involved in the jerky pet treat investigation. Currently, the Vet-LIRN program is testing jerky pet treat samples and diagnostic samples submitted by veterinarians and/or pet owners whose pets have experienced adverse effects following ingestion of these products.

FDA reaches out

The FDA is asking veterinary practitioners who treat animals they suspect may have been sickened by eating jerky treats to report these cases to CVM through the FDA Safety Reporting Portal so that the FDA can suggest certain tests (and cover the cost of these tests in many cases) when appropriate.

As with other Vet-LIRN labs, at the University of Georgia tests and autopsies will be performed at no cost as long as the criteria outlined below are met.

What to look for in your pet

Pets that have consumed potentially contaminated food or drugs may exhibit the following symptoms within hours to several days following consumption: decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption and increased urination.

Internal case definition criteria:

  • Animal species: dogs and cats.
  • Timeline: must have consumed jerky treats 7-21 days ago.
  • Type of treat: treats made from chicken, duck, sweet potato, and dried fruit or combinations of these ingredients.
  • Clinical signs: ~60% of cases — gastro-intestinal (anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea); ~30% of cases — urinary (polydipsia, polyuria, Fanconi syndrome); ~10% of cases — other signs (convulsions, tremors, hives, and skin irritation).

Information to be collected by clinicians in addition to general case history should include:

  • Lot number(s) of the specific suspect jerky treat(s).
  • How long the owner has been feeding the treat.
  • How did the owner give the treat or food to their pet – entire piece or broken?
  • What else the pet has been eating (all treats, human food, and pet food), including how much is given daily of all items.

Samples to collect for testing: Cases meeting the above criteria can be tested by the UGA Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories at no expense to the client. Samples to submit include:

  • Feces: for Salmonella testing.
  • Urine: for conducting routine urinalysis and to freeze one sub-sample (to be used in case of follow-up).
  • Blood: for routine blood work for liver and kidney injury.
  • Sample of the jerky treat consumed by the patient (both opened and unopened samples, if possible).
  • Entire carcass for autopsy if the patient dies.

Pet owners with suspect cases should contact their veterinarian about submitting samples to the laboratories. Pet owners living in the greater Athens area may visit the college’s Community Practice Clinic for consultation or contact the clinic at 706-542-1984. Veterinarians or pet owners with questions may call their labs:

Vet-LIRN network

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (12) Write a comment

  1. Good afternoon
    I have two dogs that had sudden onset of pancreatitis a week apart. They eat the same food and treats.
    Their food is nutro natural which is an old bag. Their treats are pupperoni sticks and blue dog bakery dog biscuits both bought at bjs wholesale club. Both dogs are very ill and on the verge of dying. I need some help. Thank you for your time.

    Reply

  2. Please help! My dogs recently ate a dog treat with sweet potato and apple, one of my dogs threw up once and has recovered the other however has been very ill for days and is still going through testing with the vet. I don’t have a lab anywhere in my state, I just want to get these awful treats tested to see what is poisoning my animals!

    Reply

    • Hi Melina, I’m sorry to hear this.

      I have some ideas… did your state dept of agriculture feed control official tell you they can’t help you? I would like to know what state you are in so that I may help you more.

      Once your vet has completed testing – can you and your vet report the adverse food event to your state consumer complaint coordinator? Once that is done, your vet can speak to the toxicologist at MSU to determine which would be the most appropriate tests to conduct on that treat.

      Can you provide me with the name of the treat? I would like to determine if it was imported from China or if the ingredients were imported. I suggest the toxicologist test for phorate – it has been found in sweet potatoes from China.

      If you need any more help, please do not hesitate to contact me again at molliemorrissette@poisonedpets.com.

      Reply

  3. Thank You for your work for animals. I just learned that Walmart still sells jerky treats made in China. My dog ate 2 of them, before I knew it. Hopefully she won’t get sick.

    Reply

  4. I am very concerned as I just found out about this yesterday when I tried to research buying my treats directly from BEEFEATERS as they are no longer available from my local chain store and they didn’t know why. My 4 yr. old chihuahuas have received these treats almost daily for the past 3 years. I just contacted my veterinarian to see what testing is available to us to ease my concerns.

    Reply

  5. Very good reporting, on the desperation of the FDA to engage the public and the veterinary community to resolve the lack of information on this terrible problem. Sad to know that there are consumers still unaware, but frankly, there are many companies who resist withdrawing China-made products who should have done so, long ago. No wonder consumers are confused. But its also hard to determine in many cases where products are made, and the issue of “comes from China” is still misunderstood. That’s amazing, after all this time and so many injuries, deaths, and heartache.

    Reply

  6. In January 2013, my young dog nearly died from eating the jerky treats and had most of the symptoms listed. I filed a complaint with the FDA and notified them that I was holding uneaten jerky treats in the original packaging and wanted them tested. I never got a response. I also provided the FDA with the coding and lot numbers they requested.
    Since then I have learned that the FDA can’t find anything wrong with the jerky treats they have tested and that there are possibly no tests at the present time to discover a potential number of problems. I have lost all confidence in the FDA and the pet food industry as a result of this.
    While I continue to hold the jerky treats in their original package, I would not trust any of these govt related groups to test them.
    Molly, do you have any thoughts on this? Once they declare them to be free of contaminants (even if they don’t have an appropriate test available) OR once they use and destroy the remaining treats, I won’t have anything left to help figure out what exactly poisoned my pet if a trusted group or test does become available. I really think that my remaining treats are contaminated with whatever almost killed my young dog who has had none of those symptoms since her recovery.

    Reply

    • I agree Ann, about the trust issue. I have a hard time with it, but I feel it is my duty to report what is available to consumers with sick pets. At the very least, that pet may have a better chance (and a less costly one too) of being cared for by a team of experts on this issue/disease. I cannot imagine that every single vet at university is a crook. I just can’t. Otherwise, I think if that were the case I would just give up and go jump off a bridge.

      That said, I have a very hard time trusting the top people in government. I know that there are people who work at the FDA who care deeply about animals. It is the minions, the worker bees, that work there that are largely powerless to do anything more than what they are told unless they plan on getting fired.

      Most people are afraid of that possibility and rightly so. It is a rare and brave individual who has the strength of character to go against the accepted way of doing things and is willing to risk everything to stand up for their beliefs. Why do you think so few whistle blowers actually exist?

      The two whistle blowers I know personally (one took on the US Peanut corp and the other Mars) are still suffering the consequences of their heroic actions. When I say suffering, I mean that in the worst possible sense: Death threats, phone taps, surveillance, poverty, ostracized from society, unable to gain employment, and on and on.

      I’ve been homeless and broke and it is terrifying. Still, I am glad that it happened because it made me a more empathetic person, which led me to abandon my former profession and do something truly meaningful with my life. But I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, so for that I empathize with government employees who are terrified of being broke and homeless.

      We are in the process of having the treats tested ourselves at private labs, so we don’t have to rely on the government to watch our back. We like to think that that will keep them on their toes. But of course, I may be bumped off by Big Pet Food. At least I like to think I may be that important.

      Also, about the FDA lack of response – contact me privately and I can get that sorted.

      Reply

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