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Vets warn: New treats from China poisoning pets, cause acute kidney failure

The not-so-sweet sweet potatoes

Despite repeated warnings issued by the FDA about risks associated with chicken and duck jerky pet treats, veterinarians are reporting new cases of illness in dogs following the ingestion of two new types of treats. These treats have never been associated with kidney disease in dogs   – until now.

What are the treats?

This time, dogs are being affected by a new, and unexpected, class of pet treat: Sweet potato and yam dog treats.

Aside from the spooky coincidence that dogs consuming sweet potato and yam treats are showing similar signs of an exceedingly rare type of kidney disorder (Fanconi’s syndrome) as dogs that are fed poultry jerky treats – there is another, more sinister, association.

All the treats, regardless of type, are imported from China.

Several sweet potato and yam pet treat brands, cited by veterinarian Dr. Jean Hofve, are suspected of causing new cases of unexplained acute kidney failure include:

  • Canyon Creek Ranch Chicken Yam Good Dog Treats by Nestle-Purina
  • Beefeaters Sweet Potato Treats
  • Drs. Foster and Smith
  • Dogswell Veggie Life Vitality

The Veterinary Information Network published an update on the jerky treat problem in May; Chicken Jerky Treats from China may be Associated with Kidney Issues included a reference to the sweet potato treats causing similar problems:

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.

Beware the numerous ways in which jerky treats are named

It is important to remember that although the type of treat most often mentioned in the press is described as a jerky treat, the treats may also be called by a myriad of other names such as stix, chips, poppers, tenders, drumettes, kabob’s, strips, fries, lollipops, twists, wraps, bars, tops, discs and any other name they can come up with that sounds cute and yummy.

 The report goes on to say that there is speculation the problems may also extend to pork treats and cat treats imported from China.

Phorate: One of the most poisonous pesticides known to man

In 2010 the FDA issued an Import Refusal Report, and later issued an Import Alert, for sweet potato dog treats imported from a company in China (whose main business is, oddly, is in rubber and plastic raw materials) were contaminated with a highly toxic pesticide known as phorate.

Phorate is an extremely toxic organophosphorus compound and is among the most poisonous chemicals commonly used for pest control. It is used in agriculture as a pesticide and phorate is identified by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR) as one of the “most toxic” set of pesticides known (aka a Bad Actor) in the world.

Although phorate is known primarily as a neurotoxin and not classified as a nephrotoxin and therefore unlikely to cause acute renal failure in dogs, its presence in any food item is a disturbing indication that treats of any kind imported from China could pose a risk to the health and safety of pets and to the consumers handling them.

Dr. Hofve warns of new danger

Holistic veterinarian and pet food safety advocate Dr. Jean Hofve warn that sweet potato treats from China may be causing new cases of kidney failure in dogs. The article describing her concern on Little Big Cat is copied below:

Sweet Potato Treats from China Causing Kidney Failure?

April 5, 2012

By jhofve77  (Dr. Jean Hofve of Little Big Cat)

On the Veterinary Information Network, several veterinarians have reported cases where dogs have developed symptoms of kidney failure (Fanconi’s syndrome) similar to dogs that have been poisoned by Chinese-made chicken jerky treats.

So far, the brands implicated are all made in China:

  • Beefeaters Sweet Potato Snacks for Dogs
  • Canyon Creek Ranch Chicken Yam Good Dog Treats (FDA has issued a warning on this product)
  • Drs. Foster and Smith (exact item not specified in the report)
  • Dogswell Veggie Life Vitality

There was also speculation that the problem may also extend to pork products (pig ears) and cat treats made in China. Australian veterinarians have reported similar symptoms from chicken jerky treats, as well as several cases associated with “Veggie Dents,” a dog treat made in Vietnam by Virbac, an American company. Virbac recalled one batch of Veggie Dents in Australia in 2009.

The FDA still claims that there is no pending recall of Chinese-made pet treats, even though it has repeatedly issued warnings about the problems associated with chicken jerky treats since 2007.

Symptoms of Fanconi’s syndrome include:

  • Increased drinking and urinating
  • “Accidents” in the house
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Blood and urine tests show azotemia (high BUN and Creatinine), dilute urine, and glucose in the urine (that isn’t diabetes)

Most affected dogs have recovered over time with good supportive care.

We strongly recommend that you check the source of all cat or dog treats you may have purchased, and do not give them to your pet if they were made in China. It would be best to avoid any pet food or treat products made in China, and probably a good idea to avoid all dried animal parts, because they are not heated to a temperature that will kill pathogenic bacteria.

Dr. Becker’s opinion on sweet potato treats

In a post on her popular blog, Healthy Pets, Dr. Becker tells pet parents, Don’t let your pets eat any sweet potato treats! In her post, she isn’t shy about telling consumers what she really thinks about sweet potato treats:

If You Feed Sweet Potato Treats to Your Pet, Please Read This!

It seems there is another dog snack from China to worry about; sweet potato treats.

According to the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) 1, vets are now reporting health problems linked to sweet potato treats similar to those related to chicken jerky treats also made in China.

Test results on sick dogs show kidney problems similar to the symptoms of Fanconi syndrome. Most dogs recover, but there have been some deaths related to the chicken jerky treat problem.

Symptoms may show up within hours or days after a treat is eaten symptoms include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and increased thirst and urination.

Per Poisoned Pets, in 2010 the FDA found that a sweet potato dog treat made by a certain company in China was contaminated with phorate, a highly toxic pesticide.

There is speculation there could be problems with pork treats and cat treats imported from China as well…

…PLEASE know that if you choose to buy any treat made in China, your pet may be at risk. Chicken jerky treats, chicken tenders, chicken strips, chicken treats, or sweet potato treats, they can all pose a potential threat. Play it safe. Buy only food and treats made in the U.S. Buying pet food made in this country won’t remove all risk of winding up with a tainted product, but it will certainly improve your chances of keeping your pet safe.

Dr. Becker’s initial warning included the reference to the brands suspected of causing problems (Canyon Creek Ranch, Beefeaters, Dogswell and Drs. Foster and Smith), but after receiving a carefully worded letter from Doctors Foster and Smith, Dr. Becker chose to remove the reference to their product.

Phorate EXTOXNET (Cornell)
Pesticide Action Network (PAN)
Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR)

Published on: Apr 6, 2012
Updated on: Oct 28, 2014

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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.

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