Dogs continue to die as poisonous jerky treats remain on store shelves


With each passing day that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is unable to determine the contaminant responsible for poisoning dogs in chicken jerky treats, dogs continue to die, while the deadly treats remain on store shelves.  As long as the FDA allows it, retailers will continue to sell it and manufacturers will continue to produce it.

The events regarding the poisonous chicken jerky, which has been under FDA scrutiny for the past five years without a resolution, has led consumers to be increasingly cautious and mistrustful of the Federal government’s commitment or ability to protect them or their pets from harm and of the assurance that the products they buy will be safe.

cocker spaniel dog girl
A mountain of evidence

Mounting evidence of serious illness and death associated with the products has veterinarians and pet parents increasingly ill at ease. Determining the toxin responsible for the deaths presents a problem that has pet parents across the country in an uproar: the manufacturers of the treats will not pull the product from the shelves until the FDA demands that they do so, which the FDA cannot do until they have conclusive proof that the products are in violation of the law. Meanwhile, the FDA continues extensive chemical and microbial testing but has not identified a contaminant. Until such time, all the FDA can do is caution consumers; which, to most pet parents does not seem fair, adequate, ethical or even moral.

lab dog child hugging

Another day, another death

Each day the product remains on the market brings another tragedy and devastation to another family whose dogs are poisoned by chicken jerky treats. Grief stricken pet parents write me, pleading with me to help get the word out to consumers. Confused, they ask me, why has the FDA allowed a product the FDA itself has acknowledged to be dangerous product remain on the market? They ask me, what good are warnings posted on the FDA website when the product can still be purchased in the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart? Why, they ask, doesn’t the FDA take a proactive stance and recall the products first and discover what the contaminate is later?

I wish I had a reasonable answer, one that would be acceptable or understandable to a grief-stricken family. But there are none, none that would make sense to a pet parent who has just buried their beloved dog.

sheperd little girl ball playing

A broad perspective

To understand the problem from a broad perspective one must first understand the fundamental basis from which the FDA operates under, the Federal, Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). The FFDCA laws afford protection to humans and animals from dangerous and unsafe products. The FDA is in charge of enforcing the FFDCA and the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is the branch within the FDA that is specifically responsible for making sure that foods for animals are safe.

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) that states [in part]:

The use of food products is governed by the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), and the regulations issued under its authority. These regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The FFDCA defines food as “articles used for food or drink for man or other animals…” Therefore, any article that is intended to be used as an animal feed ingredient, to become part of an ingredient or feed, or added to an animal’s drinking water is considered a “food” and thus, is subject to regulation. FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) is responsible for the regulation of human food products. CVM is responsible for the regulation of animal food (feed) products.

The FFDCA sets forth requirements for “foods” in the Sections 402 and 403. Failure to meet these requirements can result in a product being deemed adulterated or misbranded. Adulteration includes, among other things, food packaged or held under unsanitary conditions, food or ingredients that are filthy or decomposed, and food that contains any poisonous or deleterious substance. A food may be considered misbranded if its labeling is false or misleading in any way or fails to include required information.

dogs baby

As early as 2007

The FDA has been aware of food-related nephrotoxicity in dogs associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats from China as early as 2007, perhaps even earlier. Ingestion of these treats lead to a form of acquired Fanconi syndrome, including glucosuria with normaglycemia, aminoaciduria, cilindiuria, hypokalemia, metabolic acidosis, and frequently azotemia. Gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and anorexia), and elevated liver enzymes along with a number other clinical signs has veterinarians deeply concerned.

It would be a mistake for anyone to assume that, in the absence of a definitive toxin, the illnesses these dogs face is due to some reason other than the consumption of the treats. Extensive diagnostic testing eliminated other causes of the observed clinical signs, such as urinary tract infection and rickettsial disease. Glucosuria in the face of euglycemia or hypoglycemia, aminoaciduria, and metabolic acidosis confirmed the diagnosis of Fanconi syndrome. Based on the histories obtained, the chicken jerky treats were a part of the diet and were consumed daily by all dogs has led researchers to conclude a cause and effect relationship between the consumption of the treats with disease.

dog baby sleep car baby seat cute

The usual suspects

A well-known microbiologist in the food safety sector, Phyllis Entis of, wrote to me after one of my particularly scathing condemnations of the FDA; she helped me understand the problem the FDA is faced with in discovering what the specific contaminate is: they have to know what to look for before they can test for it.

The FDA, in addition to several animal health diagnostic laboratories in the U.S., have been working (feverishly, I assume) to determine why these products are associated with the illness and death of dogs.

To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses. Despite extensive chemical and microbiological testing, the FDA has not identified a specific contaminant — or a specific brand or type of treat. Thus far all the likely contaminates have tested negative, thus have been eliminated from their inquiry.


Infinitesimal possibilities

What remains are thousands upon thousands of unknown contaminates. Further complicating the problem is the yearly introduction of thousands of new chemicals on the market. As well as any chemical that is no longer legally allowed for use in this country may be still in use in another country. And who can ignore the remarkable creativity the Chinese display in using novel contaminates with an alarming frequency. And finally, add to this equation the infinitesimal number of combinations thereof and you have a recipe to drive any scientist to drink.

baby-with-dog sleeping watchdog

A mother’s patience

Despite the problems facing the FDA scientists, it seems inconceivable that if this were a problem with human food, that the FDA would allow it to remain on the market until such time they discover the toxin while humans continued to get sick and die. It may be unconscionable to do so, yet it remains perfectly legal, under Federal law, to allow the treats to remain on the market until such time the reason for its toxicity is known.

I have to wonder then, does the FDA expect consumers to find it acceptable that dogs should continue to be poisoned because they have been unable to determine the contaminate? Does the FDA anticipate that consumers have an inexhaustible patience while testing continues indefinitely while the product remains on the market? Are consumers expected to be understanding of the difficulty the FDA faces while bury their dogs?

I will ask the same questions this time exchanging the word dog for child: Would the FDA expect mothers to be patient and understanding while they bury their child? Would the parents of a child that died as a result of consuming a contaminated product accept, until the FDA could determine what the contaminate was, that other parents may have to face the same horror? Would the FDA advise parents to observe their child for symptoms of acute renal failure should they “choose to continue” feeding the contaminated product?

doggy baby snuggle

A double standard

Think back, just a few weeks ago when it was reported in the national media that an infant died from a rare bacterial infection formerly associated with a contaminated infant formula. Before the ink was even dry on the press release, and before it was even known if indeed it was the formula that caused the death of that one precious infant – the product was yanked off the shelves so fast by retailers it made your head spin. They didn’t wait for the FDA to issue a recall. It vanished from the market in less than one day.

Hospitals across the country issued the same warning about a possible contaminated formula and it was not fed to any infants until they knew it was safe.

I don’t mean to suggest that infants are undeserving of such cautious measures, or that pets are deserving of more attention than children, quite the opposite.  I applaud the retailers, the manufacturer and the medical facilities for their prompt action in a proactive manner, preventing what might have been further deaths. Mercifully, it turned out there was nothing wrong with the formula after all.

Is a safety of your dog’s food any less important than your child’s food? Not to any of the pet parents I have spoken with. Federal law does not make the distinction between the safety of food for your child or your dog, yet why then do retailers and manufacturers? Are retailers and manufacturers the new arbiters of safety and morality?

choc lab infant newborn baby snuggling

Shoot first, ask questions later

The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, didn’t wait for anyone to tell them to do the right thing when they pulled the Enfamil baby formula off their shelves after the infant died. Other retailers immediately followed suit; they withdrew the formula while “awaiting further clarity from the manufacturer and FDA”.  Another retailer pulled the formula “out of an abundance of caution”. It was a shoot-first, ask questions later moment for retailers as well as consumers. The headline was scary enough to cause consumers to change their purchase patterns in the near-term, and no one knew how long that would last even if it was unjustified.

baby dog bed tail play

Watch closely

Consumers who have fed their dogs chicken jerky products should watch their dogs closely for any of the following signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the products:

  • sluggishness or lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat in general;
  • decreased appetite, although some dogs may continue to eat the treats instead of other foods;
  • vomiting;
  • diarrhea, sometimes with blood;
  • increased water consumption;
  • increased urination, sometimes with blood;
  • yellowish tint (jaundice) to the eyes or gums;
  • a reddish rash on the inside of the ears or on the belly area;

If the dog shows any of these signs, pet parents should consult their veterinarian immediately. Blood tests may indicate kidney failure (increased urea nitrogen and creatinine). Urine tests may indicate Fanconi syndrome (increased glucose). The problem can be confused with diabetes.

Dog Licking Baby

What’s a Fanconi?

This is an uncommon condition.  It affects the kidneys and causes them to leak glucose (sugar) and other electrolytes into the urine.  Dogs that have this condition will usually be very thirsty and will urinate excessive amounts.  The most common finding in laboratory tests is that the dog has glucose in the urine, but has a normal blood glucose level.

Some dogs can be born with Fanconi syndrome.  But, the latest concern is that there is something in jerky strips that is actually causing some dogs to develop this problem.  Some dogs can get very sick and even go into renal failure and die.  Other dogs will have an increase in thirst and urination and possibly have accidents in the house and then they may go on to have a full recovery within a few weeks of stopping the jerky treats.

child holding puppy cute

What if you think your dog has Fanconi syndrome?

If your dog is drinking and urinating more and he or she has after consuming the treats, then it goes without saying that you should stop giving them those treats.  The next step is to have your vet examine your dog and do some blood and urine tests.  These tests will quickly tell them whether the dog has Fanconi syndrome or whether there is another problem such as diabetes, Cushing’s or kidney disease.  If there is Fanconi syndrome the vet will tell you whether it looks like there is damage to the kidneys.  If so, they may need to give intravenous fluids for a few days.  If there is no damage then your dog will likely recover over the next few weeks.

child-dog girl silly making faces

What should you do if your dog has been a victim?

  1. Take a deep breath! One more time…with me now…in through the nose…out through mouth…and repeat. I’m serious!
  2. Just know, you are not alone. Consider joining a supportive group such as Animal Parents Against Pet Treats Made in China! on Facebook.
  3. Read this informative article on How to report a problem with a pet food.
  4. Read the Pet Food Safety Reporting Frequently Asked Questions.of the FDA.
  5. You and your veterinarian should report complaints about a pet food product electronically through the Department of Health and Human Service’s  Safety Reporting Portal.
  6. You and your veterinarian should call your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator.
  7. You should report the problem to the FDA’s Pet Food Complaint Site.
  8. Ask Wal-Mart to remove jerky treats (all brands) from their stores 1-800-Walmart (1-800-925-6278) or contact Wal-Mart’s their corporate offices online.
  9. Call PetSmart and ask them to remove the jerky treats from their stores at 800-738-1385 or contact PetSmart’s corporate offices online.
  10. Call Petco and ask them the same question 888-824-7257 or contact Petco online.
  11. Make a complaint to Consumer Affairs: Consumer complaints about Waggin Train Treats.
  12. Make a complaint to Nestle Purina Pet Care, the manufacturer of Waggin Train here.
  13. Sign the petition to Ban all poisonous chicken jerky treats imported from China.
  14. Contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), particularly if you are from the state of Texas. Why Texas? Because a landmark court decision in that state allows people for the first time to seek “sentimental value” damages for the loss of their pets.
  15. Consider taking legal action: Plaintiff Power Not Dead Yet: Consumer Class Actions Roll On Despite Congressional Assault

baby old dog

Be prepared in the event of a class action lawsuit

Contemplate carefully whether to accept an offer of compensation from the manufacturer. You may consider the possibility of joining a class action lawsuit at some point in the future. In which case, I would advise you to take these precautions in preparation of such an event (caveat: I am not an attorney so the following list of suggestions is by no means comprehensive).

  • Keep your package of the treats and any contents (aside from sample sent to the FDA);
  • Do not send the package to the manufacturer “for a refund”;
  • Document your communications with the FDA, CVM, the manufacturer along with whom you spoke to and on what dates;
  • Follow up any verbal communication with a letter;
  • Take pictures and/or video tape any relevant information, date them;
  • Ask for written statements from your vet, labs, hospital, clinic;
  • Document all medical costs as well any related expenses: time taken off work, for example;
  • Get copies of all of your pet’s medical records, lab results and invoices of medical procedures;
  • Finally, scrutinize all documents for errors or omissions and ask for corrections if you find anything that is incorrect or unclear;


Sentimental value

In the state of Texas a landmark case was won that supports recovery for the loss of a pet for sentimental value damages. This sweeping change in animal law gives pet parents the potential for recovery for the loss of their pets that is available for the loss of a relative or close human friend.

In a groundbreaking court ruling in November, the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled that a pet’s value is greater than its price tag. The court overruled a 120-year-old case in which the Texas Supreme Court ruled that pet owners could recover only the market value of their pets.

Dogs are unconditionally devoted to their owners,” according to the ruling. “We interpret timeworn Supreme Court law … to acknowledge that the special value of ‘man’s best friend’ should be protected.

The attorney that represented the pet parents in that case was Randy Turner of Turner & McKenzie of Fort Worth Texas.

child-dog ice cream

A final word…of caution

The press has emphasized to avoid treats “Made in China”, which, while wise advice, is by no means comprehensive. What the press has consistently failed to report is that the law concerning Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) does not apply to pet food or treats, nor does it apply to dried foods or processed foods of any kind. Even with foods that are covered, without going into elaborate detail, the COOL law states that if the product (ingredient) imported is changed from it’s original form once inside the United States it is no longer, by legal definition, a product of the originating country from which it came.

Thus, the label can legally say “Made in the USA” when in fact it may not have originated from the United States at all. Simply put – I would urge consumers not purchase any jerky treats  (tenders, strips, nibbles, num-nums or what-evers) regardless of the brand, until this whole mess is sorted.

dog child baby walking together

~Jerky treats in the news~

FDA warns of possible dangers with chicken jerky dog treats Jan 27, 2012
FDA warns pet parents about jerky treats made in China
Jan 26, 2012
Sickening: Are wholesome Waggin Train treats hurting pets?
Jan 22, 2012 Updated: Jan 23, 2012
In Your Corner: FDA Warnings On Pet Treats  Jan 20, 2012
Manufacturer of possibly deadly dog treat speaks
Jan 19, 2012 Updated: Jan 20, 2012
Dog owners cautioned about chicken jerky treats
Jan 19, 2012
FDA cautions dog owners of treats Jan 18, 2012
Humane Society warns about dog treats made in China
Jan 13, 2012
FDA warns chicken jerky dog treats associated with illness
Jan 3, 2012
Warning about chicken-jerky treats for dogs
Dec 30, 2011
Family says dog died after eating treats made in China Dec 29, 2011
Chicken Jerky from China may be causing Fanconi syndrome in dogs
Updated: Dec 29, 2011
Chicken jerky treats sicken 353 dogs, owners report
Dec 28, 2011
Pet treat alert
Nov 23, 2011

kid puppy sleeping snuggle

~More articles about jerky treats~

Congressional Leaders Demand FDA Action to Protect Dogs from Poisonous Jerky Treats (
Update: Thaxton family nightmare after dogs poisoned by jerky treats continues (
A grieving family wants chicken jerky dog treats to be taken off the market. (
One man’s personal story of the loss of his beloved dog Sarge, poisoned by a treat (
FDA Still Baffled Why Pet Treats from China are Poisoning Dogs…Again (
Nestle Purina pulls compensation offers “off the table” for Waggin’ Train deaths
ALERT: Nasty Chicken Jerky Treats from China Associated with Severe Illness in Dogs – Again (
Chicken Jerky Pet Treat Alert
(re-posted from eFoodAlert to
Caution to Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products (FDA, December 13, 2011)

dog cat poisoned pets safe food warnings news recalls alerts

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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.