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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.

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