The FDA on Tuesday said it has received reports of nearly 600 dogs and cats dying after consuming jerky pet treats since 2007 — but the cause of the illnesses remains a mystery.
The agency, which said a total of 3,600 dogs and 10 cats have reportedly become sick, is calling upon pet owners to help as it gathers information on the source of the illnesses. Veterinarians and pet owners are being asked to report jerky treat-related illness online or by calling the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in their states.
In a report, the FDA said illness has been reported in pets within hours of eating jerky tenders or strips made of duck, chicken, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit. Most of the implicated jerky treats have been made in China.
Signs of illness in pets have included decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption and/or increased urination. Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder, according to the FDA.
So far, testing for contaminants in jerky treats has not revealed the cause behind the illnesses. According to the FDA, the agency's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has conducted more than 1,200 tests, visited pet treat manufacturers in China and worked with state labs and foreign governments — but the cause remains unknown.
"This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," CVM Director Bernadette Dunham said in a release issued by the FDA. "Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it."