Though many of us diligently study the ingredient list and nutrition labels on our pets' food and treats, we might not think it important to check the country of origin. Now may be the time to start. The FDA has issued a third warning about chicken treats made in China. Nearly a thousand unexplained pet illnesses and deaths associated with the treats have been reported to the FDA.
The treats may be called chicken jerky, nuggets, or tenders. There is no recall to watch for, unfortunately. Although several people have petitioned major companies to voluntarily recall the treats, the FDA cannot issue a mandatory recall without confirmed test results showing the cause.
Symptoms in your pet can occur within hours of eating the treat, or within days.
According to the FDA, symptoms to watch for include:
Diarrhea, possibly with blood
Increased water consumption
According to MSNBC, the three treats cited the most (although they aren't the only ones reported) are:
Waggin' Train (by Nestle Purina)
Canyon Creek Ranch (by Nestle Purina)
Milo's Kitchen Home-Style Dog Treats (by Del Monte)
The "made in China" label on pet treats, if present, may be small and out of the way - and to make things even more confusing, labels that contain the company's U.S. address, or phrases like "Distributed in the U.S.A." or "Manufactured in the U.S." may also be present on the package.
What you should do if you think your pet has been affected:
1. Stop using the treats - but don't throw them away.
If your pet has any of these symptoms, you should stop using the chicken treats immediately - but don't throw them out. Seal the treats, preferably with the package they came in, in a plastic Ziploc bag with a clear warning written on it (something like, DO NOT USE - MAY BE TOXIC). If your veterinarian doesn't want them for testing, take them home and hang onto them; the FDA might need them for testing. This is important - your treats could finally help the FDA unravel what is hurting pets.
2. Take your pet to the veterinarian.
If the symptoms are severe or last more than twenty-four hours, take your pet to your veterinarian for evaluation. These symptoms are not unique, and your vet might find another cause. Diagnoses of kidney failure and Fanconi syndrome (sugar in the urine) are associated with the problem treats. With prompt treatment and good care, many pets recover.
3. Write everything down; then file a report with the FDA.
The FDA will want to know everything to make the report useful for finding the problem. That's right - everything. Try to remember when you purchased the treats, when your pet last ate them, and how much your pet ate. Write down the date you took your pet to the veterinarian, and the information from the treat packaging (including UPC/bar code, lot number, and best by date). Ask your veterinarian to help you file the report, and have a copy of your pet's medical records ready to go. When you have everything (check the FDA list!), call a Consumer Complaint Coordinator for your area.
Whatever kind of treat you choose to feed your pet, be sure to check the feeding instructions on the package. Pet treats are for pets what a dessert is for people; they're not meant to replace regular pet food and do not contain the balance of nutrients that a pet needs to stay healthy.
For more information, please see the FDA's complete FAQ and the FDA's most recent warning about chicken jerky treats. Major news organizations including ABC and MSNBC have also published reports on the problem. You can file a pet food complaint at the FDA.