Are You Feeding Your Dog Dangerous Treats?

You may think those jerky treats your dog likes so much are healthy. But are they actually making your pets sick? The Dog Trainer uncovers a major safety hazard in your cupboard.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

Pet food recalls and alerts are frighteningly common. The website of the American Veterinary Medical Association lists dozens and dozens for 2013 alone. Admittedly, many of those are for “potential” contamination, and for different-size packages of the same food – still, scrolling down the page might give you a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you wonder what on earth you might be doing to your dog or cat every time you deliver that bowl or food-dispensing toy. Or what’s really in your parakeet’s seed, for that matter!

And then there are jerky treats – those dried strips of meat or sweet potato that seem so wholesome. Except that about 3,600 dogs and cats have gotten sick since 2007 after eating jerky treats, and nearly 600 of them have died. The FDA has tested the jerky up, down, and sideways but can’t figure out the source of the problem.

Here’s what to look for, according to the FDA: “Decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, and/or increased urination.” These symptoms can appear within hours of eating the treats.

If your pet gets sick after eating jerky treats, save the packaging and leftover treats and give your vet a call. The FDA has informed vets about what samples and tests are needed, and if it requests that the vet send samples to the agency, the agency covers all the associated costs.

Most of the problem treats are made in China, and there are hints that sourcing of glycerin at certain factories there may be the issue. So if you don’t buy dog or cat treats made in China, you might think you were good to go. But here’s a scary little punchline, straight from the FDA itself:

“Manufacturers of pet foods are not required by U.S. law to state the country of origin for each ingredient in their products.”

I had a look at the package of duck jerky in my own cupboard, which I bought under the impression that it had been made in the United States. Really, I was sure. And the label says “Tested safe in the USA.” That’s nice and prominent, with a bright American flag next to it. But when I read about the FDA's 1000+ tests, my heart began to sink, because if their extensive testing hasn’t found the problem, how likely is it that the jerky distributor has? And sure enough, above that American flag is a boilerplate paragraph about how the treats aren’t for human consumption … and those troubling words  “Product of China.”

I have a phone call in to my vet. To learn more, click here.

Sick dog image courtsy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).