Last week, the Food and Drug Administration appealed to veterinarians and the public for their assistance in helping determine what has caused over 3,000 animals to become sick and nearly 600 of them to die since 2007 after eating jerky treats sourced from China.
Pet360 also reported this week that the FDA proposed new rules that would better protect the human, as well as the animal food manufacturing process.
“This situation has really gone on for far too long,” says Dr. Liz Hanson, a small animal veterinarian in Corona Del Mar, Calif. of the outbreak of illnesses.
Still, the FDA is no closer today than it was in 2007, Hanson says, from figuring out what is causing pets to become sick. “It is an ongoing puzzle they’re looking at such things as radiation levels, metals, molds, antibiotics and even chemicals and poisons since so many of these pets that have become sick have exhibited signs of kidney failure,” Hanson says.
As warnings about pet jerky treats have spread, pet parents are left wondering just how they should choose their pet’s treats.
“The common denominator is the jerky treats seemed to be sourced from China,” says Hanson. “At this point, I would not feed my pets jerky treats sourced in China.”
Still, that doesn’t go far enough, Hanson says, who works with many clients that say their pets are picky eaters and will only eat certain jerky treats.
Hanson is receiving so many requests from clients on how to choose treats for pets, she has compiled a list of things pet parents should do when buying those treats:
1. Whenever possible, treats should be made in USA and made from animals raised in the USA
Hanson notes this claim can be misleading on some brands. Many products say they are “Made in the USA” when in fact the poultry or animal is raised abroad and then manufactured/packaged in the USA. This is where the quality can be compromised due to conflicting safety certifications/regulations. Look for “American or USA-raised chicken.”
2. Start with looking at the ingredient list
-The ingredients are listed on the label by weight and so the first few ingredients on the list are usually the most significant and should be especially high in quality.
-Top quality ingredients are as fresh and pure as possible.
-The fresher ingredients available to USA food makers are grown in the USA and again, it is highly recommended to choose products from US sources.
-Ingredients on the label should be an easily recognizable food, with no questions what the source is.
For example, you want to choose a pet treat with “chicken” as an ingredient and NOT a”meat meal.”
-Organic ingredients are good because they are more scrutinized from inspectors and have less contaminants.
3. Ingredients to avoid
-Artificial preservatives (i.e. BHA, BHT, calcium propionate, ethoxyquin, sodium nitrate)
-Chemical humectants (i.e. propylene glycol). This is often used to keep treats moist and chewy.
-Products with sugar or molasses.
4.Choose healthy (alternative) natural snacks
-Green beans, celery, cooked yams, frozen apple, kiwi, watermelon, chicken or tofu hot dog.
-Avoid onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, and other human foods that are harmful to pets.
5. Vet-approved pet treats
-Always ask your vet what is safe for your dog if you have any concerns.
If your pet starts exhibiting any of these symptoms, consult with your veterinarian immediately, time is of the essence: Vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, drinking a lot of water.