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Why Are Jerky Treats For Dogs Dangerous?

Updated on January 1, 2016
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.


Considered "Products Of Interest" But Proof Evades

In 2007 (the year of that big pet food recall) a lot of pet owners complained to the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) about dogs getting sick from jerky treats.

Also marketed as tenders, strips or treats, most of the complaints have been about chicken jerky produced in China, but the FDA also reports complaints coming in about duck, sweet potato and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes or yams.

Complaints dropped off in 2009, but in 2011 they rose again. In March, 2012 FDA renewed its caution, even though they haven’t been able to find a link to the complaints of sickness and jerky treats from China.

We’re not the only ones investigating the situation, either. I learned that, down under, the University of Sydney is also investigating the connection between reports of illness in Australian dogs and their having eaten chicken jerky.

One Australian firm recalled their chicken jerky product and the recall notification stated the product was, surprise surprise, manufactured in China.

The cause of the illness remains a mystery and the FDA acknowledges that many of the illnesses reported may be the result of causes other than eating chicken jerky.

Also, since no contaminant has been found, they’re limited in what regulatory action they can take.


The Search for the Missing Link

The FDA isn’t just asking questions; they’re working hard to get to the bottom of this, but so far have come up empty.

For one thing, they’re working with the Veterinary Laboratory Response Network and other animal health diagnostic laboratories in testing for chemical and microbiological contaminants.

Samples tested in March, 20012 for toxic metals, including heavy metals, came back negative. Another dead end.

The agency has expanded its testing to include irradiation by-products, but so far, nothing. Another dead end.

They’re even looking to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for assistance. Hell, NASA has plenty of time now to investigate contaminated pet treats since the Obama Administration has effectively neutered it.

FDA has reached out to other countries that might have had reports of contaminated jerky treats, and have gotten some feedback, but apparently nothing that’s particularly helpful. Another dead end.

In the spring of 2012 FDA officials went on a road trip to the land of The Great Wall.

They inspected 5 plants in China hoping to learn more about the manufacturing processes used to make the jerky pet treats.

One plant did falsify receiving documents for glycerin, which is an ingredient in most jerky pet treats.

Otherwise the FDA found no other information to further explain the pet illnesses. Another dead end.

Oh, here’s some news. The Chinese government did seize products and did suspend exports at the firm that falsified its reports.

Call me a cynic, but I don’t draw a lot of comfort from that.

So, the search goes on. Meanwhile, FDA is advising pet owners who choose to feed chicken jerky products to their dogs to watch closely for decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood), increased thirst and/or increased urination. You should contact your veterinarian if the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours. You might also keep in mind that those symptoms can be indicative of a number of illnesses.

You can sign up for free automatic email alerts from the FDA, on a variety of the subjects within their jurisdiction. Here's the link:


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    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, Top Dog Picks, I'm sorry it took so long for me to reply to your comment but Hub Pages didn't notify me that you commented. When I did see it today, 6 weeks later, it was labeled differently than other comments.

      While the tabs "Allow" and "Deny" follow every comment, your tabs read "Not spam" and "Delete forever." How rude of Hub Pages!

      Thanks for helping get the word out and thanks for noting that the FDA cannot force a recall. Almost all recalls are voluntary and on rare occasions, FDA will request a recall...which doesn't have the clout of a mandate. But I wouldn't want to be the manufacturer that disregards a "request" from the FDA.

      I'm afraid that recalls will always be with us. I just don't see how manufacturers can avoid occasionally receiving contaminated raw materials, given the massive scope of production, storage and handling that's involved.

      I'll log on to your profile page to see if there are any comments I can contribute. Thanks for the invitation, and thanks for stopping by here and commenting. Regards, Bob

    • Top Dog Picks profile image

      Top Dog Picks 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Good information. I didn't see this until this morning. I published an article, last night, along with other places, last week . Leaving and posting comments wherever possible. I'll be following you and would appreciate any comments from you, as well. I'm selling US products, only because everyone and every dogs wants them.

      e how thorough your article is. If I'd seen it, I may not have submitted mine but we need to get the word out.

      I have 8 Papillions and these were their daily treat. Could have killed all of them!

      More notification is needed. People protest pet stores that support puppy mills. I'm surprised that there haven't been any protest @ the store level.

      I think that's who we need to move toward. If we can get them to stop selling the tainted products then it would affect the distribution sales and therefore the manufacturer. Off it starts hitting their sales then maybe they'll do something on their level.

      The FDA can't make a company take their products off the shelves, anyway. The recalls have to come from the manufacturers and distributors.

      There is SO much more to this. I'll be writing a followup or 2.

      Thanks for helping to save our pets!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Melbelle, thanks for stopping by and commenting. It must be exasperating to do as much detective work as they're doing and keep coming up empty.

      Hi Susan, they were among the most popular treats when I owned my feed and grain store. The advertising gods must have read your mind...there's a dehydrator advertised just above the poll. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Hi Dog Ma, you're not alone. I've heard from a number of people who cook for their dogs or cats. I just encourage them all to be sure that the diet is complete and balanced as formulated by a Board Certified Animal Nutritionist. I'll check out your hubs, too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Dog Ma profile image

      Dog Ma 5 years ago

      I make my own chicken for my dogs and have since 2007 when I lost a dog to the dog food recall. I cook all my own dog food, too. Now I can be assured that my dogs won't have food recalled unless I do as well. To me its the only way to go. Check out my Dogma hubs for information on home-cooking for your pet.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      My dogs used to love these, but when I first heard of the issues I stopped buying them. I am thinking about buying a dehydrator for myself though and making chicken and beef jerky treats for my dogs would be another reason to purchase one.

    • melbelle profile image

      melbelle 5 years ago from Southern United States

      Good information to keep us aware of the problem with pet treats.