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Detailing the Dangers of Chicken Jerky: A current update on the toxic treats from China

China has been in the news repeatedly for problems related to the production of chicken jerky treats thought to be responsible for illness and death in our canine companions. This threat first reared its head in 2006, when China was responsible for melamine contamination of food additives that triggered a nationwide recall of dog food items from a variety of manufactures. Later, in 2010, problems returned with 50 reports of a Fanconi-like syndrome, thought to be linked to the ingestion of chicken jerky treats from China, with this number alarmingly increasing to more than 70 reports in 2011.

In November 2011, the Food and Drug Administration finally issued an official warning to pet owners that chicken jerky food products imported from China may cause a Fanconi-like syndrome in dogs that routinely consume them, or in the cases where treats make up a large part of the dog’s diet.

Just this week, the FDA has announced that it is now analyzing products upon import for both melamine and diethylene glycol because of an increase in pet owner complaints… ready for the numbers? There have been 467 reports with regards to concern of toxicity placed with the FDA since they issued their official public warning in November 2011!

Just what is “Fanconi-like” syndrome?

It is an uncommon condition that affects the kidneys, causing them to leak glucose (sugar) and other electrolytes into the urine. Dogs that have this condition will usually be very thirsty and will urinate excessive amounts. The most common finding in laboratory tests is that the dog has glucose in the urine, but has a normal blood glucose level. Symptoms of this illness include drinking a lot of water, urinating a lot or more frequently, decreased energy, diminished appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The spectrum of illness and recovery can be broad. Some dogs can go into renal failure and die while others will have only an increase in thirst and urination and go on to have a full recovery within a few weeks of stopping the chicken jerky treats.

Until more is known, these are the specific recommendations made by the FDA:

  • Chicken jerky products are not intended to be substituted for a balanced diet and should only be fed only in small quantities.
  • Consumers that feed chicken jerky products to their dogs should monitor for symptoms of decreased energy, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption, and increased urination.
  • Discontinue the products at the first occurrence of such problems.
  • Seek immediate veterinary care if symptoms are severe or persist for more than 24 hours.

My recommendations are a little more straight forward:

  • Buy American treats or, better yet, bake your own or buy locally made ones!
  • Raw or cooked vegetables also make tasty treats, and are especially good for those pups that are struggling to lose weight.

What should I do if I suspect my pet has been affected?

Have your veterinarian examine your dog and perform blood and urine tests. These tests will help determine if the Fanconi-like syndrome is present, or if your pet has other possible medical issues such as Cushing’s disease, diabetes, or kidney disease.

You should report cases of illness associated with pet foods to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your state, or you can go to the following website for further instruction on how to report a pet food complaint.

Where next?

Frustratingly, there has yet to be a specific causal link or contaminant identified. To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses, but they do continue to perform extensive chemical and microbial testing on products.

Politician and pug parent, U.S. Senator Brown of Ohio, has become the latest unofficial champion for pooches all across America. The sympathetic senator took to the Senate floor the first week in February and urged swift action on the part of the FDA to step up their investigation.

Lets hope others keep following in his footsteps, and in the meantime, let’s keep spreading the word about removing and keeping all imported treats banned from our pet pantries.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. If you want to opt for the homemade option yourself, here is an easy to follow recipe:


    1. Preheat oven to 200° F
    2. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
    3. Rinse off chicken breast and remove any fat.
    4. Slice the chicken with the grain. This will help make the jerky even chewier for your dog. The slices should be very thin, about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thickness.
    5. Place the strips on the baking sheet.
    6. Bake for approximately 2 hours (see note below).
    7. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack until completely cool.
    8. Cut strips into bite sized pieces.

    Storing: These homemade dog treats may not last long enough to be stored because they are so good. But, just in case they do, store them in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. Freeze any remainder for up to 8 months. Be sure to read our tips on storing homemade dog treats for more information.
    Tips & Techniques
    • Checking – The baking times will vary due to difference in ovens, temperatures and meat size. Your jerky treats should be firm and dry, not at all soft or spongy. It is safer to go a little extra dry and firm than for the meat to be underdone.

    • Cutting – Once the treats are cool, it’s easier to cut them with kitchen scissors or a pizza cutter, than a regular knife.

    There is so much flexibility when making your own chicken jerky dog treats. One of the best options is that you do not need to be restricted to only using chicken. So let’s preheat the oven and go for low and slow for these tasty jerky treats.

    February 24, 2012
    • Love this! thank you for sharing this link and recipe, Miguel! Having such big dogs (to help cut down on the expense) I’ll do as they suggest by adding a larger portion of vegetables, or I’ll even use the “left over” scraps of vegetable and meat cuttings, which is a win/win for everybody :).

      February 25, 2012
  2. If you’re looking for a SAFE, REAL ‘American Made’ chicken jerky for dogs or cats, we started making our own Chicken Jerky for our 3 dogs after we ran across the FDA warning of 2008 about Chinese chicken treats making dogs sick or killing them. It turned into a cottage “Mom & Pop” business and we now sell our TriPom Chews online and in 20 stores in the New England area. Our products are the only homemade, handmade, ‘Maine Made’, ‘American Made’ Chicken Jerky produced from whole, restaurant-quality chicken breasts containing NO Additives and NO Preservatives. Our 3 Pomeranians (our babies!) taste test every batch for quality.

    February 23, 2012
    • Hi TriPom! I just checked out your website and it is wonderful what you have created! It sounds like you have the best 3 sous chefs possible! 🙂

      February 25, 2012

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