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Chicken jerky treats sicken 353 dogs, owners report

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Imported chicken jerky treats from China are being blamed for at least 353 reports of illnesses in dogs, federal Food and Drug Administration officials say.

Reports of illnesses in dogs given chicken jerky treats have spiked dramatically following a new government warning about pet snacks made in China.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has logged at least 353 reports this year of illnesses tied to imported chicken jerky products, also sold as chicken tenders, chicken strips or chicken treats, a spokeswoman said.

That’s up from 70 reports of illnesses -- and some deaths --  received in 2011 before the Center for Veterinary Medicine issued an updated warning on Nov. 18.  

Dog owners and veterinarians are reporting that animals have been stricken with a range of symptoms within hours or days of eating chicken jerky, including serious problems such as kidney failure and Fanconi syndrome, a condition marked by low blood sugar.

Though the illnesses appear tied to chicken jerky products manufactured in China, the source of the problem remains a mystery, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman.

Despite extensive chemical and microbiological testing, the agency has not identified problems with a specific contaminant -- or a specific brand or type of treat.

“[We are] still digging through the reports to see if we can discern a common thread that’s more specific than just chicken jerky,” DeLancey said.

The latest warning was the agency’s third alert about chicken jerky treats, with previous cautions issued in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, 156 reports of dog illnesses tied to chicken jerky were logged, but the number fell sharply, to just 41 in 2008, according to FDA records.

Because the agency has not identified any particular products as the culprit, no recalls have been issued.

In the meantime, FDA officials are warning pet owners to avoid chicken jerky treats imported from China. They’re also urging owners to seek medical care if dogs develop symptoms including decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, increased water consumption and increased urination. Stop feeding the treats to the animal and seek veterinary care, especially if symptoms are severe, or persist for more than a day, officials say.

Consumers can report suspicious illnesses to the FDA’s Pet Food Complaint site. 

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