China has been in the news again the past few weeks related to problems with a dog food product, this time it is with chicken jerky treats. In 2006, China was responsible for the melamine contamination of the food additives/extenders known as wheat gluten and rice protein concentrated. This triggered a nation-wide recall of several different dog food items from a wide variety of manufactures.
As of November 2011, the Food and Drug Administration is now warning pet owners that chicken jerky food products that are imported from China may cause a Fanconi-like syndrome in dogs who routinely consume them. Fanconi’s syndrome is a disease that affects the kidneys causing them to leak glucose and electrolytes into the urine. Symptoms of this illness include drinking a lot of water, urinating a lot or more frequently, decreased energy, diminished appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. In these canines, there is a high sugar level in the urine with or without an elevated protein level in the urine and/or an electrolyte imbalance termed metabolic acidosis. These dogs have a normal blood glucose, so they are not considered diabetic despite the fact that they have an elevated level of glucose in the urine. There may also be elevations in the blood kidney levels of BUN and Creatinine. If left untreated, renal failure can develop, and death is possible.
Problems were first identified in 2006, around the time of the melamine food contamination issue. In 2010 there were 50 reports of an association of Fanconi-like syndrome potentially connected to chicken jerky treats from China. In 2011 there were over 70 reports. Most of the original cases occurred in Canada; but now there are animals becoming ill in the United States. To date there hasn’t been a specific causal link or contaminant identified according to the FDA. Currently they are “testing multiple different chemical and microbiological contaminants. They are continuing to test for possible contaminants.”
This week the FDA has announced they are now analyzing products upon import for melamine and diethylene glycol due to an increase in complaints for problems related to chicken jerky. 467 reports have been placed with the FDA since they issued a warning this past November. The alert this past fall was the third regarding chicken treat products from China.
Until more is known, the FDA has made the following recommendations:
I encourage all of my clients to only purchase products that are made in the United States. Our country’s food safety requirements are much higher than the laws in other countries. I also encourage pet owners to limit treats to less than 15% of the overall calorie intact for their canines. Please keep in mind that raw or cooked vegetables such as carrots, green beans, and broccoli make wonderful treats, especially for those canines that are struggling to lose weight. Don’t use food to show love to your pet. Interact with them, cuddle them, or take them for a walk. Both of you will benefit from the time together.