Jerky Treats Recall: More Than 600 Pets Dead, Officials Still Stumped

A jerky treat recall trying to find exactly what has killed 600 pets and sickened more than 3,600 has health officials nowhere close to an answer.

The illnesses have stretched back for years and are tied to jerky treats made in China. Though the rate of illness has slowed since being reported in January, federal Food and Drug Administration officials are calling on veterinarians and pet owners to help solve the mystery.

“To date, testing for contaminants in jerky treats has not revealed a cause for the illnesses,” Martine Hartogensis, a deputy director for the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a report. “Despite these warnings, we have continued to receive reports of illnesses in both cats and dogs.”

In January, the FDA reported that 500 animals had been killed from the jerky treats and 3,200 sickened. The rate of deaths has fallen sharply thanks to a jerky treats recall from two of the largest sellers.

The initial report prompted jerky treats recalls from several brands, including Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch treats made by Nestle Purina PetCare Co. and Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers home-style dog treats from Del Monte Corp.

The illnesses stretch back much further than January, however. Pet owners have been reporting deaths and illnesses since 2007, which included gastrointestinal and kidney failures.

Despite months of investigating, officials say they are no closer to finding the source of the illnesses.

“We still are extensively testing treats for a number of things,” Hartogensis told NBC News. “We do seem to be getting some leads, but we still have a little bit of a ways to go.”

This has led some to believe that the treats contain a toxin not common in North America. To help diagnose the problem, the FDA has asked veterinarians to send detailed information about the cats and dogs that become sick after eating the jerky treats.The FDA has also put out a fact sheet for pet owners to make them more aware of the risks.

The jerky treats recall is expected to remain in effect until FDA officials can find the source of the problem.

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