Mysterious Pet Deaths

No one wants to receive a “Dear John” letter, but on October 22, 2013, thousands of animal doctors across the country received a “Dear Veterinarian” letter from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It asked the practitioners to help them solve the mystery of pet poisoning by jerky treats.

Keeping Our Pets Safe

For years, the FDA has received reports that some pets became ill after consuming jerky treats, and they have conducted laboratory investigations, without success, to determine the cause. The agency has already tested 1,200 samples without discovering the exact cause of any illnesses. And the number of reported illnesses is growing. As of September 24, 2013, the FDA had been advised of 3,600 dogs and 10 cats who were sickened, apparently by the treats; 580 of these pets died.

A New York State Department of Agriculture and Marketing study found low levels of antibiotic residues in some jerky pet treats, and several well-known brands were subsequently removed from the market in January 2013. The FDA is doing its own evaluation to determine the possibility that low levels of antibiotics can cause illness in dogs when fed over a length of time. But this is just one potential cause they are investigating.

The treats in question are jerky tenders or strips, made of chicken, duck, sweet potato, dried fruit, or combinations thereof. Signs of illness may occur within hours or days and may include decreased appetite, sluggishness, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption and/or increased urination. Some cases have advanced to pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, and kidney failure or the resemblance of a rare kidney-related illness called Fanconi syndrome.

The Dear Veterinarian letter asks animal doctors to advise their pet owners about the potential for illness and to report any suspected cases to the FDA and Vet-LIRN. Vet-LIRN is a network of government agencies, professional experts and diagnostic laboratories across the U.S. and Canada, working together to solve the problem. In an FDA Consumer Update, Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said, “This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered. Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it.”

The FDA website includes information on how to report a complaint about a pet food. You can find it here:

http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ReportaProblem/ucm182403.htm

Defective products abound. Some are found in medical supply houses; some are driving down the road; and some are on our grocery store shelves. At the Louthian Law Firm, we have been helping hurting people for more than 80 years. And as every pet owner knows, when a furry member of the family gets sick or dies, the humans are heartsick, too.