Shea Cox
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Detailing the Dangers of Chicken Jerky. UPDATE.
Update on toxic treats from China

[Update, 3/9/12: The FDA has released new product safety information about chicken jerky treats from China. Update, 3/14: The FDA has just released the TOP 3 brands cited in chicken jerky poisoning cases: Waggin’ Train (Nestle Purina); Canyon Creek Ranch (Nestle Purina); Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats (Del Monte)]

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.

The connection between China and toxic pet food and treats first surfaced in 2006, when melamine-contaminated food additives imported from China triggered a nationwide recall of dog food items from a variety of manufacturers. The illness and deaths of thousands of dogs and cats were linked to the melamine.

In 2010, problems returned with 50 reports of a Fanconi-like syndrome (more on that in a second), thought to be linked to the ingestion of chicken jerky treats from China, with this number increasing to more than 70 reports in 2011.

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

Just last week, the FDA announced it is now analyzing products upon import for both melamine and diethylene glycol (another suspected toxin) because of an increase in pet owner complaints. Ready for the numbers? There have been 467 reports concerning toxicity placed with the FDA since it issued the official public warning in November 2011!

Just what is “Fanconi-like” syndrome?

This uncommon condition affects kidneys, causing them to leak glucose (sugar) and other electrolytes into the urine. Dogs who have this condition will usually be very thirsty and 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 is broad. Some dogs go into renal failure and die while others will have only an increase in thirst and urination and go on to recover fully 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 who 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 straightforward:

  • Buy American treats or, better yet, bake your own or buy locally made ones!
  • Raw or cooked vegetables also make tasty alternatives, and are especially good for pups who need 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: http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

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 (hence, no recall yet), but they do continue to perform extensive chemical and microbial testing on products.

Politician and pug parent U.S. Senator Sherrod 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 follow in his footsteps, and in the meantime, let’s keep spreading the word about keeping imported treats out our pet pantries.


Veterinarian Shea Cox has enjoyed an indirect path through her professional life, initially obtaining degrees in fine arts and nursing. She later obtained her veterinary medical degree from Michigan State University in 2001 and has been practicing emergency and critical care medicine solely since that time. In 2006, she joined the ER staff at PETS Referral Center in Berkeley and cannot imagine a more rewarding and fulfilling place to spend her working hours. In her spare time, she loves to paint, wield her green thumb, cook up a storm and sail. Her days are shared with the three loves of her life: her husband Scott and their two Doberman children that curiously occupy opposite ends of the personality spectrum.

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Bonnie | February 29 2012 |

I am proud of my friend Holly who stood by Senator Sherrod Brown's side at a news conference in Columbus, Ohio last week. Holly's sweet dog Jack (a therapy dog) is one of those who became sick after eating these very treats.

Holly has written letters, campaigned on facebook and introduced Jack to many people who now know of the dangers of providing pets with treats made in China.

Jack is doing much better, although not yet 100% back to good health.

Please - do not buy any toys or treats not made in the USA.

Submitted by Janice | February 29 2012 |

I agree completely! It is difficult to find toys made in the USA, but it can be done. Don't think your dog is safe with Chinese-made products, even if the company selling them is American. Toys are chewed, licked, in some cases partially eaten, and at the very least carried around in the mouth of your dog. Take heed!

Submitted by Sally | March 26 2012 |

Regarding the TOYS made in China .. how many of you know that the KONG soft toys are made there and not in Colorado (as the original Kong is or maybe was).

Submitted by Linda Schartman | February 29 2012 |

What about the Dogswell brand, which say that they are antibiotic and hormone free, yet also say they are made in China???

Submitted by Shea | March 7 2012 |

Linda- thanks for your comment! Because no one can be sure what the root cause is at this time, I'd err on the side of caution and not give any treats made in China. This can be difficult to find in some areas, and in this case, I'd make your own treats or order from an online source. If making your own treats is too time consuming, I was recently left a message from the following company in Maine: http://www.tripomchews.net/

Here is the message I received: "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."

I have not used them personally, but may be something for you to look into and it's nice to use "Mom & Pop" businesses when we can. I'm sure there are many others out there like this :). Hope this helps!

Submitted by jackie | March 1 2012 |

This is a horrible situation. These days we have to be extremely careful about the products we buy for our pets.

Submitted by TriPom Chews | March 8 2012 |

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.

Submitted by Anonymous | May 7 2012 |

I wish I had known all of this sooner . Our poor baby (maltese) is dyeing of end stage kidney failure as I am typing this . So sad ! Our vet did all types of tests and said the problem is from those POISON treats made in CHINA....How many helpless dogs have to die before something is done???

Submitted by Karen | July 24 2012 |

Is a VMD trained to treat induced Fanconi Syndrome, or do you have to see a Specialist? If an VMD is trained, would you know of any Vets in Northern New Jersey who have taken a interest in this Syndrome? Thank you.

Submitted by Ka | July 24 2012 |

Having a real difficult time locating a vet that will take on a Fanconis dog. Located in Northern NJ Cannot afford the $200 per office visit charge for a specialist. Any help would be appreciated

Submitted by Anonymous | September 17 2012 |

When something ingested causes kidney failure, the item is labeled a poison. So, stop sugar-coating this. It's not a "condition". It's not a "syndrome".

Poison is what causes kidney failure.

The article says to buy American-made treats. That would be very difficult. When the melamine massacre happened, I learned that all the pet food I had ever heard of, no matter how expensive or what brand, is now all manufactured in China.

First American manufacturers will let Chinese ethics kill through pet food. If they don't stop this, it will happen to infant formula, too. And, medicines for old people. And in pre-made lunches served to disabled people and school children.

Some things should simply be made in the homeland. No one, no one, no one cares about your own like your own. It's just instinct.

Submitted by Linda | April 19 2013 |

Be very careful, even if the jerky treats say they are made in the USA, they very well could contain ingredients sourced from China. Our Doberman was just diagnosed with jerky treat induced Fanconi-like syndrome. It was not a chicken jerky, it was a beef type one made by Del Monte. Our two vets who made the diagnosis said do not feed any kind of jerky, whether it be duck, beef, etc. I thought the China dog food scare was over a few years ago when they were putting melamine into dog treats, etc., but we were so wrong. Now we are better informed and our dog has suffered from our lack of current knowledge. We had thrown out the jerky package as soon as it was suspected as the culprit so we are going to the store today to identify what the name on it was. I know it was made by Del Monte.

Submitted by David | October 24 2013 |

Some of the problems with Chinese chicken jerky may be be due to impurities. but I think that much of it is due to the way it is administered. Dogs when very hungry, like their wolf cousins, tend to bolt down large quantities of meat in short order, only stopping when their stomachs are fully distended. A hungry 15 pound dog can easily consume 5 jerky strips in 15 minutes. This is the same as hungry 180 pound high school football player eating 65 strips in 15 minutes. The dry jerky will tear his stomach apart and via reverse osmosis in his gut cause severe dehydration and kidney damage if he he doesn't drink enough water fast enough. Humans, of course, would never do this because we cannot chew and swallow fast enough. American made jerky is probably
less of a problem because it is too expensive to administer as food.

More in Shea Cox:
Arthritis in Senior Dogs
Legislative Alert
Bromethalin: not all blue-green rodenticides are the same
Hops Can Be Lethal to Dogs
Moist Dermatitis in Dogs—Hot Spots
Cracked, Broken or Torn Nails
Hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing's Disease in Dogs:
ASPCA Poison Control Center