Nearly 600 dogs have died since 2007 who consumed pet jerky treats made in China, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Another 3,600 dogs have been reported ill. The pet treats were sold under a wide variety of brand names.
The FDA currently does not know the cause of this outbreak and is reaching out to veterinary health professionals, as well as the public, for answers to help solve the mystery. Since the FDA is unable to determine the cause, no recall has been put in place, meaning pet owners need to make more educated decisions about what pet treats are safe to use.
I recently spoke with pet nutrition expert Anthony Bennie about the outbreak. He provided some insight and helpful knowledge on feeding our pets healthy treats.
LS: How long do you think this has been going on?
AB: It’s been going on since it became evident that it’s possible to sell really cheap versions of what people want here. It’s one thing to copy electronics, another to copy pet treats. When you take the theory of cheapest practices and apply that to what you put in your animals’ mouths, it is a recipe for disaster.
LS: What do you think caused the recent outbreak, with number of death and illnesses still on the rise?
AB: Irradiation (the process of exposing pet food and treats to radiation as a means of eliminating foodborne microbes and killing pests) and glycerin (a humectant preservative) in virtually all pet treats from China in pet treats from China. There have been issues with pet food ingredients and finished treats from China for quite some time, including the massive recalls in 2007 that were traced to melamine, a non-edible protein additive used in China to adulterate and cheapen the products.
LS: Have there been studies done on the dangers of using glycerin and irradation together?
AB: The use of both glycerin and irradiation in the same product is troubling to me. No proper studies have been done to determine the possible synergistic effects. For the health and safety of your pets, as a first step I strongly encourage pet guardians to buy pet treats and foods made and sourced in the USA; but even then, be a detailed label reader and avoid products with chemical preservatives or other ingredients that you can’t pronounce and don’t recognize as foods.
LS: The FDA made a recent statement that treats aren’t a necessary part of a fully balanced canine diet. Honestly, I was appalled by the ignorance of this statement. In addition to the nutritional value, my dogs are paid and rewarded well with treats. Nobody wants to work for free, including dogs.
AB: Our pets are an extension of the family, so news like we’ve been hearing is very worrisome for any pet guardian. But to make a statement like this, which could damage many ethical American pet treat manufacturers, is bizarre and unfair. No one is claiming ANY problems with American made treats. It would be absurd to allow these fears to stop you from offering your pet ANY treats or between meal snacks. Think of your own energy level throughout the day; would you want to eat nothing all day until your single nightly meal? It’s the same with your animal companions, who can lose vitality and playfulness if these ‘pick me ups’ are simply cut out of the diet. Emotional bonding is also reinforced when providing healthy snacks to your pet, and training often involves food rewards. Give your pet treats and snacks in moderation as you always have. But stick with USA Made, grain free, low carb, natural snacks that are dominated by meat protein but offer a holistic balance with other whole food nutrients such as flax and veggies.
LS: I frequently give my dogs fruit and vegetable treats. They love shredded carrots and cut up apple pieces. When purchasing healthy treats, what should we look for?
AB: A healthy pet treat that is 100% USA made and sourced, and features all-natural and wholesome ingredients like USDA inspected chicken and beef along with natural cheddar cheese, organic flaxseed, and air dried vegetables. My family-owned company, ClearConsciencePet.com, provides that in our dog treats. I am proud to say that we have won six national awards for nutritional excellence. People tell us that our Sliders® are like doggy crack. Dogs will do anything for them.
LS: Thanks Anthony. I can’t wait to have Sanchez and Gina try them too! I’m thrilled that all of your treats are gluten free, as my dogs are gluten intolerant, and I don’t always have time to make all of their treats myself.
Do you give your dogs treats/ snacks? Do you look at the package to check the ingredients and where they are made? Thanks for sharing your stories in a comment below.