FDA Investigates Pet Jerky Treats

Reports for Veterinarians and for the Public:

Jerky Pet Treats - Veterinarians

October 22, 2013


Dear Veterinarian,

For the last few years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been actively investigating the cause of reported pet illnesses associated with jerky pet treat products, most of which come from China. As of September 24, 2013, FDA has received approximately 3000 reports of illness, involving more than 3600 dogs, 10 cats, and including more than 580 deaths.

Today, we are reaching out to ask for your assistance in FDA's ongoing investigation in three ways:

  • Providing samples and information on potential jerky pet treat-related illnesses to our Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), an extensive network of diagnostic laboratories developed by FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.
  • Posting, handing out or otherwise making available to your clients the enclosed Fact Sheet on jerky pet treat products.
  • Reporting pet illnesses associated with jerky pet treat products through the FDA Safety Reporting Portal, selecting the pet food reporting pathway.

Vet-LIRN is a coordinated network of facilities, equipment, and professional expertise of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the country and Canada that is actively involved in the jerky pet treats investigation. Currently, the Vet-LIRN program is testing jerky pet treat samples and diagnostic samples submitted by veterinarians and/or pet owners whose pets have experienced adverse effects following ingestion of these products.


Vet-LIRN will be provided information from the FDA Safety Reporting Portal that is reported concerning jerky pet treat-related illnesses. In investigating individual incidents, Vet-LIRN then can plan and organize testing of treats collected from the consumer in cases where this is indicated. Testing is performed by FDA laboratories and other animal health diagnostic laboratories in the Vet-LIRN network. Vet-LIRN also coordinates collection and testing of diagnostic material, such as urine and tissues, from affected animals. Our collaboration with experts from government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the country will provide a high level of professional expertise to provide greater insight into the reported jerky pet treat-related illnesses.


Information Needed from Referring Veterinarians

We are asking you to help FDA by reporting suspected jerky pet treat-related illnesses to the FDA Safety Reporting Portal: https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov. After clicking on the link, you can either establish an account or report as a guest. You may then click on "create a new report." The portal will ask you to identify yourself and you may click on "a veterinarian or veterinary staff member who is submitting a product problem and/or adverse event report involving pet food." The site will then ask you a series of questions, beginning with the type of report you are submitting. You should click on "adverse event." When you reach the "problem summary" tab, the site will ask you to "describe what happened." In this box, you should include any relevant information from the pet's medical history such as bloodwork values for liver and kidney and urinalysis results. When you reach the "products" tab, the site will ask you to "describe how the product was used or administered." In this box, you should include a history that describes what the animal has been eating (all treats, human food, and pet food), including how much is given daily of all items. In particular, include:

  • How long have they given the treats to their pet?
  • How did they give the treat or food to their pet - entire piece or broken?

In addition to submitting the report we also recommend you:

  • Request a urine sample if jerky pet treat-related illness is suspected (even if the animal presents with just GI signs).
  • Freeze a subsample of the urine (10 ml if possible) and conduct routine urinalysis on the rest of the sample.
  • Obtain routine blood work for liver and kidney injury.

If FDA initiates follow up, Vet-LIRN will provide shipping materials for a urine Fanconi profile and will report the findings back to the referring veterinarian. Follow up samples may be requested if the animal is positive, so we can see how long the Fanconi profile remains altered.


Vet-LIRN (usually through FDA District Offices) may request samples of the product for testing (individual product test results are not reported back to the referring veterinarian or the owner). The owner (or veterinarian) should keep the sample in its original bag - and preferably place that bag into a second lockable plastic bag for a minimum of 60 days in case we decide to collect the sample.


Communication with Pet Owners

After initiating follow up, the Vet-LIRN coordinator usually contacts the pet owner to request permission and assistance. Although the investigation is focused on determining if an FDA-regulated product is the cause of the animal's illness, the diagnostic testing requested by Vet-LIRN may not provide a definitive diagnosis. Vet-LIRN will provide testing results to the veterinarian to ensure that owners are counseled on the interpretation of the test results and appropriate medical care follow-up.


For additional information on FDA's testing to date and other aspects of our investigation please see our Jerky Pet Treats webpage.

We wish to thank you in advance for your cooperation and collaboration with FDA as we work together to determine the cause of pet illness or death related to consuming jerky products. ###

This information and more at this FDA site:



News Release for the Public: 


FDA Releases Progress Report on Jerky Pet Treat Investigation

October 22, 2013

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released today an update on its investigation into pet illnesses and deaths associated with jerky pet treats from China. The update includes a description of the extent of the agency's testing and current findings, as well as a "Dear Veterinarian" letter and Fact Sheet for pet owners.


The "Dear Veterinarian" letter to veterinary professionals explains how they can provide valuable assistance to the agency's investigation, requests that veterinarians report to FDA any cases of jerky pet treat-related illness that come to their attention and, when requested, that they also provide samples for diagnostic testing by the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), a network of veterinary laboratories affiliated with FDA. The Fact Sheet for pet owners lists steps they can take to prevent or detect illness related to the treats.


As of September 24, 2013, FDA has received more than 3000 complaints of illness related to consumption of chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, nearly all of which are imported from China. The reports involve more than 3600 dogs, 10 cats and include more than 580 deaths.


FDA continues to caution pet owners that jerky pet treats are not required for a balanced diet. The agency encourages pet owners to consult with their veterinarian prior to feeding treats and if they notice symptoms in their pets.


The rate of complaints associated with jerky pet treats dropped sharply after several well-known brands were removed from the market in January 2013, when a study conducted by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Marketing (NYSDAM) detected low levels of antibiotic residues in those products. FDA believes that the drop in complaints is linked to a decrease in the availability of jerky pet treats rather than the low levels of antibiotics found in January, which FDA believes are unlikely to be the cause of the illnesses. However, FDA is performing an evaluation to determine the possibility for low levels of the antibiotics to cause illness in dogs when fed over a length of time. This process involves review of the scientific literature, as well as any adverse event reports and consumer complaints sent to the FDA in connection with dogs and sulfonamide drugs, and may take many months to complete. In the meantime, our investigation continues to evaluate all potential causes for illness from the jerky pet treats.

While FDA has not yet identified a cause for the reported illnesses, the agency, together with our Vet-LIRN partners, continue to perform testing to help identify cases and examine both animal tissue and product samples associated with the cases. FDA also continues to work with the manufacturers and distributors of the treats and China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to investigate potential sources of contamination or causes of illness in pets.  ###


P White