FAIRFIELD — No one knows just why, but some pet treats are making dogs and cats sick. The Noah's Ark Foundation in Fairfield wants pet owners to help figure out the cause.
The foundation sent out an email Wednesday asking pet owners to be careful about giving their animals jerky-style pet treats. The treats have caused illness in about 3,600 dogs and 10 cats over the past several years. Of those, approximately 580 animals have died.
Scientists are stumped. The Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine has worked with manufacturers, visited plants in China and teamed up with academic and governmental experts in other countries and still can't figure out what's happening.
"This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," said CVM Director Bernadette Dunham. "Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it."
An FDA fact sheet said tests for bacteria, metals, pesticides, antibiotics and other compounds have all failed to show a cause for the illnesses. The CVM is reaching out to animal advocates, and that led Noah's Ark to reach out to area pet owners.
Experts say the treats can be eliminated from a pet's diet without risk (they're treats, not meals after all), but stops short of recommending pet owners quit buying jerky treats.
Symptoms of the illness can show up within hours of eating the treat, or it can take days. Decreased appetite and activity, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption and/or urination are all symptoms. Severe cases can include internal bleeding and kidney failure.
If your pet shows these symptoms after eating jerky treats, seek treatment from your veterinarian. The FDA may collect treat samples, so keep the portion of the treats you haven't used. Pet owners are advised to keep the treats in the original container and place the container in a sealed plastic bag.
The illness can be reported in several ways. The Safety Reporting Portal is at www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov, while the FDA's consumer complaint coordinator is at www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm.
Illnesses can also be reported directly to pet food companies. Contact information should be on the packaging used for the treats.