For the first time, three people who ate pet-jerky treats that have been linked to the deaths and illnesses of thousands of dogs — two toddlers who ingested them accidentally and an adult who may have been snacking on them — became ill, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported this week.
One of the children later was diagnosed with a salmonella infection, which can be spread by touching tainted products, says Juli Putnam, a spokeswoman for the FDA. The other child developed gastrointestinal illness and fever that were similar to the symptoms of dogs in the house that also ate the treats. The adult reported nausea and headache, she says.
The two toddlers ate imported jerky-treat products, and the adult ate a domestic jerky pet-treat product, Putnam says.
In its latest assessment of a mystery that continues to vex federal investigators, the FDA says the deaths of more than 1,000 dogs have now been linked to toxic pet-jerky treats from China.
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Thousands of complaints of pet illnesses — 5,600 dogs and 24 cats — tied to the products have been filed with the agency, but, after seven years of testing and inspections of plants in China that produce the treats, investigators still can’t pinpoint the source of contamination.
About 1,800 of those complaints were filed since the FDA’s last update in October. Most of the complaints involve chicken jerky (treats, tenders and strips), but others include duck, sweet potatoes and treats.
About 60 percent of the animals reported gastrointestinal illnesses, the FDA says. About 30 percent reported kidney or urinary problems. The remaining 10 percent showed other symptoms, such as convulsions, tremors, hives and skin irritation. The agency says 72 of the dogs that developed kidney problems were diagnosed with Fanconi or Fanconi-like syndrome, a rare kidney disease.
Samples of the treats have been tested for toxins known to cause these symptoms, including salmonella, metals, furans, pesticides, antibiotics, mycotoxins, rodenticides, nephrotoxins and have been screened for other chemicals and poisonous compounds, according to the FDA.
The signs of toxic metals have not been found in tested samples, it says. In January, 2013, six unapproved antibiotics were found in some treats from China and pulled from U.S. shelves.
And in its latest report, the FDA says the antiviral drug amantadine was found in some samples sold more than a year ago. The drug, used to treat Parkinson’s disease and influenza in humans, was not thought to have contributed to the illnesses or deaths; however, the Chinese were warned that the products should not contain the drug and its use could be grounds for banning sale of the treats in the United States, the FDA says.
The signs of illness related to pet-jerky treats, which can occur within hours or days of feeding, include decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption; and / or increased urination, according to the FDA.
More information is available on the FDA site.