This issue has actually been going on for years—at least since 2007—but a new warning from the FDA is highlighting the fact that many dogs and some cats have been sickened, some fatally, by a variety of jerky products commonly sold in pet stores. 580 pets are reported to have died from the effects of such treats in the past six years. However, since dogs and cats unfortunately die all the time, and a full investigation into the cause of death is relatively rare, it seems to this writer safe to assume that many more have actually fallen victim to the toxic jerky.
Most of the implicated products have been manufactured in China, but the FDA, despite continuing attempts, has been unable to isolate the source or nature of the toxin. Typical symptoms observed include:
- decreased appetite;
- decreased activity;
- diarrhea, sometimes with blood;
- increased water consumption; and/or
- increased urination.
Some of the jerky products have already been taken off the market, but the illnesses have continued, albeit at an apparently reduced rate.
The FDA is not recommending what would apparently be a very obvious bit of commonsense for pet owners: Just quit feeding your dogs (or cats) these jerky treats which are commercially-made and marketed for pets. They’re basically saying to keep doing it if you want, but watch out for the symptoms, and, if anything terrible happens, please put the leftover treats in a plastic bag and send them to us for analysis. R.I.P, Fido (or Fluffy).
This dog-owner’s view is that these things clearly constitute extremely low-quality and carelessly-made food (how unusual in the pet food industry!) and one should simply look for safer and healthier alternatives for one’s pet, of which there are a limitless quantity, especially if one is willing to be creative. And such alternatives will usually work out more cheaply in the long run as well.
If one is committed to the idea of jerky, then the acquisition of a food dehydrator would allow you to make it yourself, using safe ingredients from the supermarket. And then you can also even eat it yourself (when you get tired of chewing on tennis balls).
For small dogs in particular (but well worth trying with larger dogs too) unsalted peanuts make for very handy and healthy treat, one at a time. Cheerios can also be used this way.
Staying on the peanut theme—because virtually all dogs love the taste—you can get something like a rubber Kong toy, and smear some unsalted plain natural peanut butter (from the human store, not the pet store) inside it, and put it in the freezer. This is great for giving your dog before you leave him or her alone; they might start actually looking forward to your departure. Putting some plain yogurt in a Kong and freezing it is another good thing to try. (Naturally, one should not overdose one’s pet on any of these ingredients—a little goes a long way.)
There are no shortage of other ideas out there if one seeks them out, but these happen to be the ones that are tried and true in our household. No mystery ingredients, no mystery illnesses, no visions of huge Chinese factories belching smoke and swimming in chemicals as they make “treats” for pets as cheaply as possible and then stick them in brightly-colored plastic wrappers with pictures of happy panting pooches. All of that stuff is just garbage, if you ask us, and if your dog needs to eat garbage surely it is much better off going through your own trash can rather than eating an imported variety. There are no doubt some decent commercial pet treats out there, but a pet owner needs to be very selective indeed. And given the news these days, it would seem to be pretty jerky to be giving your dog the jerky.