Over the past decade, pet food and treat related illnesses and recalls, many of which are linked to products from China, have made many pet owners more wary about what they buy their pets. It can be difficult, and sometimes expensive, to provide treats sourced entirely from the USA. Of course, treats aren’t medically necessary, but they’re important for training and good for variety. I’m not a veterinarian, but I keep up with dog news and recalls. Here’s what I know and what’s working for my dogs.
First, the big and relatively easy one. The FDA recently issued an update on their investigation into complaints of kidney and gastrointestinal illness related to jerky treats. The short answer is that they still have no idea what’s causing the problem, but they still believe jerky treats are related. Most of the potentially dangerous treats have been from China, but because they still don’t know what’s contaminating the treats, they can’t say for sure. Most of the instances have been related to chicken jerky, but some sick dogs have eaten sweet potato or duck jerky.
While the majority of the sick dogs have been smaller breeds, and many have eaten more than the recommended amount of jerky treats regularly, there doesn’t seem to be a way to guarantee safe jerky treats at this time. Even though my dogs are unlikely to be affected because of their size, I’ve taken jerky treats off the menu. It’s easy enough to avoid one type of treat, but what about everything else?
Other treats are less clear. After the pet food recalls and pet deaths due to melamine contamination connected to a Chinese manufacturer in 2007, many people are wary of feeding foods from countries where animal foods aren’t well-regulated. Unfortunately, even foods manufactured in the USA probably contain ingredients from China and other countries with different food safety standards.
My compromise is to vary treats extensively, and mix in safe human foods so that if anything is contaminated my dogs are less likely to ingest a dangerous amount. As it’s becoming easier to buy treats from countries with higher food safety standards I have quit buying dog treats from China, or which aren’t labeled with a country of origin. Many dog treats are only labeled with a distributor location, but could be manufactured in many places. This isn’t a guarantee that I won’t have problems, but it makes me feel better.
Keeping up with dog news somewhere you’ll check regularly is probably the easiest way to keep your pet safe. There are tons of dog, training, and veterinary news sources and if there is a recall or potential pet food safety issue, they’ll all blow up with it. The sooner you can find out about a problem, the sooner you can check your dog’s foods and monitor them for any symptoms. Accurate information is the best way to make good choices for your particular pets and situation.