Cases of Acquired Fanconi Arise Despite Treat-market Shift
By: Edie Lau For The VIN News Service
Dogs fed jerky-style pet treats labeled as made in the United States are turning up with a rare kidney disease that’s been associated with jerky made in China. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman confirmed Friday that the agency is “aware of complaints related to ‘USA’ made products.” Siobhan DeLancey of the FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine said: “We have found some of these products may contain ingredients from outside of the U.S. FDA continues its investigation into these, as well as other, jerky treats potentially linked to illnesses.”
Dr. Urs Giger, director of the Metabolic Genetics Screening Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, said his laboratory has diagnosed recent cases of acquired Fanconi disease in dogs that ate treats that ostensibly were not made in China or with ingredients from China.
Since 2007, the FDA has been receiving complaints of illness in pets, predominantly dogs, that ate jerky treats. The phenomenon became commonly understood as a Chinese-chicken-jerky-treat problem because most of the products were chicken-based and made in China. Until recently, virtually all chicken jerky for pets was imported from China.
FDA and other investigators have been unable to identify a contaminant in the implicated treats or other reason for illness. But public pressure led many companies selling treats to shift or establish manufacturing operations in the United States within the past year or two.
In February, the FDA reported that the rate of complaints it received involving jerky treats slowed between May and Sept. 30, raising hopes that the problem might resolve on its own. Whether that trend has continued since then is unclear; the agency has not posted an updated tally.
One thing is clear: Veterinarians still are seeing cases of jerky-related illnesses. Dr. Bonnie Werner, an internal medicine specialist at Animal Emergency Medical Center in Torrance, California, for example, is treating a 2-year-old Yorkshire terrier who was referred by her regular veterinarian. The dog was sick with vomiting and diarrhea for more than a week prior.
According to Werner, tests showed the dog had impaired kidney function and glycosuria — glucose in urine — which are signs that point to acquired Fanconi disease. Werner said the dog’s owner was aware of the link between jerky treats and illness but thought that products made in the U.S. were safe. As a regular treat, the 5-pound terrier was given Spot Farms “all-natural chicken strips,” Werner said. The strips are described on the product website as made from “antibiotic-free chicken raised on family farms in Kentucky.”