The agency asked pet owners or their veterinarians Wednesday to come forward if their dogs or cats have become sick after eating the treats. In a release, the FDA said 3,600 dogs and 10 cats have become ill since 2007 and 580 have died.
The FDA said most of the cases involve jerky treats imported from China. It said it has tested the product and visited the Chinese factories and has been unable to find any cause for the illness.
"This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," said Dr. Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA's center for veterinary medicine. "Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it."
Veterinarians may be asked to provide blood, tissue and urine samples from sick pets, with the government paying shipping costs, the FDA said. It also advised that jerky treats are not necessary for a balanced diet and advised pet owners to be cautious about providing them.