NEW YORK, May 19 (UPI) -- The deaths of more than 1,000 dogs may be linked to the presence of toxic substances in jerky treats imported from or containing ingredients sourced from China, according to a press release from the FDA.
As of May 1, 2014, the agency has received nearly 5,000 complaints of illness in pets who consumed chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, "nearly all of which are imported from China."
"The reports involve more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, three people, and include more than 1,000 canine death," the release reads.
According to the the FDA, symptoms include gastrointestinal/liver disease, kidney or urinary disease, and various other signs such as neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms.
The FDA has so far been unable to identify a specific cause for the reported illnesses and deaths, but the agency is now conducting a case study in partnership with the CDC, soliciting information from veterinarians across the country to assist in their ongoing investigation. The hope is that compiling and analyzing data about related animal illnesses and deaths will help pinpoint the culprit.
From the release: "The agency continues to caution pet owners that jerky pet treats are not required for a balanced diet, and encourage them to consult with their veterinarians, both prior to feeding treats and if they notice symptoms in their pets."
The release does not cite or recall any specific brands at this time.
Pet owners whose pets show signs or symptoms which may be related to the consumption of jerky treats, including vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy should contact their veterinarian immediately and are encouraged to report complaints to the FDA's website or by calling 1-888-INFO-FDA.
"While FDA does not necessarily respond to every individual complaint submitted, each report is valuable and becomes part of the body of knowledge that helps to inform our investigation."