What Will Be in Your Pet’s Holiday Stocking?
By Barbara Phillippi
Many pet owners have been following, with great interest, media broadcasts and internet blogs about the mysterious illnesses and deaths of our beloved pets. It seems that dogs are most susceptible, as cats have been gravely sickened, but few have died.
I’m going to share an article from the online “Huffington Post,” which explains well the concerns of both vets and government agencies:
“Nearly 600 dogs and cats have died, and 3600 more have been sickened in the last six years as a result of eating poisonous jerky treats,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement Tuesday. (Oct 2, 2013.) The agency used the opportunity to put out a call to pet owners to assist in gathering information about the cause of the scourge.”
“The number of illnesses and death, the vast majority of which have affected dogs, has risen since January, when the FDA reported more than 3200 dogs and cats had been sick, and over 500 died, apparently from eating chicken, duck, sweet potato, and fruit-flavored jerky treats, many of which are imported from China. While the federal agency continues to investigate, it has not yet determined exactly why so many pets are getting sick.”
“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine Director Bernadette Dunham said.
And this from NBC:
But some say that reports of pets sickened from jerky treats have declined since a number of these pet products were taken off the shelves of many stores this past January, 2013, after trace amounts of six antibiotics, five of which are banned in the US, were found in analysis of the treats.
Off the shelves? Really decided to do a little research in our local area. After all the publicity, do local stores still carry pet treats manufactured outside our US borders? Yes, And here are a few.
Costco. It stands by the safety of these products. I was surprised, to say the least. According to the following article, Costco is still selling chicken jerky treats made in China. See this article. The following link also explains that Costco is still selling these jerky treats, and also gives a good list of USA-manufactured pet treats – see this USA Love List article.
Petsmart. Really? This corporate purveyor of a myriad of pet products can’t find those that are produced in the United States? Milk Bone dog biscuits have always been manufactured in the USA. Though not as exotic as “duck jerky,” the ingredients are listed on the package, and all Milk Bone varieties are manufactured in a Buffalo, NY plant. I confess to knowing to one of the Milk Bone production crew. I buy the smallest ones for Gracie, and use them as treats. She can have several, at intervals, instead of one large one. Dogs don’t register the size of their rewards.
Big Lots. I also found products that they carry the familiar “Sergeants” brand name, side by side, on the shelf of the Big Lots store in Lake Worth. One was made in the USA, the other in Vietnam.
CVS stores carry Duck Tenders from China, and Dingo Bones from Cambodia. They also carry a few items with the “Made in USA” label. Be diligent, examine every item.
Walgreens. Stopping at Walgreens, I headed to the pet department to check their shelves, and I was shocked! Walgreens features its own brand of treats, “Pet Shoppe.” There are lots of attractively packaged products, and if I hadn’t been curious about where each had originated, purchasing the stuff for my dog would surely be tempting, but the treat selection manufacturers are from all over the globe.
Chicken and duck jerky, from Thailand, on the shelf next to Oven Baked Pretzels, USA.
One package of treats noted that “Many veterinarians are concerned about the potential health risks of consuming rawhide.” And the treats in this bag were manufactured in China.
The two Hartz products I found had “Distributed by…,” an American company. That’s no proof of where the items were actually made. If the country of manufacture isn’t mentioned, I’d put it back on the hook.
Although the FDA currently has no authority to establish and regulate the safety of ingredients and manufacturing processes of pet food and other consumables, I believe that the words “Made in the USA” on packaging are an additional protection for our beloved pets. And I believe that here is a growing push to encourage our lawmakers to establish safety standards.
LET’S ASK THE VETS!
Surely veterinarians have information about these mysterious illness, have they seen any indication of the sudden sickening and death of pets here in Florida?
There are several vets at Palms West Veterinary Hospital, a busy practice on Folsom Rd in the Western Communities. It’s a 24/7 emergency/critical care facility, and I was fortunate to interview a vet that specializes in homeopathic treatment, Dr, Michael Dym, and a Chinese veterinarian, trained in the US, Dr Sarah Beg.
“I’ve heard about this problem, and we’re an emergency treatment clinic,” says Dr Dym, “so we see some pretty sick animals. But no owners have indicated that their animals had eaten Chinese treats prior to becoming ill.” And he believes that there hasn’t been any catastrophic sickness that ended in death where the cause couldn’t be diagnosed.
“That said, although the US has no standards for the ingredients in animal consumable products, I would check every treat or food package for the country of origin. No off shore products at all. And I have reservations about many of the mass-produced foods offered in pet stores and supermarkets. Mass marketed products suffer from quality control, and most are grain based.”
“If given a choice, I would be feeding holistic animal food produced in small facilities, such as Pet Guard products, manufactured in Jacksonville, FL, but sold nationwide, including at Whole Foods.” says Dr Dym.
Dr. Dym has been a veterinarian since 1991, with a BS in Animal Science from Cornell University, and a VMD from the U of Pennsylvania, two of the most prestigious veterinary training institutions in the world, He admits, “In veterinarian training, we are told what’s good to feed an animal. but we don’t get much training in nutrition itself. I always tell my clients to check the ingredients of their pet’s food, They’re listed in the order of prominent ingredient content. ‘Meat’ or ‘meat meal’ should be first and second, not meat parts, or grain. Grain based foods are less desirable. Try to avoid gluten, corn or other grains.”
Dr. Sarah Beg is very aware of the jerky treat problem. “I know that many stores have pulled any foods or treats that were manufactured in China,” she says, “but I’m really disappointed that PetSmart continues to carry these products, along with Walgreens and other outlets. “Well meaning pet owners buy dog food that boast of containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. But way too often, the manufacturing process destroys the efficacy of these additives, and purchasers are paying extra for ingredients that exist in trace amounts, or not at all.” And the boasts that products are “natural” mean absolutely nothing. Dr Beg adds that some pet foods offer the information that their contents are “human grade,” which is desirable.
She offers some suggestions: “If you can’t afford the best foods, you can supplement your dog’s diet with inexpensive ingredients such as organic brown rice, quinoa, and barley, found in any supermarket. To push it further, we believe that some foods are better in different situations; eg – if a dog is hot, and panting, we switch his diet from chicken to fish, which aids body cooling.”
The FDA said it continues to test jerky products for chemical contaminants, and continues to meet with Chinese regulators and U.S. pet food companies to share information. The agency recommends that owners who feed their pets jerky treats should be on the lookout for signs of decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption and increased urination in their pets.
If you believe that your pet may have been sickened by eating jerky products, report your findings to the FDA by calling 1-888-INFO-FDA,
One more note: many products that I examined did not list the country of manufacture. There were notations that it had been “distributed by” Kraft, Del Monte, etc, or some other familiar name, in an American location. Don’t be fooled – check. The country of manufacture will usually not be near the listing of the distributing agent.
Below is a link to a list of treats you’ll probably wish to avoid, published October 24, 2013.
I plan to contact Walgreens corporate offices, as the majority of this company’s pet treats are manufactured elsewhere, and request that in the interest of pets everywhere that the products made offshore be removed from their shelves. You might want to do the same. Here’s the link:
So… what’s going to be in your pet’s stocking this year? Hoping it has a label that says “Made in America.” And Happy Holidays, to you, your family, and pets, no matter how you choose to celebrate!
“In a perfect world, every dog would have a home, and every home would have a dog.”
Over a lifetime, Barbara Phillippi has had mostly “normal” dogs – a few German Shepherds and a bunch of wonderful “mutts,” each with its own wonderful, quirky, qualities. For many years, she taught 4-H dog obedience courses, under the authorization of Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension Services. That terrific program teaches the basics of dog behavior, of every breed, to young dog owners. Today she lives in Wellington with three Jack Russell Terriers – Woody, Gracie, and Buck. “These guys showed me a learning curve that I never knew existed!”