In September 2007, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) issued an alert that stated we had been receiving calls from veterinarians reporting Fanconi syndrome-like disease in dogs that appeared to be associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats made in China. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was alerted and investigated the complaints, but testing of the products did not identify any toxins or contaminants.
What is currently known:
- Several cases in Canada have been reported to the CVMA and they have notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
- The FDA has been made aware of the cases in Canada and their resemblance to the earlier cases in the U.S.
- Based on very preliminary information, it appears that this problem is more likely to occur in small-breed dogs that are fed these treats regularly and/or in amounts exceeding the label-recommended frequency or amount.
- Dogs affected with this syndrome usually have a history of vomiting, lethargy and anorexia. A review by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine of the 2007 cases stated that blood chemistry in many cases revealed hypokalemia and a mild increase in liver enzymes. Blood gas analysis indicated acidosis, and glucosuria and granular casts may be seen. Fanconi screens on urine were positive. At the time, the ACVIM recommended treatment consisting of supportive care, electrolyte supplementation (including potassium supplementation) and blood gas monitoring.
- In 2007, most of the dogs affected recovered with proper treatment.
- No recalls have been issued for any chicken jerky treat product.
- Although chicken jerky treat consumption was a common thread in the cases reported to the CVMA recently and to the AVMA in 2007-2009, a definitive cause-and-effect link has not been established.
- Melamine, the contaminant that led to the wide-scale pet food recalls of 2007, is not the cause of the current situation. Product testing in 2007 was negative for melamine or melamine-related products, and the disease caused by melamine is different from that seen in these cases.
What is not known:
- The brand(s) of chicken jerky treats that may be affected by this alert.
- The cause (contaminant, toxin or otherwise) of the problem and the exact mechanism by which it causes the illness.
- Whether or not the current situation is limited to Canada or is also occurring in the U.S. and if it is occurring in the U.S., if it is a recurrence or if the problem has been going on (but potentially unrecognized) since 2007.
Recommendations for veterinarians until the situation becomes more clear:
- Veterinarians who suspect a pet illness associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats should report the case to the FDA. Canadian veterinarians should report cases to CVMA Member Services unless directed otherwise by the CVMA.
- For more information about diagnosing and treating the condition, please refer to the ACVIM’s recommendations, which will be updated as needed.
- If a dog presents with a history of vomiting, lethargy and anorexia, coupled with a history of consumption of chicken jerky treats, the following tests may be indicated to indicate Fanconi syndrome-like disease: complete blood chemistry, blood gas analysis and urinalysis. A review by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine of the 2007 cases stated that blood chemistry in many cases revealed hypokalemia and a mild increase in liver enzymes. Blood gas analysis indicated acidosis, and urinalysis consistently showed glucosuria and granular casts. Fanconi screens on urine were positive.
- During the 2007 cases, the ACVIM recommended treatment consisting of supportive care, electrolyte supplementation (including liberal potassium supplementation) and blood gas monitoring.
Recommendations for pet owners:
- It is up to you to decide whether or not you will feed your dog chicken jerky treats. If you choose to do so, we recommend that you feed them in small quantities and only on occasion. This is especially important for small-breed dogs.
- If your pet is vomiting, lethargic, or does not want to eat, consult your veterinarian, especially if there is a history of chicken jerky treat consumption. If your pet is showing these signs, it does not necessarily mean that your pet has been made ill by chicken jerky treats – your veterinarian will likely need to perform tests to determine the cause of the problem.
- If your pet becomes ill and you and/or your veterinarian suspect the illness may be associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats, discontinue feeding the treats and save the treats and packaging (storing them out of your pet’s reach and in a place where a family member will not mistakenly feed them to your pet) in case they are needed for testing.