RENO, Nev. - At least 360 dogs and one cat have died after eating chicken jerky pet treats made in China.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, over the past 18 months the treats have been linked to more than 2,000 illnesses as well as the deaths.
Back in April, Amber Candido's dog became one of those sick dogs.
"It was all of the sudden one day when I came home from school and she wasn't moving, and she just wasn't really responding to me," she said.
Candido normally fed her dog, Whitey, a jerky treat in the morning as she left for school.
"It was my way of saying I'll be back," she said.
The change in Whitey's behavior worried Amber, so she took her dog to the veterinarian.
"I went for five days straight and they did test after test," Candido said.
But each time, the test was negative.
"The final sign was I went to pick her up, and she was literally laying in a pile of her own urine."
Amber then took her dog the UC Davis' animal clinic. There they discovered it was the jerky treats causing the problems. They gave her a round of antibiotics and placed her on a strict diet. After about a week, Whitey was back to her energetic self.
Just like the 2,000 other pets, these treats had caused Whitey to develop a Fanconi-like syndrome.
"Fanconi syndrome is a type of kidney disease where the dogs start drinking a lot and urinating a lot and their kidneys are loosing the capability to filter out toxins," Dr. Mike Ditsworth of Kings Row Pet Hospital said.
Despite the reported illnesses, these treats have not been recalled.
The FDA said it will begin testing treats to see whether irradiation of the products may have contributed to the illnesses and deaths.
Since 2007, the FDA has received growing numbers of reports of illnesses and deaths in pets fed the jerky treats. But the cause is still unknown.
"They're having a difficult time trying to narrow down what the toxic ingredient is and what's the source because they're coming from China, but there's so many factories that make it."
The FDA has inspected at least five factories in China that make these treats. However, Chinese officials refused to allow samples of the treats be taken to the U.S. for testing.
Most of the complaints focus on treats made of chicken. But the FDA also has cautioned consumers about treats made with duck or sweet potato, as well as any where the chicken or duck is wrapped around dried fruit or yams.
For now the safest route to take is to throw out any pet treats from China, and make sure to buy only American made treats.
They can be easily found in any pet or grocery store. Look for an American flag or a label that says 'Made in America."
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