The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has notified the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) of reports of possible toxicity with chicken jerky treats from China.

The recently reported Fanconi syndrome-like symptoms in dogs are similar to those documented in 2007 by the AVMA, also associated with chicken jerky treats made in China.

The AVMA issued an alert to its members, state veterinary medical associations and allied organizations to 'remain vigilant for illness possibly linked to chicken jerky treat consumption.'

Dr Becker's Comments

As of this writing, the AVMA had received no recent reports from U.S. vets about suspected poisonings from chicken jerky treats manufactured in China. The extent of the problem hasn't been determined.

Fanconi Syndrome

Fanconi syndrome is a condition in which the tubules of the kidneys don't function properly. In healthy kidneys, the tubules reabsorb vitamins, minerals and sugars back into the body to be reused.

These tubules in a dog with Fanconi are not able to perform their reabsorption function. Solutes including amino acids, glucose, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and bicarbonate are dumped into the urine and passed from the body. The loss of these solutes leads to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and other problems.

Dogs with Fanconi syndrome exhibit symptoms of vomiting, lethargy and anorexia.

Often there is also:

  • Hypokalemia (low blood potassium)
  • Increase in liver enzymes
  • Acidosis
  • Glusosuria (glucose in the urine)

During the 2007 chicken jerky treat poisonings, affected dogs were given electrolyte and potassium supplementation, as well as supportive care. Most of the dogs recovered.

Current Situation

According to the AVMA, based on preliminary information about the Canadian cases, it appears the problem is more prevalent in small-breed dogs fed the chicken jerky treats regularly and in greater amounts than recommended on package labeling.

No recalls have been issued as of this writing for any chicken jerky treat product.

Even though chicken jerky treats are cited in recently reported cases in Canada, as well as reports to the AVMA in 2007 - 2009, no one has been able to establish a definitive link between the treats and sick dogs.

This is not a melamine contamination problem.

The brand(s) of chicken jerky treats involved in the Canadian reports have not been identified, nor has the specific toxin.

It is not known whether the toxicity problem is occurring in the U.S. in addition to Canada, and if it is, whether it's a renewed situation or ongoing from 2007.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Pet

I recommend you not feed chicken jerky treats to your dog. Select an all-natural, protein based treat like Beef & Bison Bites, or another healthy treat made in the U.S. As with any treats, they should be fed only occasionally, not routinely. This is especially true for small-breed dogs.

If you suspect your dog has become sick from chicken jerky treats, or if he is vomiting, refusing to eat, or lethargic, make an appointment to have him seen by your veterinarian.

Your vet will need your dog's dietary history, a blood screen and urinalysis to make a diagnosis of acquired Fanconi syndrome. Treatment will consist of blood gas monitoring, supportive care, and electrolyte and potassium supplementation.

The vast majority of dogs with the acquired form of Fanconi syndrome make a full recovery with proper treatment.