The FDA now says 360 dogs and one cat have died in the last 18 months, reportedly after eating chicken jerky treats made in China.
An FDAreport released this week says they've received 2,200 reports of illnesses linked to the treats - the deaths are included in that number. There is no geographic pattern to the illnesses and deaths - cases have been reported from all 50 states and 6 Canadian provinces.
The FDA says the majority of complaints involve chicken jerky (treats, tenders, and strips), but others include duck, sweet potato, and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes, or yams.
The report goes on to say that in the past 10 years, there has been a dramatic increase in importation of pet food from China. It is estimated that nearly 86 million pounds of pet food came from China in 2011. Pet treats, including jerky pet treats, are currently considered the fastest growing segment in the pet food market.
The FDA has been investigating the reports of illnesses, but no definitive cause has been determined.
"The ongoing global investigation is complex, multifaceted and includes a wide variety of experts at the FDA including toxicologists, epidemiologists, veterinary researchers, forensic chemists, microbiologists, field investigators and senior agency officials," the report says.
The FDA says product samples have been tested for contaminants known to cause the symptoms and illnesses reported in pets, and they are now expanding testing to include irradiation byproducts and they are consulting with NASA experts about it.
In their report, the FDA says jerky treats are not necessary for pets to have a balanced diet - basically advising people not to feed them to their pets. But if you choose to give your pet the treats, watch them closely for any or all of the following signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the products: decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination.
An online petitionhas been launched by a concerned pet owner, urging the FDA and manufacturers of chicken jerky treats imported from China to "immediately halt all sales until the treats can be safely sourced and proven to no longer be dangerous to our companions."
More than 22,000 signatures have been gathered so far, some from people who say their pets became ill and/or died after eating the jerky treats.