WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Administration is asking pet owners to help them pinpoint why thousands of animals were getting sick from eating jerky treats, mainly manufactured in China.
The agency has spent years trying to find out why 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. were sickened by different brands of the treats since the agency first started getting complaints in 2007.
A reported 580 animals died out of the thousands affected.
"This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," says FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine Director Bernadette Dunham. "Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it."
According to the FDA, 60 percent of cases involved gastrointestinal illness, and about 30 percent involved kidney and urinary systems. After eating treats made from chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit some of the animals started to exhibit symptoms including decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or increased urination.
Despite years of ongoing investigation into what has caused the infection, the FDA remains unable to pinpoint the exact cause.
More than 1,200 tests were conducted by the FDA including checks for Salmonella, metals, pesticides and other poisonous compounds in different brands of the treats but has been unable to decipher what is causing the infection. FDA agents even visited plants in China where the jerky treats were made, trying to uncover the cause, but were unsuccessful.
Last year Nestle Purina and Del Monte pulled treats made in China from the shelves after New York officials said they found trace amounts of a banned antibiotic in Del Monte's Milo's Kitchen products and in Nestle Purina's Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch treats.
The FDA said the amount of drugs found in these products were so low they're unlikely to have caused the illnesses. Although inspections at the Chinese factories were inconclusive, the FDA said it would also look at the ingredient supply chain to try to find a cause.