MIAMI (CBSMiami/CBS) — The Food and Drug Administration wants South Florida veterinarians, and others around the country, to let them know if they encounter pets getting sick after eating jerky treats.
About 3,600 dogs and 10 cats have been sickened in the U.S. since 2007, resulting in the deaths of 580 pets.READ MORE: Condo Collapse: Search & Rescue Continues, Death Toll Now At Four
FDA officials say this is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks it has encountered.
The treats in question are sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit.
According to the FDA, most of the offending treats come from China, but there isn’t one particular brand to watch out for.
“These animals are presenting kind of vague symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, they are lethargic, they are inappetant,” Dr. Urs Giger, a professor at University of Pennsylvania school of veterinary medicine. He has been studying this illness, known as fanconi (prono: fan-coney) syndrome, at his lab in Philadelphia.
Symptoms seen to date include decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water drinking, and increased urination within hours of eating the treats.
Some pet owners, like Robin Pierre, are frustrated, awaiting answers.READ MORE: 'It's Harder When It's In Your Back Yard': Former Miami-Dade Fire Chief Of Condo Collapse Search & Rescue
“You can’t have so many pups die and the common denominator be the chicken jerky imported from China,” said Pierre.
In 2012 Pierre’s two-year-old pug Bella died from kidney failure. She claims it was shortly after Bella ate “Waggin Dog Chicken Jerky Tenders,” a product made in China and distributed by Nestle Purina.
About 60 percent of cases involved gastrointestinal illness, and about 30 percent involved kidney and urinary systems. Severe cases may present with kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder. The remaining cases involved a variety of symptoms, such as collapse, convulsions or skin issues.
The FDA also issued letters to veterinary clinics across the country urging them to spread the word to pet owners and send in any materials that might help with the investigation.
In some cases, vets will be asked to send in an animal’s blood, urine and tissue samples for testing, with the owner’s consent.
Since 2011, the FDA has tested more than 1,200 jerky pet treat samples, working with laboratories across the country. The agency is also working with regulators and scientists in China to search for a cause.MORE NEWS: Condo Collapse: Families Anxiously Await Word On Loved Ones
The FDA has more information for pet owners in this fact sheet.