The United States Food and Drug Administration is warning dog owners to be wary of jerky treats. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, they are believed to be responsible for more than 500 pet deaths in the last six years.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- "Of course all dog owners say this but he's a very special dog," said Angela Pringle, who brought her black lab named Jager to the Saratoga Springs dog park Wednesday morning.
"We take walks together, runs," said Rosmarie Amendolia of Corinth, whose collie, Josie, and golden retriever, Cody, joined her at the dog park.
Long established as man's best friend, the modern dog is often as well fed as its owner.
"Usually I give him rice cakes," Pringle said.
"She gets a lot of carrots and broccoli and things like that, apples," said Juanita McGrath, who adopted her lab, Cocoa, four years ago.
With countless products available on pet store shelves, a new warning from the Food and Drug Administration is especially troubling for dog lovers.
"If you’re an animal lover, it's difficult," Amendolia said.
According to the FDA, more than 3,600 dogs in the last six years have become sick after eating jerky treats.
"The majority of the signs we're seeing associated with the jerky treat toxicity are GI signs, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy," said Dr. Joy Lucas, a veterinarian at Upstate Animal Medical Center in Saratoga Springs.
Typically made with the chicken, duck or sweet potatoes, the popular treats are believed to be responsible for nearly 600 deaths. Most of the products are made in China.
"The jerky treats I've never really given to her, maybe once or twice," McGrath said.
"We don't carry any of them,” said Sarah Landry, the buyer for Benson’s Pet Center, which has five Capital Region locations. “They typically are more of your mass market products."
Despite analyzing samples and visiting overseas factories, FDA officials have yet to pinpoint an exact cause.
"If any item or if it's even processed in a foreign country, I would just not even consider feeding it," said Lucas, who added she hasn’t had any pets come into her clinic that became sick after eating jerky treats.
"When you can't necessarily trust what's out there, you kind of have to do your own research and figure it out," said Landry, herself an owner of two dogs.
Local experts recommend sticking to natural products, locally made when possible.
"Made in the USA, that's a really big thing right now," Landry said.
If you're not sure if something's safe, ask for help. For most dog lovers, no precaution seems to be too excessive.
"It's scary,” McGrath said. “I don't want my dog to get sick because I'm giving him a treat."
"They [manufacturers] should be held accountable for what they put out on the market," Pringle said.
To read the FDA’s statement, visit the agency’s official website, where officials have posted tips on what signs to look for in your pet and how to properly report the illness.