How Safe are Dog Jerky Treats?

Are Your Dogs Getting Sick from Dog Jerky Treats?

How safe are those tempty-tasty doggy treats that look and feel like human-grade beef or chicken jerky? Indeed how safe are any of the doggy chew treats lining the shelves of your local pet food or grocery store shelves? If a pet owner examines the historical problems with these treats they might hesitate before popping one of those morsels into Fido’s mouth. As far back as the year 2000 the FDA issued a product alert regarding pork ears, bacon chews, and dried pet treats. The affected products were produced by different manufacturers located in Canada. Both companies dutifully recalled their products in November of 1999. The reason cited was “potential” Salmonella contamination.

More recent problems with rawhide and jerky treats have surfaced. In March 31, 2007, the Del Monte Pet Products recalled their “jerky” style dog treats under the Jerky Treats©, Gravy Train© Beef Sticks and Pounce Meaty Morsels© brands. Private brand labels of Ol’Roy, Dollar General, Happy Tails produced by this same company were also recalled.

In yet another March 2007 recall, pig-ear dog treats manufactured by Petrapport, Inc. were recalled. Again the culprit was Salmonella and this time it wasn’t just suspected but it was confirmed by laboratory tests. These bulk-packed pig ears were sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club. (The pig ears were imported from Chili.)

As if that weren’t enough, in April of 2007 the FDA issued a consumer warning stating “Dog Treats May Present Health Hazard.” The FDA statement warned consumers that American Bullie A.B. Bull Pizzle Puppy chews and Dog Chews manufactured by T.W. Enterprises of Ferndale, Washington, might present a risk to pets and people. Once again it appears that the culprit was Salmonella.

More recently the FDA issued a notification regarding Chicken Jerky products for dogs. The notification was released on December 19, 2008. Although the FDA received numerous complaints about associated illnesses in dogs who had consumed the chicken jerky there are to date no laboratory substantiations that the chicken jerky (manufactured in China) is contaminated.

While conducting research on this I discovered an interesting tidbit of information on the FDA web site:

From the 2001 FDA Science Forum
Board E04a
Characterization of Salmonella Obtained from Animal Derived Dog Treats in the United States
D.G. White1*, S. Zhao1, A. Datta2, S. Friedman1,S.D. McDermott1, P.F. McDermott1, L. English1, S. Ayers1, and R.D. Walker1, 1DAFM, OR, CVM, FDA, Laurel, MD, and 2DFS, ORA, FDA, Rockville, MD

Dried pig ear dog treats have been implicated in human salmonellosis cases in Canada. To determine whether similar pet treats available in the U.S. were also contaminated, one-hundred and fifty-eight, randomly sampled, imported dog treats made from dried pig ears and other animal parts, were assayed for Salmonella. Forty-nine percent (n=78) of dog treat samples were positive for Salmonella. Twenty-seven different Salmonella serotypes were recovered including Anatum (n=10), Typhimurium (n=7), and Infantis (n=7). The majority of Salmonella isolates were susceptible to the 17 antimicrobials tested, however, resistance was observed to tetracycline (26 %), streptomycin (23 %), sulfamethoxazole (19 %), and chloramphenicol (8 %). Twenty-eight Salmonella isolates were resistant to at least one antimicrobial, whereas 10 isolates displayed resistance to 4 antimicrobials.Two S. Typhimurium DT104 isolates displayed the characteristic penta-resistance phenotype (ACSSuT). One isolate (S. Brandenburg) was resistant to 8 antimicrobials including ampicillin, chloramphenicol, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, cephalothin, gentamicin, and apramycin. Salmonella isolates were further screened for the presence of class 1 integrons via PCR. While the majority of Salmonella isolates assayed did not contain class 1 integrons, three Salmonella isolates displaying resistance patterns of ACSSuT or KACSSuT possessed two chromosomal integrons of 1 and 1.2 kb. In conclusion, this study indicates that animal derived dog treats available in the U.S. are a potential source of animal and human salmonella infections.

From the above report it is more than fair to state that imported pet treats manufactured from rawhide or other animal body parts have a high rate of contamination. Anything that tests at forty-nine percent positive for Salmonella can equate into a 50/50 risk factor of Salmonella contamination for both your dog and yourself (Keep in mind that humans can contract Salmonella by merely handling the contaminated product.).

So why is Salmonella showing up with such regularity in rawhide, jerky treats or pig ear treats? One way to uncover the possible source of Salmonella contamination is to understand how animal hide is processed and where these raw materials come from. First, let’s understand this: Most rawhide is not produced in America: It is imported from overseas, mostly from third-world countries.

Keep in mind that manufacturers do not have to divulge where their raw materials come. They can proudly tout a “Made in the U.S.A.” product if it is partially processed, packaged, and distributed in the United States. This does not mean that the product is manufactured with ingredients from American sources. In fact, the product can contain 100% imported raw materials and still be allowed to advertise itself as Made in the U.S.A. (For more information on this see number 11 at this link: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/2lg-4.html)

Dog rawhide treats and many “jerky” style products are manufactured from rawhide scraps. Here is a statement that sheds some light on how the hide tanning industry views these “scraps:” The scraps are often chemically treated and present disposal problems. A process for utilizing rawhide scraps would save money and minimize waste. (Click here to read more.)

Why do these scraps present a disposal problem? Because beef, pork, sheep, and goat hide is treated with harmful chemicals to strip away fur, hair, and fat from the skin of the animal. Today third-world countries have become the largest producers of cheap leather goods and “raw” hide scraps. Therefore hide processing still follows antiquated methods. The raw hides are soaked in salt solutions to help remove hair, nails, fats, fibers, etc. Some utilize chemicals in this “lime” bath such as Sodium Sulphide, Sodium Hydrosulfite, Arsenic Sulphide, Calcium Hydrosulfide, Dimethyl Amine, and Sodium Sulphydrate. Furthermore, to soften the skins other agents are used including pigeon and dog dung. (Yes! Pigeon and dog dung! That was not a misstatement.)

Certainly anything that involves the use of feces can explain why there is a high-risk of Salmonella contamination (not to mention other concerns) in rawhide treats. In addition, slaughter-house regulations are much more lax in third world countries. This can explain why pig ears imported from South America are likely to be contaminated with Salmonella or even e-coli. And Salmonella is an extremely pesky bacteria that has a high rate of survival even if the product is irradiated.

One important thing to note is the caution usually present on rawhides, pig ears, and other pet treats, even pet vitamins: “Not for human consumption.” This statement should lead any pet owner to ask the question, “Why would you give something to your pet that is unsafe for YOU to consume?”

Salmonella: The new bane of the pet food industry?

What’s a Pet Parent to Do?

Salmonella has reared its ugly head again, this time in the Hartz Mountain Rawhide Chips. I am not a big advocate of feeding dogs rawhide or pig ears: They are indigestible, some occurrences of intestinal blockage have been reported, and some dogs (when left unsupervised) have choked on them. In addition, some of these products use animal parts from Asia or other third-world countries. These countries do not regulate pesticides, chemicals, or sanitation. Even if the hides are from the United States the chews could be processed in a foreign country. Arsenic is just one of the harmful substances used in rawhide processing, another is bleaching solutions (to make the hide white). Unfortunately, dog owners are blissfully unaware of this and they continue to give Fido these treats. It’s not that dog parents want to give their four-pawed pals something harmful, it’s just that most people believe these products wouldn’t be on the market if they were dangerous. And yet, time and time again the pet product industry breaks this trust.

You might recall that back in August another outbreak of Salmonella turned up in pet food. This time it was the Mars Petcare US company. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered a link between Salmonella Schwarzengrund, pet food, and an outbreak of Salmonella that affected sixty-six people and spanned 18 states. As it turns out, these people were affected by the exact same strain of Salmonella discovered in the Mars Petcare brand of Red Flannel Large Breed Adult Formula and the Krasdale Gravy kibble. The Pennsylvania Health Department also discovered traces of the strain at the Pennsylvania factory where the food was produced.

Mars was quick to act, recalling the food within a week of this discovery. Then once again in September another Mars Petcare US pet food recall was made. Again it was over “potential” salmonella contamination. This time a variety of their brands were affected and products in 31 states were pulled from the shelves.

No doubt about it, Salmonella is on the rise. In fact, the CDC reports that there are about 40,000 cases of Salmonella poisoning in the United States each year. That’s just the ones that are reported — milder cases are rarely reported — so it is difficult to state with certainty exactly how many cases actually occur each year. The problem is that Salmonella is highly transferable. That is, a person handling contaminated dog food can get it on their hands and accidentally ingest it. Another problem is that drug-resistant strains of Schwarzengrund Salmonella are increasing. And if a person contracts a drug-resistant variety they will require prolonged hospitalization. In some cases it results in death. As is usually the case with disease, the elderly and young are more likely to become victims. Furthermore, Schwarzengrund Salmonella can create multiple problems, even after a person recovers. One is Rieter’s Syndrome, an arthritis-like disease that causes painful joints, eye irritation, and painful urination.

On the whole, the frequency of Schwarzengrund Salmonella outbreaks is alarming. It reminds us to be cautious when handling all food products, including pet food. Certainly we need to take care in washing feeding bowls, utensils, and measuring cups. In addition, we want to caution small children about playing with pet food. Finally, as pet parents and consumers we want to educate ourselves about the food we are feeding our dogs and cats. Being enlightened will help us select the best quality of dog food or cat food for the four-pawed members of our family. It’s not just about our pets, Salmonella involves the human members of our family too. Let’s all wise up about pet food, take the time to investigate and research — after all, you wouldn’t put anything harmful into your baby’s mouth would you? By the same token, no loving pet parent would want to place harmful food into their furry baby’s bowl.