FDA: We Can't Prove Chinese Jerky Killed Hundreds Of Dogs, But Maybe Avoid It Anyway



“Imported Chinese jerky?” you might be saying. “Who would buy their pet any food from a country whose safety standards would shock Upton Sinclair?” Lots of well-meaning Americans are feeding their dogs and cats imported treats. Every year, the United States imports 86 million pounds of pet food products from China. Some of that food is jerky that’s packaged and sold under brand names you may recognize: Waggin’ Train (Purina), Canyon Creek (Purina), and Milo’s Kitchen (Del Monte) are the most common. Now thousands of pet owners claim that these products may have sickened or even killed their animals, and demand recalls and justice. The only problem is that the FDA can’t find any proof of harmful chemicals or pathogens in the meat.

The FDA has been investigating possible jerky-related illnesses since 2007, and if there is something in the products harming animals, current technology can’t detect it. Their newest advice: dogs don’t need to eat jerky to be healthy. If you must feed jerky, look out for symptoms: loss of appetite, diarrhea, and increased drinking and urination. If you notice these symptoms, stop feeding treats and get to a vet.

Check labels carefully: most of the treats at discount stores and even at your favorite big-box pet store are imported from the Land of Melamine. Even those in packages emblazoned with American flags and cowboys.

(Full disclosure here: My family believes, but cannot prove, that our dog died of kidney failure in 2010 after she had been eating treats for months that were made in China, then had similar symptoms to the animals the FDA is now investigating.)

FDA Investigates Animal Illnesses Linked to Jerky Pet Treats [FDA Report]
Animal Parents Against Pet Treats and Food Made in China [Facebook]


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  1. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Great. My dog loves Waggin’ Train chicken wrapped apple treats. When I looked at the ingredient list, it’s pretty short, like chicken, apples, etc. In fact, he likes all the flavors, ham, duck, chicken wrapped little cookies. I did not look at country of origin, and I just stocked up with BOGO coupons and a good sale at the store. I’m going to check the packaging when I get home. If it doesn’t mention where it’s actually made, or where the ingredients come from, I think it should because I would not knowingly give my best buddy Chinese crap.

    My mom suspects her beloved Mickie cat was also a victim of melamine. She confirmed he ate canned food that was recalled, and he got very sick and had to be put down a few months later. But, he was nearly 16, so it could have been old age. I’m going with the malamine theory, as he was so mean and nasty he couldn’t have gotten that sick without help.

    • ashley440 says:

      Waggin’ Train is produced in China, the label on the back says so, right at the bottom near the UPC. I feed several varieties of this brand to my dog, who loves them. So far, he hasn’t shown any signs of sickness, but I will keep an eye out going forward.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        I found this in the FDA article: “The FDA did identify that one firm falsified receiving documents for glycerin, which is an ingredient in most jerky pet treats.”

        This is exactly the problem. Disreputable factories will often provide “good samples” for clearing a shipment, but the shipment itself could have been subcontracted and made using less than stellar ingredients. I’m going to email the Waggin’ Train people and start asking questions.

    • missminimonster says:

      That’s what happened with our cat. He got kidney failure and was eating some of the recalled canned food, but he was also 13.

  2. scoutermac says:

    My wife ownes a dog walking and pet sitting service. ( http://www.indydogwalkers.com ) Many of her clients have purchased these treats for their dogs. I only know of one that has gotten sick so far and its not clear the treats caused it.

  3. Looseneck says:

    My dogs used to go through a 4lb bag of Waggin’ Train Chicken Jerky in 2 weeks. I stopped buying the Chinese crap even though they love these treats more than anything else. I know there is no proof, but I do not want them to get sick.

    It is so hard finding treats made in the USA. If the package says “Distributed by [some company in the states], I interpret that as “Made in China” and don’t buy it. I started giving them Stewart’s Raw Naturals as treats.

    • scoutermac says:

      It is very difficult to find dog treats that are not made in China.

      • ashley440 says:

        This. Unless you want to pay an arm and a leg for organic, locally produced dog treats (which my dog won’t even sniff twice most of the time), you have to buy what is out there, and it all comes from China.

        • gobanana says:

          Or you could buy hot dogs or other cheap cuts of meat and use that for treats, or cheese, or just not give your dogs treats at all, because they’re not necessary.

      • rhpot1991 says:

        Agree to disagree. There are plenty of good choices out there as long as you are willing to pay for them or shop in stores that carry them. For instance don’t expect to find premium product in a grocery store, and you won’t get these premium products for bargain bin prices. I can recommend Newman’s Own and Zukes, both available from Amazon as well.

    • Mambru says:

      OK obviously not a pet owner but a serious question. Does dogs really like something? I mean is een dogs eating their own crap. their taste spuds are pretty messed up. My firend gives his dogs baby carrots as treats they seem to go bananas for them they defeniltely cheaper than dog treats

      • who? says:

        Dogs will eat practically anything, but they like certain things better than others. My dog likes her dog food, but she’d walk away from her dog food if I were offering her a liver treat, for example.

      • Looseneck says:

        Well, my dogs DON’T eat crap. I give them treats to reinforce good behavior.

        They are also very picky – no biscuit type of cookie will pass their lips! I’ve tried buying different kinds of treats, so don’t blame me (as I know some will), I have given away lots of opened bags so they don’t go to waste.

    • AzCatz07 says:

      Surprisingly, the Walmart Ol’ Roy brand of treats is made in the USA. I don’t give my dog a lot of treats, but the Busy Bones he loves are just too expensive. So now he gets the Walmart brand.

      • Looseneck says:

        I thought I had a system – if the bag features a cartoon dog – it’s made in China, so I would just keep looking. Turns out I was wrong, so I’m back to checking everything for manufacturing data.

      • Jillia says:

        Ol’ Roy? Oof. That’s stuff just as likely to kill your dog (although more slowly) as anything from China with all the crap they put in it (by-product meal, artificial coloring, menadione to name a few: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/ol-roy-dog-food-dry/). Besides, contamination can happen anywhere, including here in the good ol’ US of A and even in higher quality products (ex: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm313573.htm).

        If you want to avoid these situations, my suggestion is to make your own treats at home. That’s right I said it. :D My dog loves veggies. She will basically eat anything I hand her so i stick to feeding her things like carrots and celery. Just make sure you avoid onions, garlic, grapes and avocado, as those can be toxic to your dog. You can also make chicken jerky (sans salt/seasonings). It’s quite simple to do and it’s natural and nutritious.

  4. eturowski says:

    I’m sorry for your pup, Laura. :(

  5. Rick Sphinx says:

    The chinese put melamine in baby food/milk, why wouldn’t they put something worse in pet food. I always look where the food I buy is made. If it’s china, I never buy it. Heck, they can’t even make building materials like drywall that isn’t contanimated.

    • George4478 says:

      They load the jerky up with something worse than melamine and totally undetectable! Does their evil science know no bounds?

  6. STXJK says:

    My dog loved the “Happy Hips” Dogswell chicken and banana treats, which I bought in a specialty pet store and thought they must be okay since they advertise “cage free” chickens. One day I looked at the bag and saw the chicken was from China. I stopped feeding them to my dog, and miraculously at the same time his vomiting issues (which is why he is on a specialty diet) stopped as well. He still eats chicken and bananas now, but only fresh, not the dried jerky. I firmly believe that whatever was in that chicken was adding to his digestion problems.

    • rhpot1991 says:

      My one dog used to have a similar issue, he would vomit in his sleep. After doing some research I changed his dog food to Newman’s Own. This fixed his issue and they come running whenever we open a new bag, something they never did with the other mainstream brands of dog food.

      Amazon offers it in subscribe and save in a large bag which costs me about the same as I was paying for the mainstream brand before: http://goo.gl/WXURQ

      If you want to be sick read about dog food ingredients some time, all of the mainstream brands are owned by food mega-corporations and are nothing but a dumping ground for products unfit for human consumption.

  7. AspieMBA says:

    We lost my hubby’s beloved Manx cat to kidney failure during the pet food recall – and yes, our pet food (Iams) was on the list. She was nearly 18, but I feel the pet food may have accelerated things.

    Our dog now gets pet treats that we bake at home – oatmeal peanut butter.

  8. WarriorWife says:

    That really upsets me about Milo’s Kitchen, which is supposed to be a “better” brand of treat. Boo.

    So sorry about your dog, Laura. That is awful.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      Another thing that irks me about this: a 3.5 oz bag of Waggin’ Train Chicken Jerky retails for $3.99, or over $18/lb!! I got some on BOGO coupons when they were on sale $2/5, so thankfully I only paid $1.25/bag, but still. I’d love to see the cost paid to the Chinese factory per unit.

      I think I’ll look up some of the recipes to make homemade treats.

  9. fieldy920 says:

    This seems to be a big to-do about nothing, other than Americans getting upset at their own stupidity and trying to blame the manufacturer.

    The product is jerky, which is dried-out animal protein. And as we Americans are wont to do, we tend to give our animals as many treats as we give ourselves. Pop quiz: what happens when an animal is overloaded with protein on a continual basis? That’s right kids! Kidney failure!

  10. shepd says:

    It’s unfortunate, but due to high-profile problems with food in (and exported from) China, it is assumed to be bad even when scientifically proven not to be. At a certain point I’d consider it racism, but we’re not there yet.

    It is worth noting, when I check food recalls, China rarely appears on the list for anything other than poor labeling (missing warnings for nuts/milk/soy) but Canada (where I’m from) produces plenty of stuff that ends up on the list (especially meat with listeria). So, personally, I don’t have any problem with eating anything that comes from there, or feeding it to my cat. Any issues they have aren’t unusual compared to back home.

    • who? says:

      When I was in China, I picked up a bag of candy. One of the selling points was “no pesticides or heavy metals.” If that’s a selling point, then I’ll pass.

      Seriously, being nervous about the safety of Chinese products isn’t racism. If you can’t find examples of unsafe and adulterated Chinese products within the past 5 years, you’re not looking very hard. Melamine in baby food, pet food, adulterated honey and olive oil, lead paint on toys. It’s everywhere. Manufacturers are rewarded for producing things cheaply, not safely, and for a lot of products, it’s cheaper to do things badly, and the risk of getting caught is low.

      • shepd says:

        I’ll meet them with:

        – Peanut Butter
        – Honey
        – Cold Cuts
        – Medicine (the mold cases, not talking about stuff recalled for side effects or lack of efficacy)
        – Strollers
        – Cribs
        – Ride-on child toys (remember the keys that were, ahem, poorly placed?)
        – Leaded toys (happens here too)

        All North American based.

        I can find examples of problem Chinese food and products, yes. I can match them up with MORE examples of products with problems at home.

  11. zandar says:

    It’s not hard to make your own dog treats. all you need is chicken or beef and a dehydrator. Considering how the safety of dog food in general seems to be on a slippery slope this year, we have been making our dog’s food and treats ourselves. It isn’t much work at all, and the payoff- our dog’s health- is well worth it.

    • Elena H says:

      I have been making my dogs’ food for years. Lean ground beef, rice, and vegetables, cooked together. For snacks, they can have a Kong with peanut butter, carrots, the base of Romaine lettuce (we call them crunchies), or other vegetables. I make the food twice a week in a big pot so I don’t have to do it every day.

      All three of them (mini dachshunds) were rescued and were not in good shape when we got them. Now they’re thriving and their coats are like velvet.

      • Baxterjones says:

        @ Elena H – yes! I used to cook food for my beloved rescue beagle each Sunday afternoon. We would use chicken, liver, brown rice, and frozen veggies. He never looked happier than when we had him on that diet.

  12. PercussionQueen7 says:

    I’m very sorry about your dog, Laura, and thank you for the disclosure, but perhaps it’d be better next time to have someone write the article who doesn’t have such a personal slant on the topic. Dogs dying from bad jerky is not okay, but if the FDA can’t confirm it, maybe it shouldn’t be presented here as it is just speculation.

  13. kathc says:

    It never even occurred to me that my dog’s treats were being produced in China until I read this yesterday, and I’ve been giving her both Milo’s Kitchen and Waggin Train jerky. I threw out all of it and I’m going to start making my own dog treats. I Googled recipes that seem easy enough. At least they won’t kill her.

  14. J-Mac says:

    Zuke’s treats are made in the US with most ingredients from the US. (Exceptions: rabbit, lamb, and venison from New Zealand).



    • rhpot1991 says:

      +1 for Zukes. My only complaint is that Amazon stopped carrying the z-bones when they came out with a new version of them.

  15. akronharry says:

    We were concened about the treats too. What we now do is cook a little extra meat when preparing meals and give that out as treats. Safer but alos cheaper too. In addition both the dogs love carrots and ice cubes as a treat.

  16. gedster314 says:

    I avoid all food products that are labeled from China. I also feel medication should be label with where it was produced. We can barely trust American produced foods/meds.

  17. BioNerd says:

    The first time I gave my puppy the Waggin’ Train chicken jerky treats also happened to be the first time I took her to a new dog park. I thought the subsequent diarrrhea and vomiting (both jet black) and seizures were due to the muddy water she drank at the park. She recovered, but a few weeks later when I gave her a tiny piece of the chicken jerky (again, thinking she had recovered from a bacterial infection) it happened again. While my vet was helpful in making sure she lived they couldn’t do much about the cause. When I let petsmart know that they were selling a contaimated product they also seemed kinda like “well, she lived so whaddaya gonna do…” Within the same time frame I had a student whose dog died due to (what they believed) a Milo’s Kitchen product.

    These are big name companys sold in big name stores – I am having to research every food/treat option my puppy gets like she’s a human being with allergies. It’s just not always easy to distinguish country of origin or actual chemicals in the treats. It seems like when I was a kid my parents would just grab a bag of whatever and the dogs did just fine. Still don’t know what I’m giving my princess that’s causing those God-awful farts though….

    • Laura Northrup says:

      We gave my first dog (back in the early ’90s) a new brand of dog food that happened to have a lot of red dye in it, which gave her horrible diarrhea in the middle of the night. We know about the red dye because she left bright, bright red stains in the carpet. I get that they use the dye to appeal to owners, but come on. That was a lower-end brand…I don’t think that food is on the market anymore.

      Other than that, that particular dog would eat pretty much anything and wouldn’t get sick. She was very fond of rabbit poop from the yard.

  18. dandadan says:

    I was shopping the other day for dog treats and asked the person in the pet store if they had any treats not made in China. We walked past the wall of dog treats to a single rack of treats made by Nutro. I would never eat food produced in China, why would I feed my dog food from China?

    Here’s a good one, I lived in California, home of Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world. I was in a supermarket and asked the produce manager for garlic that was not produced (contaminated) in China. He scratched his head and said all they had was the Chinese crap.

    You see this is a cultural thing. In China, the only time anyone follows the rules is when the inspector is present. When he is gone, everything goes right back to the way it was. NEVER eat or consume food from China. To do so is to take your life in your hands. From fish and shrimp to bamboo shoots, read your product label for nation of origin. It is essentially uninspected food. I imagine they are even less cautious with animal and pet food.

    In fact, most Chinese products are of low and dubious quality. Let’s reshore more and more of our manufacturing and food production. They are after all our mortal enemies.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      I think my breaking point was when I bought a box of salmon burgers at BJ’s without noticing that yes, it was “Pacific salmon,” but the burgers had been produced in China.

      And I mean salmon burgers for me here, not for my dog.