JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a mystery on its hands.
The FDA blames jerky pet treats for apparently killing a few hundred animals and sickening thousands more. What's more unsettling, however, is that the agency has no idea what's caused these illnesses.
So far, the FDA has focused its investigation on jerky pet treats made in China, where the agency has already tested more than 1,200 samples and is still nowhere close to solving this problem.
The uncertainty has prompted one veterinarian's office to recommend that when it comes to pet treats, just buy American.
The Woodsprings Animal Clinic in Jonesboro shared a warning Wednesday with all its Facebook friends. Melissa Lamb, the receptionist, posted a message from the FDA, asking people to check their pet treats and make sure they're not made in China.
"If you're going to get a treat for your animal, check the label, see where it's made," Lamb said. "I would encourage people to stick with treats that are made in the USA or maybe Canada. I would shy away from anything made in China right now."
The FDA reported that since 2007, more than 3,600 dogs and 10 cats have gotten sick after eating jerky treats. They apparently suffered from symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and sluggishness. The mystery illness, however, has killed an estimated 580 pets in six years.
As far as Lamb knows, none of those cases have happened locally.
"We obviously see sick pets every day," she said, "but I can't think of one that we were concerned that was a victim of contaminated food or treat item."
A few customers at Hollywood Feed in Jonesboro have come into the store concerned, too, but Assistant Manager Meagan Bisby says they have no reason to worry. Her store stocks almost all American-made treats, which she claims are safer than those made in China.
"It's just the fact that they were shipping them from China – they're preserving them with certain chemicals that do not react well with dogs," Bisby said. "It's just being conscious of what's on the label and where it comes from."
Both Bisby and Lamb say what people can do to protect their pets is simple.
"It just takes five seconds," Bisby said. "Just flip over the label, check where it's from and what's in it."
"If you're concerned about your treats," Lamb said, "just go check the label, see where it's manufactured. I would say if it's made in China, toss it out."
Pet owners can help the FDA's investigation by reporting any complaints to the agency online or to their local veterinarian.