The Food and Drug Administration sought out the help of pet owners Tuesday for information regarding a mysterious jerky treat-related illness that has killed more than 580 pets.
The agency's Center for Veterinary Medicine has been unable to discover an exact cause for the elusive illness that has affected 3,600 dogs and 10 cats since 2007. Affected pets exhibited symptoms such as decreased appetite, increased water consumption, vomiting and diarrhea after ingesting jerky treats made from duck, chicken, sweet potatoes or dried fruit.
According to the agency, workers have conducted more than 1,200 tests since 2011 for traces of antibiotics, pesticides and salmonella, visited Chinese manufacturers and collaborated with other experts in academia and government. The FDA has received roughly 3,000 reports of illness, though the cause remains a mystery.
"This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," CVM director Bernadette Dunham said in a statement. "Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it."
In a letter addressed Tuesday, the FDA requested veterinarians provide urine and tissue samples from affected animals and advised them to make the agency's fact sheet on jerky pet products readily available to their clients.
Symptoms of jerky-related illness can turn up within hours after consumption, according to officials. Veterinarians are being asked to request a urine sample from all pets that show signs of the illness, even if animals only exhibited signs of gastrointestinal illness, which was involved in 60 percent of reported cases.
The FDA noticed a decrease in reports of illness after a number of pet jerky products were pulled from store shelves in January following a New York State lab investigation that found up to six drugs in certain jerky treats manufactured in China.