Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that 600 pets had died after eating tainted treats. Now, sadly, that number has climbed even higher.
The cause seems to be jerky treats made in China. Thousands of illnesses and more than 1,000 dog deaths have been linked to the treats since 2007, according to an ongoing investigation by the FDA.
The exact cause remains unknown, but the FDA reports that more than 5,500 dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds have been affected by gastrointestinal illness, as well as kidney and urinary issues, that are believed to originate from chicken jerky imported from China. There have also been 24 cases reported in cats and — mysteriously — three in people.
The FDA did not name the brands involved, and pet owners resolved to stop buying all treats made in China may have a hard time doing so. Pet treats do not need to list the country of origin for each ingredient.
"Packages that do not state on the label that they are made in another country may still contain ingredients sourced from China or other countries that export to the U.S.," said the FDA update.
While individual consumers may be left feeling somewhat powerless, national pet retailer Petco has taken decisive action.
Earlier this week, the company announced that it would stop carrying dog and cat treats from China in all 1,300 of its stores by the end of 2014.
"We know the FDA hasn’t yet identified a direct cause for the reported illnesses, but we decided the uncertainty of the situation outweighs the lack of actual proof," said Petco CEO Jim Myers in a statement.
Rival PetSmart told the Associated Press it also plans to stop selling treats from China by March 2015.
In the meantime, officials advise pet owners to monitor pets that are consuming jerky treats and to watch for signs of decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or increased urination.
The FDA has been working directly with the American Veterinary Medical Association to identify potential cases and is encouraging pet owners to submit complaints.
See Also:INFOGRAPHIC: How School Makes Happier And Healthier PeopleYour Smartphone Is Destroying Your SleepAn Amazing Cancer Treatment Based On The Measles Virus Saved A Woman's LifeThe Deadly Virus MERS Has Arrived In The US — Here's What You Need To KnowHere Are The Surprising Countries Where People Live The Longest
SEE ALSO: The Smartest Animals In The World