Firstly, I need to thank blogland – dog-blogland in specific – because this article, while informative, would have been too late.
Did you know that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will only send out a warning about food products if they are likely to harm livestock or people? Cats and dogs and all the other creatures we bring into our homes and hearts – they aren’t livestock or people.
When my parents brought home a big bag of Celebrity Products inc. CHEWMASTERS chicken strips from Costco, I was happy, Gwynn was happier. He was probably getting one (sometimes two pieces) a day for about a week. In unrelated news (from what I, at the time, could see), he was slowing down. And he was leaving food – a LOT of food – in his Kong Wobbler at meals. I switched to feeding him in his bowl, and that helped… a bit… but he was leaving most of his food in the bowl. He was not the peppy bundle of energy I was used to. Nothing was quite enough for me to be alarmed – I figured that he was just under the weather, and went about supplementing his kibble to encourage food intake.
Luckily for us, I read a blog post (wish I could find it again, but I can’t… thank you blogger, though!…Raising Daisy did a post about it here) that brought up the issue with chicken products from China, and the most recent FDA warning about it. As soon as I got home, I grabbed the chicken jerky package, hoping to establish that I hadn’t been feeding my pooch potentially tainted chicken jerky.
… and then I checked their website, which had ZERO information about where the product was located.
Note: I just checked their website again, to get the official product name and all that, and discovered that on the picture of the jerky package on the site, blurry and near the bottom, it does indeed say “Made in China”… I guess they’ve changed their label since that picture was posted.
I put a household-wide halt on all (not-homemade) treat-feeding of the dog, and sent an inquiry to the company.
They got back to me promptly (someone in their Toronto office was working very late on a Tuesday night), and confirmed that the jerky is produced in China. They then went on to explain all the safety measures (there are a lot, and seem quite good… I am trying to be fair, here.) they take, and that Costco takes, and said that, “To date, after extensive chemical and microbial testing, the FDA has not been able to identify a contaminant or ingredient as the cause of any illness, or a direct link to chicken jerky.”
Initially, this alleviated my fears. Gwynn was still acting a bit off, though not enough to warrant an emergency vet trip, so I maintained the no-jerky rule, since that was the only change I could think of in his diet.
This past week (about two weeks after we stopped giving Gwynn the jerky), family members started commenting on how Gwynn ‘really seems to be back to his old self’. I re-read the email response, which suggested “If your puppy is just starting this treat, you should only be giving him/her very small amounts to start. As the dog gets older and gets bigger, you can increase the amount given.”
What popped into my mind at that point was a movie quote, “We have to go to the police. It was self-defense.” “What, the old slowly-poisoning-him-to-death self-defense?” … and the jerky package continued to sit in the cupboard.
I was reminded of it by the article in the star this weekend, and I went to the FDA warning to read it more thoroughly. The company didn’t lie in their response – the FDA hasn’t found any specific contaminant that’s making animals sick. They don’t know what’s wrong, but dogs are getting sick, and some are dying, and the jerky seems to be the connection. That part didn’t make it into the company response.
The company seems to be doing its best to check their product, and maintain a high safety standard. I find it a little bit counter-intuitive, though, that they are confident of their product safety, and yet avoid mentioning its production location anywhere on the packaging or on the website. And you just know that a lot of people will mistake the Toronto ‘imported by’ address as proof of the chicken product not being from China.
It is, of course, possible that there was something else going on with Gwynn’s health – it could be entirely unconnected – but the timeline of Gwynn’s health tells me it was the Jerky.
The jerky is going in the garbage. And I’m recommending NOT buying Chewmaster Chicken Jerky for your pet. If you choose to anyways, just keep an eye on your pet – some of the signs include: decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination.