A Word of Warning

A recent article in the Toronto Star reminded me that I have something more important than my plans for becoming a barbarian to talk about on my blog.

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.

imported by... and zero information about where it's imported FROM

… 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.

Author: GoneforaWalk

I work... walk the dog... do yoga... read... sleep... and attempt to write interesting things on occasion (but not today)

53 thoughts on “A Word of Warning”

  1. My guys love the chicken nibblers and they are made in….China so we no longer use them. I try to buy product that is only Made in the USA but there are so few, that we are limited in treats. But still better to be limited then to have a sick puppy.

    An interesting thing I learned is that Blue Buffalo is made in in the US (and is supposed to be a good quality food) but they get their meat from….yeah you guessed in, China.

    I’m glad that you figured out what was making Gwynn mopey and that you stopped it.

    This is a really helpful post.

    1. Gwynn loves teh chicken jerky – I’m going to have to experiment with making it in my dehydrator from now on… it was just so easy to just go out and buy the bag, but I don’t often see different brands of it.
      I’ll have to keep that in mind about the blue buffalo food… and I wish I’d realised faster – he was eating those things for a week or so, but I didn’t think that could be the reason he was acting so odd.

  2. I’m SO glad your pup is okay! I believe you’re referring to my December 6 post: FDA Warning: Toxic Treats From China = Russian Roulette with Your Dogs Life. Here’s a shortened URL: http://bit.ly/sOcMX3 .

    I’m so glad my post was able to help you figure out what was happening with Gwynn and you were able to turn things around quickly. These toxic imports have to be stopped.

    1. thanks for the link! I’m not sure if this was the post, to be honest – I emailed the company on November 19, so I guess sometime that day, or the day before is when I read about the treat issue. Regardless, it’s great that everyone in blogland (dog-blogland) is passing on the information.
      Unfortunately, until the FDA can identify what in the product is making pets sick, there’s no reason to stop the imports. And, more unfortunately, even if they do stop importing to the states, stores in Canada are under no obligation to remove the items from their shelves if they’re intended for pets.

  3. Thank you very much for sharing this information. It’s so important for pet owners to be aware of these things and the Canadian government doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of regulation. Good on you for recognizing there was something wrong with Gwynn right away and taking steps to help. I am so glad he is feeling better and this didn’t end tragically.

    We don’t feed many store-bought treats, as it is far cheaper to make our own or just use hotdogs. Food made for people is usually much safer! But I am going to be even more careful from now on. If my dog were ever to seem uninterested in eating, it would be so out of character, I am pretty sure I’d rush her straight to emergency. She has yet to turn away food, even when suffering from heat stroke. Dumb dog.

    1. I wish I’d realised it sooner – a week or more of eating chicken jerky would explain why it took him a while to get back to fully healthy! I’m also glad that I read blogs, since the article in the Star would have been a month into feeding him the treats, and not necessarily connecting that to his being not well… there could have been some serious damage, there!

      I try to make my own treats for the most part, but sometimes it’s just convenient to grab something from the store. Shiva is definitely more food oriented than Gwynn – like begging for mushrooms, even though she doesn’t like them, then begging for more after she spits it out, lol!… Gwynn sometimes looks at things he loves like I’m offering him something thoroughly disgusting. But dinner time? dinner time is for finishing his food, so it was completely bizarre seeing him show so little interest.

  4. Hot dogs cost me a $600 ER vet visit for Storm, so we don’t give those. 🙂 I have always been leery of all jerky products. I just think there are so many ways that they could be a problem. I don’t make my own treats, but I do limit which treats I buy so I can keep track. I am not fanatical about stuff coming from China, although I do try to be careful.

    1. Wow, that’s an expensive hotdog! was this an issue with what was in them, or just that she ate too much of them?
      I don’t think it’s reasonable to decide that everything from china is likely to be an issue – it’s even possible that if i’d gotten a different package (from a different run of production) of the same product, I might not have encountered issues. Unfortunately, there aren’t high enough standards for pet-quality products, so things like contamination in chicken products do happen. And once it happens for a product, for me, that product is no longer in the ‘safe to feed Gwynn’ category. I usually prefer products that are from nearby, but that’s more to do with supporting local and reducing the footprint of products than it is to do with a products location of manufacturing.

  5. I’m so glad your Gwynn is better. My brother-in-law is an apple farmer, who tells me that almost all apple juice now comes from China because we cannot compete with their low, low prices. Frankly, I wouldn’t put anything in my body, or the body of any other living thing I cared about, that came from China.

    1. That is sad, but it’s true – if you look at where the cheaper produce at your grocery store is coming from, it is coming from very far away for the most part, even when the produce is in season in your own area at the moment. It’s hard for farmers here to compete when it comes to even basic things like cabbage or apples. I love getting food from farmers’ markets in my area, the apples are tastier, the strawberries are sweeter(and smaller), and it’s nice to know that it didn’t have to travel all the way from South America, having been picked only half-ripe.
      I don’t think we can judge everything from China as being suspect food, though. I think that sometimes it is the company doing the importing that is the issue – they aren’t taking enough care in ensuring that they are using the best quality ingredients (from wherever the product is being made), and that can mean that the final product isn’t as healthy as you’d expect it to be. For instance – so much clothing is being made in china (and now, apparently, India), and I’ve heard a lot of comments about it being poor quality. Well, whose fault is that? The factory overseas? or the Company paying for sub-par materials to increase their profit margin? The factory uses the materials they are told to buy, and keep competititve by giving what was paid for, no more than that.

      1. I agree with you. My point is that in the U.S. we have the Food and Drug Admin to oversee the safety of the food supply. That’s one of the few uses of my tax dollars that I agree with. 🙂

        1. true – and we have it in Canada as well, but unfortunately there is a big gap in our laws right around ‘pets’, which completely baffles me. The US does that much better than Canada.

  6. Wow! Good thing you found out about these treats so you could make the connection with Gwynn’s behavior change. Good for you for actually contacting the company but they will always tell you the part of the “truth” that they can legally stand behind but won’t make them look bad 😦 Too bad that your government won’t issue such warnings. Seems strange.

    1. unfortunately, the final word for this company seems to be ‘ignore it, there hasn’t been an actual recall’. I keep thinking that the person who hears complaints via email must be thinking, ‘how can i work here? how can i work for a company that doesn’t seem to care that someone’s pet is getting sick… I’m going to quit’. I’d like to think that would be my reaction to finding myself in a situation like that, but I guess i’m a bit too much of an idealist at times.
      As to why Canadian laws and standards exclude family pets from the protective bubble… it is beyond me. Now that I’m aware of it, though, I’ll be getting updates from the FDA regularly.

  7. Our dog ate some of the Chewmasters chicken strips & became extremely sick. The vet found that his intestines became infected. After 2 rounds of intervenise & anti-biotics he seems to be recovering.
    This stuff is poison to dogs. Be aware & stay away from this product. It should be banned.

    1. I completely agree, and I’m so happy to hear your dog got better. It took Gwynn a long time to get over them, and I was not at all impressed at their blase response to my emailing them about his illness.

  8. Having visited China many times and witnessed the hygiene (not to mention the killing of dogs for food by the most CRUEL manner possible),I would not buy this product anymore. I bought it once at Costco,saw it was “imported” and called the Company in Toronto to see which country. .I was informed by the company person I was talking to that It was manufactured in China and manufactured under more stringent hygienic conditions that would be obtained in Canada ,hence that location !! That caused the alarm bells in my head to go off immediately..I was also told by the company that the Chicken Strips should only be given in small portions as they could cause kidney problems.Needless to say ,as much as my dog loved the little bit I gave him, I disposed of the rest and I wouldn’t feed that product to any animal.

    1. Gwynn loved it too – but better to have a sad dog and a garbage can full of chicken tenders, than a dead dog. Gwynn took ages to get fully better after I stopped feeding them to him. And I found out that I could make something pretty similar, dehydrating strips of pounded flat raw chicken. A bit more time consuming, but at least I know what it’s been through. I’m glad you caught things before anything happened to your pooch!

  9. Heard about the Celebrity chicken strips being bad for the dogs through the grapevine. My Loretta has been on them for a few months now and loved them. Just before I heard the rumors I had purchased another bag, and as always she loved them. BUT I noticed her doing a lot of scratching but never made the connection at first thought OH NO FLEAS. Even with advantage???? so had the flea bath but the scratching continued. and then the rash, tiredness and throwing up. This is all in the last week so she has been on childrens Beneadryl for a few days now and is starting to come around, I can’t believe Costco would still sell this product after ALL of the complaints. I guess sometimes rumors are a good thing.

    1. I’m glad to hear that she’s coming around. Sometimes things develop so slowly it’s hard to see that it’s an issue. Same with our own health – a friend of mine was recently diagnosed as gluten intolerant. She cut all gluten out of her diet, and she said that she was amazed at how much better she was feeling, when she really hadn’t realised she was feeling so bad before.
      It is unfortunate – I was really disappointed in Costco’s indifferent response to my complaint, and the response from the company. If I’d been complaining about baby food (or generally people-food), I’m sure that Costco would have been a bit more concerned – and considering the pet-expenditures of the average north american, you’d think companies would be more willing to go to bat for the furry friends.

  10. Unfortunately correlation does not equal causation. But I too was surprised to see how many chicken jerky brands, made in China, were still available on the shelves in the local grocery store. The only conclusion I could come to was that the store managers are unaware of the potential for problems or have decided that it’s worth the risk (i.e., don’t care).

    1. I monitor my dog’s food habits enough that I can safely say that this was the only thing that changed in his diet, but yes, you’re right – I didn’t take him in (with the jerky) to get him/it tested in some way to determine if that was the only issue – I only have what I saw myself. He ate jerky, and it took a few days for him to start feeling it, and too long for me to completely notice it as a problem, and then over a month to fully recover from whatever it had done inside him, though he was feeling overall better, and back to eating, within a week of not eating the jerky. I just wish that more agencies wouldn’t consider a pet’s sickness ‘worth the risk’

  11. My Dad’s girlfriend is a Product Demonstrator at Costco and brought these treats home and gave them to me to give to my dog. I was giving him 2 treats a day since June 17, 2012 (it was July 20, 2012 when I red the blog re: warning of toxins) so I stopped feeding them to him. He is lethargic, barely eating and urinating/drinking a lot. He doesn’t even get up/get excited when I come in the house; he just lays there. His pulse seems to be in the normal range and his colour is okay but am keeping a close eye on him. All these food warnings are really make me wonder and consider making my own food for him. At least I know what’s in it! It’s a shame you can’t trust anything from China anymore; or anywhere else for that matter. What is this world coming to!

    1. Definitely keep a close eye on him, and I hope he gets better quickly. I found that mixing cooked ground beef with my dog’s kibble could get him to eat a bit more. That, or chicken stock/pieces of chicken.
      It really is a shame that it’s hard to trust that something being sold as pet-food isnt’ guaranteed to be healthy or safe for them. it’s terrifying.

      1. Turns out initially he was diagnosed with a bacterial infection. He was responding well to the meds so I took him yesterday for a recheck…turns out he had a HUGE growth inside that was putting pressure on all of the rest of his organs and was inoperable (he was not in any shape nor would have been regardless) so I had to put him down (so he wasn’t suffering anymore). That was not what I was expecting at all but I did what I felt was right for my poor guy SO all in all it had nothing to do with these treats.

        1. I am so sorry for your loss. It is such a tough call to make, but it sounds to me like you made the right one – you can’t explain to a dog why he’s in pain, and it’s unfair to keep them alive and suffering for our own happiness.

          1. Meant to say he WASN’T responding well to the meds…that’s why I took him for a recheck. Thanks…as hard as it was I know I did the right thing for my boy. Now he’s up in heaven with his brother I lost last month to metasophogus :o(

  12. Thanks for the post– I feed maggie and myers the chewmaster brand from costco. As soon as I read the FDA articleIi went and checked my bag and like you said, no where on it does it say made in china, just imported from Toronto, Haven’t noticed and problems/symptoms but it’s not worth the risk so they will be eliminated from the dogs diets. Thanks again 🙂

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful. I think the fact that they seem to be hiding the place it was manufactured is what really makes me angry. If you are as confident in your product as you claim, you stand by it, 100%. It really is too bad, since Gwynn loves chicken jerky treats. I just had to find an alternate way of getting them is all.

  13. I cannot believe i am just finding this now!! my dog loves those , my dad would buy him a bag for when he went too the house and he was in love with them! and i have noticed that before he started eating them he was fine .. he still is fine , but he has a really dry spot on his back , and he is really itchy .. and we also thought it was fleas but can this really be from the chicken strips??… I am definitely not giving him those treats anymore!!

    1. I didn’t see any symptoms like that on Gwynn. If those treats are the main difference in your dog’s diet/lifestyle, then I would (as not-a-vet, and not a professional in petcare) suggest trying giving him those treats (at least, not the brands that import chicken from China) for a month, and see if there’s any change.
      I’ve heard of quite a few dogs with allergies that cause itchiness, and even fur to fall out – seasonal type allergies to pollen or grass, even, so the itch could be entirely unrelated to fleas or chicken. For that matter, some dogs have issues with all chicken that can cause skin itchiness.
      Just to be clear, I am 100% against feeding that particular brand of chicken strips to any dog, but I also don’t want to just say, “sure, that’s definitely the problem”, since my dog had issues with tiredness/not eating, which seems to be a more common theme in issues caused by that chicken. Consider other environmental factors, and I hope your pup is feeling better soon.

  14. Well, here we are and it’s September 2012, and once again, Chicken Jerky from China has made it in the news, with yet even more canine deaths!
    My Yorkie, Gizmo was thrilled to have the Chewmaster Chicken Jerky treats, when I brought them home from Costco , and of course I was thrilled to be able to give her something that took her a bit of time to eat, as I went off to work for the day. But then the vomiting started, and since that was the only new item in her life, it was discontinued until she was again stable. Then back to a treat a day (she’s only 10 lbs). Again, vomiting ensured. Without even knowing about the previous issues surrounding these or any other Jerky treats, they we tossed into the garbage.
    After reading numerous blogs and articles regards the mysteries of this product, perhaps it’s not the preservative process that’s detrimental to the animals, but perhaps the chicken itself! Who’s to say that it wasn’t tainted to start with, and can the FDA determine that?
    Gizmo still loves her chicken jerky treats, but they’re home made now!

    1. I’m really glad you caught it quickly – that she didn’t get too sick. It’s very frustrating that you can’t trust that a dog treat won’t hurt your dog! I do home-made chicken jerky too – love my dehydrator 🙂

  15. My fox terrier, Daisy has not been at all well this past month – we did discover that she had fleas and was given an Advantage treatment which helped. But the itching and the biting of her skin continued. After watching Marketplace on CBC this evening and doing some googling I came across your ‘blog’. I have been treating Daisy with the Chewmaster chicken strips for a few months now, right about the time her symptons started, now that I think back. She loves them of course. The package clearly shows that they are made in China. Into the garbage they went. She has also been more lethargic than usual and drinking/urinating a lot. Thank you so much for this

    1. I hope she starts feeling better soon. Gwynn wasn’t eating much – if you’re looking for ways to up her food intake, canned fish (or just the juice) on her kibble, or chicken/beef broth on the kibble helped Gwynn a lot.

  16. Thanks to a friend watching Market place, she knew I buy only natural treats for my dog. She called me right away told me to throw them out and to watch for the show. I immediately googled the ChewMaster name and was brought to this page, one of the few that was given. Billy has been rewarded the chicken strips occasionally for about 6 months or so. I would reward him for training reasons seems he was a puppy and loved them. As he got older I was noticing that he was calming down and now that I am thinking about it he was thirsty a lot but I only thought it was because it was a dry product and needs the water for absorption and digestion. As of today his chicken snacks are being disposed of. I give him the ChewMaster liver treats now I will have to find out about them. I think our dogs and cats are only safe if we know what we put in it and know where the meat came from. I am so thankful for this blog and a true friend watching out Billy and I.
    I also feed Billy Blue Buffalo and my cat also is fed Blue Buffalo wow talk about a triple whammy. I thaught I was giving them the best food meanwhile, I over paid for products that can potenially kill them. Good Bye Blue Buffalo also…..now I am challenged on finding a good product from Canada or US.

    Thank you for you blog

  17. Its a good wake up call, I don’t feed my family too much processed foods and now Billy will be only getting mommy’s best treats for him. No more processed food for Billy. Does anyone have recipes for dog food and treats with low gluten and wheat. I will do more research on the dogs digestion system on what dogs can digest easily and is not harmful to their system.

    1. you can find a lot of recipes for low-gluten dog treats online… my suggestion is just googling it. You can also dry chicken, chicken liver, or beef liver (or anything else really) by slicing thin and putting it in your dehydrator, or in your oven on its lowest setting.

  18. I too have been feeding my Bichon Chewmaster chicken treats as she loves them! No more for her — I have two unopened bags to throw out but it’s not worth the risk. Very interesting show on CBS’ “Marketplace” last night which advised me of this problem. It’s very scary that our Canadian government does not regulate pet products. I shall have to find a way of making homemade treats. My dog loves licorice which I may give her in tiny amounts as a treat? My vet suggested a great treat is Cheerios and she loves them. Guess I’ll have to stick with people food from now on.

    1. i missed the show, but yeah – i think it really brought this issue to light again. I have no idea whether licorice is good or bad for dogs – definitely check before starting to treat with it. also, there are loads of pretty easy recipes for dog treats online. For that matte,r you might find she’s just as happy to get pieces of carrot or apple (both of which my dog loves), or other people foods.

  19. I cut up carrots into bite-size pieces and keep them in water (change the water every 3-4 days) in the fridge…my dogs love them as treats. They were recommended by our groomer. Healthy & low-fat (and cheap!). I don’t usually use “baby” carrots as these have preservatives; if I do I rinse them well before storing them in water.

    I was giving chicken jerky to my dogs (from China), but no more!!

    1. keeping them in water is an interesting way of doing it – does it make them a bit sweeter, or something? or just easier than cutting up carrots every time you want to give a treat, I guess.

  20. My dog died of kidney failure earlier this year. We blamed it on her age (11) but she used to eat a strip or two of this jerky every day. I am beginning to think this may have been the cause.

    1. I am so sorry for your loss 😦 If the jerky was a product of china that could, possibly, be a part of things, but i don’t think it’s possible to find out, really.

  21. There is a company in Ontario that makes Chicken Jerky from Ontario Chicken called Nothing Added. It’s more expensive but it’s safe and if they really like Chicken Jerky then at least they can have it once in awhile.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! It’s great to support Canadian products (even better if it’s Ontarian!), even if it does cost a bit more. And more importantly, especially if it isn’t going to make my dog sick. I’ve actually got a dehydrator – I half-freeze chicken, cut it into strips and dehydrate it myself. I keep it in the freezer just in case, and to let it last longer, but Gwynn loves it – and I know exactly what happened to get it that way, apart from the chicken-to-grocerystore stage.

  22. Costco is still selling the imported chicken strips and they are not considering them to be of any danger. They will reimburse you your money but yet still to continue selling the product. There hasn’t been enough evidence to link the animals illnesses or deaths to the treats. Just be cautious on your selection of treats and food for your animal. Imported foods should not be allowed in but seems its for animals and not humans the regulations seem to be more relaxed then if it was for human consumption.

  23. Yikes, I saw a rerun of that Marketplace episode, and now I’m worried! Weirdly enough, we just bought a bag of those Chewmasters jerky treats last week for the first time. A good thing I watched it, I guess. We wouldn’t give our boys whole strips anyway, but we just gave them no more than one very small piece for one day. They both seemed fine; but this weekend one of our dogs didn’t have much interest in eating, but still had a decent enough appetite to eat later on, and is still seemingly his energetic self. Then (if you can believe it), just as I had turned onto the show I had given him a second little piece of jerky. Well! That puts the kibosh on those things. Hopefully there won’t be any after-effects for him.

    1. It’s been over a year – for all I know, they might have changed their product, but frankly, their lack of response to me (as a customer) was outrageous, and completely turned me off their products. I don’t think I’d support them by purchasing even if they invited me out to the farm down the road where they got all their organic free range chicken. They’ve already proven themselves untrustworthy and deceitful. I hope your dogs perk up quickly. If they haven’t had much, they should be completely fine

  24. Thank you for your infor. My dog got sick because of chicken strips from Costco too.
    Do you think China care about our loving Dogs ? They even put toxic chemical to Baby milk.
    Im so MAD.I cook food for my dog now, can trust any products from china anymore.

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