University of Georgia helping the FDA investigate jerky-related illnesses

As the FDA continues its investigation into the mysterious illness apparently caused by pets consuming jerky treats imported from China, the University of Georgia (UGA) Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories are stepping in to support the investigation.

According to the university, the laboratories are assisting in the effort by working with the FDA's Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network to analyze samples from companion animals that have possibly been exposed to contaminated foods or drugs.

The UGA laboratories will conduct diagnostic testing free of charge on submitted samples if the following criteria are met:

  • Dogs and cats only.
  • Must have consumed jerky treats 7-21 days ago.
  • Treats must have been made from chicken, duck, sweet potato, or dried fruit, or combinations of these ingredients.
  • Must show clinical signs associated with the illness including gastrointestinal signs such as anorexia, vomiting, and diarrhea; urinary distress including polydipsia, polyuria, and Fanconi syndrome; and other signs such as convulsions, tremors, hives, and skin irritation. 

Information and samples to be collected

Veterinary professionals can aid in the investigation by working with clients to collect information and samples that can be tested for potentially harmful bacterial pathogens, UGA said.

For pets that meet the criteria for free diagnostic testing, pet owners and veterinary staff will need to collect relevant information including:

  • General case history.
  • Lot number(s) of the specific jerky treats.
  • Length of time the owner had been feeding the jerky treats to the pet.
  • Description of how the owner had given the treat or food to the pet, including whether it was in a single piece or broken into multiple pieces.
  • Other treats, pet food, and human food the pet has been eating, including daily amounts of each.

In addition to the case information gathered, the UGA Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories will need biological samples to analyze. According to UGA, the following samples can be submitted:

  • Feces
  • Urine
  • Blood 
  • Jerky treat sample (both opened and unopened samples if possible)
  • Entire carcass if the animal is found deceased

Contact information

Veterinarians and pet owners can direct their questions about testing to the Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Labratory at 706-542-5568, or the Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Laboratory at 229-386-3340.

UGA encourages pet owners to contact their veterinarians about submitting samples if they suspect a pet has consumed contaminated substances. The university also said pet owners in the greater Athens area can visit the UGA Community Practice Clinic for consultation or call 706-542-1984 for more information.

Visit the University of Georgia Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories website for more information.