By STEVE DALE
Tribune Media Services
Q: Our dog got really sick eating chicken jerky about six months ago. At that time, our veterinarian confirmed that it was very likely the jerky made her ill. Our veterinary bill was over $2,500! The treat manufacturer never replied to our email or phone calls. Our dog might have died. How can this be allowed? -- F.H., Buffalo Grove, IL
Q: I read your column on the chicken jerky treats, and I still don't get it. If pets are getting sick, why are the products still being sold? It seems like common sense to me to stop the sales, at least until the cause can be determined. -- C.H., Boston, MA
A: Indeed, chicken jerky treats are reportedly making some dogs ill, and some pets have even died. So far this year, the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA CVM) has received over 800 complaints of pets sickened due to jerky treats, according to Dr. Dan McChesney, director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at the FDA CVM.
The story began in June 2011 when several Canadian veterinarians reported dogs starting to display symptoms of kidney disease associated with the treats made in China. Of course, some cases are not substantiated, and other pets may have been affected but their owners never complained or associated a pet's problem with the treats, McChesney notes. In any case, he concedes there's clearly an apparent issue with chicken jerky treats.
So what exactly is going on? Despite working very hard to determine the answer -- even visiting Chinese manufacturing plants -- the FDA CVM and additional independent experts have come up empty. Therein lies the problem. The U.S government isn't legally allowed to stop companies from distributing products, or suggesting a recall without solid justification. Some people argue that deaths and illness -- even though the cause is mysterious -- is reason enough.
Duane Ekedahl, president of the Washington-D.C. based Pet Food Institute, points out that most pets have no apparent affect after eating chicken jerky treats, aside from a wagging tail.
That was hardly the experience of Terry Safranek, of Brooklyn Heights, OH. She's confident that Waggin' Train "Wholesome" Chicken Jerky caused her best friend, Sampson's, death Jan. 13. Nestle Purina PetCare, which make the treats, has done nothing, despite many complaints, and nearly 63,000 signatures on Safranek's Change.org petition (which you can sign: http://www.change.org/petitions/nestle-purina-recall-chicken-jerky-treats-made-in-china).
In February, I wrote about how U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio tried to intercede, so that the problem with the treats could be nailed down and the product removed from store shelves. He was unsuccessful.
Perhaps the best tool to solve this problem this issue is the old supply-and-demand model. If demand dissipates, chicken jerky suppliers will be far more motivated to correct the problem.
While I realize most pets suffer no ill effects from the treats, what if it's your pet that gets sick? Is buying chicken jerky really that important? Call it a boycott if you like, but I think it's less risky to choose an alternative treat.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration answers questions regarding chicken jerky treats here: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm295445.htm.
Q: Our family rescued what seems to be a Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix. Our cat is bigger than this dog, who instantly bonded with the cat. The problem is, we live on the 14th floor of a high-rise. We spend many days enjoying our balcony. We'd like to have Princess with us, but we're afraid she could fall through the balcony railing. Aside from keeping her on a leash, do you have any ideas? -- V.S., Chicago, IL.
A: I receive new pet products all the time and as luck would have it, there's a new product out to solve your very legitimate concern: Puppy Bumpers.
Imagine a stuffed collar fitting around your dog's neck. The collars are wider than the small dogs, and wider that the space between rails and fencing around yards or balconies. Your dog's nose would still fit through the rails, but that's about as far as Princess would be able to go if she's wearing a Puppy Bumper.
Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Services in Chicago confirms your fear: Dogs do fall from city balconies. Owners think, "My dog will know better, and won't jump at that passing bird." Unfortunately, both dogs and cats will jump at moving objects without considering how high up they are.
Of course, I never endorse leaving a pet on a city balcony without adult supervision, even when wearing a Puppy Bumper. Puppy Bumpers are available at www.puppybumpers.net, $23.95 to $25.95.
Q: What's in the urine of our female dog, Goldie, that isn't in Butch, our male dog's urine? They both relieve themselves in different part of the yard. Goldie's urine causes many brown spots, but not nearly so much with Butch. Do you answer pee questions? -- B.D., Tacoma, WA
A: I do answer pee questions! All dogs are individuals, and the composition of urine will vary from dog to dog, having nothing to do with the dog's sex. However, male dogs generally pee in sprits and sprays; the lawn gets some urine, but so do nearby bushes and maybe even the side of your garage. Females tend to void all in one place. It's a matter of volume; the more urine, the more prominent the brown spot. FYI: It's excess nitrogen that causes those spots in the grass.
Q: My cat is scooching her rear end along the carpet. There are even skid marks in some places. Our vet doesn't seem concerned. What's going on? -- D.B., Houston, TX
A: Loose stool could be sticking to your cat's posterior. The cause could be long-hair; no matter how your cat attempts to clean up, self-grooming just doesn't do the job, so she scoots along the carpet. Matters are made worse if a cat is overweight and can't reach back far enough to clean up.
Dr. Gary Norsworthy, who has a cat-only practice in San Antonio, TX, says if this is the issue, you can help your cat out by giving her a sanitary clip and shaving the affected area. Or take her to a groomer for a professional cut. At least keep baby wipes near the litter box.
If you don't believe cleaning is the issue, there are two other possibilities. Though it's more common in dogs, cats sometimes scoot in an attempt to relieve the discomfort of impacted and/or infected anal glands.
Norsworthy says some overweight female cats have flabby folds next to their vulva. A moist dermatitis can form, and that causes itchiness. Norwsworthy says he often times solves this problem through surgery, what amounts to a sort of plastic surgery for cats. It's a rear-end tuck which does away with the flabbiness.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.
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