FDA says 500 dogs killed by jerky treats

JoNel Aleccia of NBC News reports some 500 dogs and nine cats may have died after eating chicken jerky pet treats made in China, according to updated complaints logged by federal veterinary health officials.

A new tally of reports filed with the Food and Drug Administration shows the agency has received 2,674 reports of illness involving 3,243 dogs, including 501 deaths. The agency also has received reports of Purina-Waggin-Train-Yam-Good-Treatsnine illnesses in cats, including one death, the FDA said.

That’s up from an estimated 2,200 reports of illness, 360 dog deaths and one cat death reported last summer. So far, though, FDA has not been able to confirm a link between the treats and the ailments. 

The new figures come less than a week after two of the largest retailers of pet chicken jerky treats issued voluntary recalls of several popular brands after New York state agriculture officials detected unapproved antibiotics in the products.

Nestle Purina PetCare Co. recalled its popular Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brand dog treats, and Del Monte Corp. officials recalled their Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers home-style dog treats from shelves nationwide.

Raw diets are bad news for pets and owners alike

Gonzalo Erdozain writes:

Yes, dogs can get salmonellosis, but I won’t go there because Dr. Weese in Guelph already did. But on Thurs., the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) passed a proposed policy to recommend pet owners avoiding feeding their pets raw or undercooked diets.

There will be hate mail.

“The AVMA discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans. Cooking or pasteurization through the application of heat until the protein reaches an internal temperature adequate to destroy pathogenic organisms has been the traditional method used to eliminate pathogens in animal-source protein, although the AVMA recognizes that newer technologies and other methods such as irradiation are constantly being developed and implemented.”

I like this statement for many reasons. It is not forcing anybody to stop feeding raw diets, it discourages people from doing so. The reason? It’s a “risk for pets and humans.” As a veterinarian-to-be, I’m well aware that we are the first line of defense when it comes to zoonotic disease transmission. Forget all the stories about how your dog does much better on raw than dry, or how fido went from being blind and bald to seeing and hairy when you switched to raw (ok, made that one up, but just go to the AVMA’s web site and you’ll see the types of responses we’ll have to deal with.

My major concern is to keep my family, dog, patients and patients’ owners healthy.

Just as with human food, raw is rarely a good idea. You can get your pets yourself, and your family sick (via direct feeding or cross-contamination). So, even if you are totally against the evil man, and don’t want to feed your dog specially formulated dry food, you may want to cook it. The same food safety guidelines apply for humans and pets.

316 sickened with Salmonella over 8 years from mail-order chicks ducks

Parents should think carefully about any pet, particularly small turtles, reptiles, and chicks or ducks, that can carry human disease. Young children are much more vulnerable to things like Salmonella.

And U.S. federal agencies continue to have a going public problem, and should develop public guidelines for when, or when not, to name a business or farm in a disease outbreak, and apply those guidelines consistently

That’s what I conclude from reports that health types have cracked an 8-year-old Salmonella outbreak linked to live, mail-order poultry.

JoNel Aleccia of msnbc.com writes, between 2004 and 2011, at least 316 people in 43 states were sickened by a strain of salmonella Montevideo that had stumped staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 5,000 additional cases likely went unreported, officials say.

Only through careful analysis of the genetic fingerprint of the bug and cooperation with human and animal health officials and poultry experts did the CDC crew link the cases to “Hatchery C,” a supplier of 4 million birds a year identified only as being in the western U.S.

“It was definitely an interesting outbreak,” said Casey Barton Behravesh, one of a team of CDC researchers who reported on their investigation in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Because the hatchery was cooperative and because the threat of this particular infection appears to be over — with only one case of the outbreak strain reported so far this year — CDC officials declined to name the source of live young poultry popular as Easter presents or with urban backyard chicken farmers.

Since 1990, there have been 35 outbreaks of salmonella tied to contact with shipments of live, young poultry. CDC officials are investigating two separate outbreaks now, strains of salmonella Altona and salmonella Johannesburg, which together have sickened nearly 100 people in 24 states.

It was the salmonella Montevideo outbreak, though, that sent CDC officials scrambling to find out the source of infections whose victims were mostly children under the age of 5.

?In the end, about 80 percent of the illnesses were traced back to Hatchery C, which can ship as many as 250,000 birds a week in the spring, the peak season, according to the report. Even after the hatchery took steps to curtail salmonella transmission, the infections dropped, but did not stop.

Even when state agriculture officials have forced hatcheries to get rid of their birds, clean up the sites and start over, salmonella outbreaks have erupted again.

“Shutting down the hatcheries is not necessarily the answer here,” Behravesh said.

There are some 20 hatcheries in the U.S. that ship an estimated 50 million live poultry by mail-order every year, generating between $50 million and $70 million a year, said CDC officials, citing unpublished data.

In 2011, the U.S. Postal Service shipped some 237,778 boxes or 1.7 million pounds of live poultry, spokeswoman Sue Brennan told msnbc.com.

Many of those birds go to agricultural feed stores, where they may be sold as Easter pets. Others are shipped directly to urban farmers, including many who have adopted the recent trend of raising backyard flocks of chickens.

In this outbreak, the number of illnesses peaked in May of 2006, forcing interventions at Hatchery C, the paper reported.

Those included beefing up biosecurity and rodent control, decontaminating feed, replacing and updating old equipment, changing airflow, improving testing and giving vaccines to adult birds.

Such steps may be recommended, but not required, by the National Poultry Improvement Plan, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All compliance is voluntary, Behravesh noted.

Still, even after that effort, the salmonella infections didn’t cease completely, Behravesh said.

The CDC researchers called for more targeted efforts to raise awareness about the danger of salmonella infections from live poultry. Only about 21 percent of patients interviewed said they knew that poultry could transmit salmonella and only 7 percent said they were warned about the risk at the time of purchase.

Part of the problem is that people regard the young poultry as pets, often buying chicks dyed neon colors as holiday favors.

New England Journal of Medicine, 366;22

Nicholas H. Gaffga, M.D., M.P.H., Casey Barton Behravesh, D.V.M., Dr.P.H., Paul J. Ettestad, D.V.M., Chad B. Smelser, M.D., Andrew R. Rhorer, M.S., Alicia B. Cronquist, R.N., M.P.H., Nicole A. Comstock, M.S.P.H., Sally A. Bidol, M.P.H., Nehal J. Patel, M.P.H., Peter Gerner-Smidt, M.D., D.Med.Sci., William E. Keene, Ph.D., M.P.H., Thomas M. Gomez, D.V.M., Brett A. Hopkins, D.V.M., Ph.D., Mark J. Sotir, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Frederick J. Angulo, D.V.M., Ph.D.




Outbreaks of human salmonella infections are increasingly associated with contact with live poultry, but effective control measures are elusive. In 2005, a cluster of human salmonella Montevideo infections with a rare pattern on pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (the outbreak strain) was identified by PulseNet, a national subtyping network.


In cooperation with public health and animal health agencies, we conducted multistate investigations involving patient interviews, trace-back investigations, and environmental testing at a mail-order hatchery linked to the outbreak in order to identify the source of infections and prevent additional illnesses. A case was defined as an infection with the outbreak strain between 2004 and 2011.


From 2004 through 2011, we identified 316 cases in 43 states. The median age of the patient was 4 years. Interviews were completed with 156 patients (or their caretakers) (49%), and 36 of these patients (23%) were hospitalized. Among the 145 patients for whom information was available, 80 (55%) had bloody diarrhea. Information on contact with live young poultry was available for 159 patients, and 122 of these patients (77%) reported having such contact. A mail-order hatchery in the western United States was identified in 81% of the trace-back investigations, and the outbreak strain was isolated from samples collected at the hatchery. After intervention at the hatchery, the number of human infections declined, but transmission continued.


We identified a prolonged multistate outbreak of salmonellosis, predominantly affecting young children and associated with contact with live young poultry from a mail-order hatchery. Interventions performed at the hatchery reduced, but did not eliminate, associated human infections, demonstrating the difficulty of eliminating salmonella transmission from live poultry.

And, in a new and separate outbreak, CDC 93 additional people have been sickened. The complete CDC report is available at http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/live-poultry-05-12/index.html. Highlights below.

A total of 93 persons infected with outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport, and Salmonella Lille have been reported from 23 states.

18 ill persons have been hospitalized, and one death possibly related to this outbreak is under investigation.

37% of ill persons are children 10 years of age or younger.

Collaborative investigative efforts of local, state, and federal public health and agriculture officials linked this outbreak of human Salmonella infections to exposure to chicks and ducklings from a single mail-order hatchery in Ohio.

Findings of multiple traceback investigations of live chicks and ducklings from homes of ill persons have identified a single mail-order hatchery in Ohio as the source of these chicks and ducklings. This is the same mail-order hatchery that was associated with the 2011 outbreak of Salmonella Altona and Salmonella Johannesburg infections. In May 2012, veterinarians from the Ohio Department of Agriculture inspected the mail-order hatchery and made recommendations for improvement.

Mail-order hatcheries, agricultural feed stores, and others that sell or display chicks, ducklings, and other live poultry should provide health-related information to owners and potential purchasers of these birds prior to the point of purchase. This should include information about the risk of acquiring a Salmonella infection from contact with live poultry.

Mail-order hatcheries, agricultural feed stores, and others who sell or display chicks, ducklings and other live poultry should provide health-related information to owners and potential purchasers of these birds prior to the point of purchase. This should include information about the risk of acquiring a Salmonella infection from contact with live poultry.

Pet dogs—A transmission route for human noroviruses? (and vice-versa)

A new paper in the Journal of Clinical Virology by Maija Summa, Carl-Henrik von Bonsdorff, and Leena Maunula investigates the role of pet dogs as sources of norovirus. Abstract below:

Human noroviruses (HuNoVs) are one of the leading causes of diarrhoeal diseases worldwide in all age groups. Virus transmission can occur via the faecal-oral route from person to person or via contaminated food, water, or surfaces. The most common NoV strains circulating among humans belong to genogroup GII. Thus far, to our knowledge, no HuNoVs have been detected in pets.

We investigated whether pet dogs could serve as carriers for HuNoVs and thereby transmit the infection to humans.

Ninety-two faecal samples of indoor pet dogs were obtained. The main criteria for sample collection were that the dog or humans in the household had suffered from diarrhoea or vomiting. All samples were screened for HuNoV genogroups GI, GII, and GIV by real-time one-step RT-PCR.

We detected HuNoV in four faecal samples from pet dogs that had been in direct contact with symptomatic persons. Three of the positive samples contained genotype GII.4 variant 2006b or 2008 and one GII.12. All NoV-positive dogs lived in households with small children and two dogs showed mild symptoms.

Our results suggest that HuNoVs can survive in the canine gastrointestinal tract. Whether these viruses can replicate in dogs remains unresolved, but an association of pet dogs playing a role in transmission of NoVs that infect humans is obvious.

BARF diet for pets endangers species

The BARF diet is rooted in the philosophy that all things natural are good, and that science or human experience cannot improve on nature.

The Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or Bones And Raw Food, diet, also known as the "prey model," in which owners try to feed their pets critters similar to what they’d hunt in the wild, has resulted in a surge in illegal sales of raw wild game online, Florida wildlife investigators say.

USA Today reports that in 2010, its first year, Florida Fish and Wildlife’s Internet Crimes Unit logged 177 arrests and 92 warnings for cases involving illegally buying or selling wildlife or raw game meat online, some of it for pets.

Pet owners go on Craigslist and eBay, asking where they can score a squirrel, pheasant, rabbit, goose, duck, chicken, just about any game to feed their cats and dogs. Some seek raw fish, meaty bones and organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys — everything a growing carnivore needs.

"It’s happening nationwide," said Lt. George Wilson, head of the Internet Crimes Unit. "The philosophy behind it is feeding your pet a hormone-free, naturally grazed diet.

"We’re seeing solicitations for wild ducks, anything wild."

The Internet provides a way around having to pay taxes or pay for licenses to sell wild game, investigators say.

But these Internet outlaws skirt regulations that ensure meat is sanitary and comes from game hunted in-season. They threaten to create black markets for wildlife similar to what existed for alligators 50 years ago, Wilson said.

"It’s the unlicensed people that would be trafficking them," said Jim Deason, owner of Sweetwater Plantation, a farm in Bristol, Fla., that sells live deer for breeding. "Any of the people that I know, they’re pretty above board on things like that. If there’s anybody selling game, it’s probably going to be backwoodsy folks."

Micro-pig the new porcine pocket pet

British celebrities Katie Price, Victoria and David Beckham, and Rupert Grint (the Ginge in those terrible Harry Potter movies) have fallen for the charms of the micro-pig, which can sell for thousands of dollars.

But the New Zealand Herald reports parents in Britain have been urged not to buy the miniature porcine pets for Christmas, with the Government set to warn this week that they risk spreading dangerous diseases.

Ministers are so nervous about the craze, which has led to several owners being mis-sold regular piglets which grow into full-size sows, that guidance is to be rushed out next week specifically targeting prospective keepers of the pocket-sized creatures.

The agency responsible for ensuring farm animals are healthy, disease-free and well looked after, will raise serious concerns about the hygiene threat posed by the animals.

It will warn: "Before buying a pig, hobby keepers and owners of pet pigs or ‘micro’ pigs must make sure they are aware of, and understand their obligations, so they can keep their animals fit, healthy and legally compliant and help them to avoid unwittingly spreading disease."

Sick pigs can pass on zoonotic diseases to humans, which can include the skin condition erysipeloid and the bacterium Streptococcus suis, which can lead to illness including meningitis and deafness in humans.

Jim Paice, the British farming minister, said: "A pig is a farm animal, not a pet for Christmas. A micro-pig may sound like a popular gift idea – but beware the pig that grows too big. This year already I’ve heard some interesting stories about micro-pigs becoming bigger and outgrowing their homes. So if you’d like to see pigs this festive season, pop along to your local petting farm."

Just not one of those E. coli petting farms.