Return of the Toxic Treat to Our Shores: March 2019

As most of our clients will know, both Oak Flats Vet Clinic and Dr G. Baker’s practice in Sydney first sounded the alert over the arrival of toxic treats from Asia back in 2008: Suspected Cases of Acute Renal Failure with glucosuria- Fanconi like Syndrome in dogs fed chicken treats imported from China. A Seavers, Control and Therapy,  Sept 2008, University of Sydney.

In that outbreak many dogs were poisoned. Despite great concern amid growing numbers of cases, it took until December before we could get the treats pulled from supermarket shelves. It was only with the intervention of an investigative journalist Bronwyn Herbert from the ABC; who did a TV expose on the issue, that the treats were finally withdrawn in the first week of that December.

What I learnt from working that harrowing issue- which consumed every spare waking hour of almost 6 months- was we had only halted the problem. The money generated from the sales of these cheap treats was allegedly believed to be around $4 million dollars a week. Not surprising that instead of support and quick withdrawal of the suspected product, we were met with delay, assurances that felt more like obfuscation and  the ubiquitous ‘concern’ of  ‘Lawyers’ coming for us if we kept alerting vets and owners and individually asking Managers of supermarkets location by location to remove the suspected problem item. Some Managers initially removed product but were convinced by other parties to put the product back on the shelves.

Background investigation revealed that whilst these treats were ‘made’ and produced in showcase front line factories off-shore, once behind that first level, the detective trail was impossible to continue due to the huge numbers of smaller players/suppliers/growers stretching back deep into Asia. At any point in that trail there remained an infinite number of opportunities for the toxin to be reintroduced.

It would again be impossible to detect the toxin. Globally the world tried to isolate the toxin as many countries, including America, had affected dogs but the toxin never found.  If you don’t know what to look for then it will sneak back in.

In the interim 10 years there have been odd flares up of 1-2 cases now and again. Whilst not always Chicken Jerky or Chicken tenderloins (some vegetarian and fish treats were in question), historically it has always been the chicken-based treats that figure top of the list of affected foods.

I have not received a Petfast update on the  treats of concern in this current flare up, but the ingredient/flavour  is not important. What is important is to  know what to do now as a pet owner.

So, what to do?

If you are a client of our clinic you will now doubt be already aware of Dr. Aine’s 6-point Treat Health Check. This 6-point check list was born out of the nightmare of the 2008 situation and had stood our clients in good stead and kept them safe ever since.

As an owner your pet can fit into one of  two situations:

A) Currently your pet is well but does gets supermarket treats.

What you need to do is follow the checklist below and if the product does not fit the checklist;my advice is don’t feed it but bin it.


  1. Turn the packet over and check ‘PRODUCT Of information’. (Most important check of all).
  2. Check ‘MADE-IN’ declaration.                                                                                                                                    Unless the product says Product of Australia 100% & Made in Australia, with some very noticeable exceptions (RC EDUC being one of those safe exceptions along with a small number of other European sourced treats) then Don’t Feed the Treat. Put it in the garbage bin. Not the Fogo bin or Compost bin, the Garbage bin. This alone will keep 99% of pets safe.
  3. Check the Salt level. Should be < 1% as a general good health rule for all pets.
  4. Check the Fat level-aim for low fat content treats-again just sensible general health advice.
  5. Must be Colouring and Preservative free-again general health advice.
  6. Watch for and avoid ‘Boutique’ ingredients or fad claims ie garlic/emu oil/coconut oil etc or ‘Grain-Free” etc.

B)Currently your pet is not well and is also feed supermarket treats that fail the 6-point test above.

You need to Stop feeding the treats asap but Don’t throw the packets out yet: you need to keep the packets with barcodes and batch numbers etc so your vet can file a Petfast report.

Classical signs previously noted:

These cases are typically small dogs that present with a history of vomiting, lethargy (tiredness)and anorexia (not eating). They have all consumed jerky treats (mostly chicken jerky from Asia) within a few weeks prior to becoming anorexic. Physical examination has been relatively unremarkable.

Laboratory Testing: Urinalysis has consistently shown glucosuria and granular casts.

Blood chemistry in many of the cases has revealed hypokalaemia and mildly increased liver enzymes.

Blood gas analysis indicated acidosis

Alternative Treat Options.

These 3 treats have stood us in good stead for the last 10 years so we currently recommend in 2019:

Carrot: Fresh chopped up in chill box in fridge as cool sweet summer treats.

Liver Treats: Product of Australia: Less than 1% salt. Feed postage stamp size for every 10kg body weight.

RC EDUC: Low cal, low salt, low allergen. My favourite dog treat of all. Costs less than $2 a packet from most vets and pet shops. If you have never tried it for your pet before, then now is the time.