Monday, December 28, 2009

Chicken Treats Made in China and a Christmas Dilemma

Last night I found myself in quite a pickle of a situation. I returned from a wonderful week in Camden, South Carolina to a stack of Christmas cards and a few gifts under my small tree. One gift was for Milly from my boyfriend’s mother, and when I opened it I was excited to see “Sweet Potato,” but quickly became nervous as I realized this treat was wrapped in dehydrated chicken. I turned the box over and scoured to find the country of origin – disappointment sank in as I read those bold letters, “MADE IN CHINA.”

Dehydrated poultry products have quickly become the treat of choice for many owners, but the majority of them are made in China (I’ve only found two brands that aren’t). I’ve noticed these treats tend to rely on marketing “All natural” or “Holistic” or "Grain and corn free" and even the more expensive brands sold in pet specialty shops tend to be made in China. When I’ve inquired about the ingredients in such treats I’ve been told by store owners and store managers, “They’re all natural – it’s just chicken,” and so I ask what they might be cooked in because my dog has allergies – 100% natural chicken is always the response.

You might remember when I committed a cardinal dog owning sin and fed Milly some dehydrated chicken strips, made in China, which had been given to me. Normally, Milly does not get any food made in China, but I made an exception, and she paid the consequences by vomiting all day. I am so lucky that was the extent of her illness, but it was a very terrifying day, and one that I will never forget. I now read every label, and she is not allowed anything made in China.

In 2007 and 2008, there were many articles about made in China chicken treats causing renal and kidney failure in dogs throughout the United States and Australia. The FDA investigated the issue, but no conclusions about their investigation have been released, and they caution dog owners not to feed these treats. A simply Google search of “made in china chicken dog treat” turns up enough terrifying search results to make any dog owner’s head spin, and it checks out on!

In China the standards for processing foods are very different than in the United States, and regulations are rarely enforced, especially when it comes to pet food and pet products. From mold tainted chicken strips – go to your local Pet Smart and take a look at the packages of dehydrated chicken, and you’ll wonder why the same exact product comes in so many shades of color – to chicken supposedly treated in formaldehyde, the risks associated with these loosely regulated dog treats are high. These are both speculations of causes, though independent panels have found traces of both in treats.

The American Veterinary Medical Association urges pet owners not to feed these poultry based treats from China, and explains that there has been no definitive answers one way or another, but pets continue to get sick. They urge owners who do continue to feed these treats to watch their pets closely for any signs of illness.

I have not found much from 2009 regarding these cases, but I also have not found any conclusions regarding the issues that took place in 2007 and 2008 in my searches, but the lack of data is not going to push me into feeding my dog something made in China, I don’t care how many thousands of dogs safely eat these treats.

So now, here I am with a gift that I have no idea what to do with. At first I thought, well, I’ll Google the company, and maybe make an exception just this once, but images of Milly violently ill the last time I made an exception came to mind, and that simply is not an option. What is the proper gift receiving etiquette? Do I simply write a thank you note, and pretend like this was a great gift? Do I donate the treats to a shelter – I don’t feel comfortable putting other dogs at risk. Do I find a store that carries the same brand I was given and try to exchange them for a treat made in the USA, and then write a thank you note explaining what I did? I do believe it is important to educate the public, but I don’t want to appear ungrateful. I was truly touched that someone took the time to think of Milly on Christmas, and include a gift for her under the tree.


  1. I would see if you could exchange in and in your thank you note explain why. I am sure any animal lover could understand why you would not want to risk Milly's health, especially given the history of the last time. I am so grateful to have read this post, I had no idea and will not watch more carefully what I get as training treats for my dogs. Is it just the chicken treats I should be concerned about?? If you wouldnt mind emailing me and letting me know I would really appreciate it.

  2. Thank you for that post ...I would get with the company perhaps..and explain your views.
    AS far as the person that gave it to you..I am one to smile and not say anything..but that may not be the best thing to do when it comes to a dogs safety...I would not donate them to anyone.

    Thanks again and I am so glad to see you love Milly so much.

    Licks to you..


  3. All treats made in China are a concern - duck, chicken, fish, beef, pig ears, etc.