By Dr. Becker
Free-range, organic chicken is one of the healthiest treats you can feed your dog or cat. Packed with species-appropriate protein, B-vitamins, sulfur-containing amino acids, and minerals, chicken can give your four-legged family member extra strength and energy. Plus, most dogs and cats love the taste and aroma of this all-natural treat.
Because chicken is so healthy, you may have considered picking up a package of store-bought chicken jerky treats. They're chewy in texture and last longer than cooked chicken, making them a favorite for many pets and pet owners alike.
However, store-bought chicken jerky treats, especially brands sourced from China, have been implicated in a shocking number of dog deaths and even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned dog owners of their link to illnesses.1
Purchasing store-bought versions is simply not worth the risk to your pet's health, especially when making a homemade version is incredibly simple. All you need is a basic dehydrator and a package of free-range organic chicken breasts to make homemade chicken jerky your pets will crave.
Homemade Chicken Jerky Recipe
- Free-range organic chicken breasts
- Slice chicken breasts into ½-inch strips and place on dehydrator tray
- Dehydrate at 145 degrees F for two hours
- Reduce temperature to 120 degrees F for another 4 hours or until meat is thoroughly dry
- Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks
More Than 1,000 Dog Deaths Linked to Toxic Jerky Treats
You can see from the recipe above how simple it is to make chicken jerky at home, so please don't risk your pet's health with imported jerky treats from China. Since 2007, the FDA has received about 5,000 complaints of pet illnesses (along with 25 illnesses in cats and three in humans) linked to toxic jerky treats, including more than 1,000 dog deaths.2,3 According to the FDA:
"Although it is impossible to determine in every case whether the events reported were in fact caused by eating jerky pet treats, FDA continues to believe that there is an association between some of the reports and consumption of jerky pet treats."
Most often, dogs became sick after consuming chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats from China, although even treats labeled "Made in the USA" may contain ingredients sourced from China (or other countries).
The most common symptoms were gastrointestinal or liver disease, followed by kidney and urinary disease. In about 15 percent of the kidney and urinary disease cases, a rare kidney disease called Fanconi syndrome was reported. Symptoms that occurred less often (in about 10 percent of cases) included neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms.4
Despite conducting "extensive chemical and microbial testing," the FDA has yet to identify any contaminants in jerky treats tested, however they continue to receive complaints of dogs getting sick after eating such treats.
I recommend avoiding store-bought jerky treats for your pets until this "mystery" is solved, and this includes those imported from China and even those that say they are made in the USA. US country of origin labeling laws only require that products "made in the US" be put together here.
There's no requirement for pet food manufacturers to identify where the ingredients in their products come from. So unless you have contacted the manufacturer and confirmed the product is truly sourced and made from US ingredients, avoid feeding them to your pets. Instead, make your own at home (and while you have the dehydrator out, try your hand at these homemade dehydrated liver chunks, too).
Finally, if you're looking for even more homemade pet treat recipes, check out my free e-cookbook, Homemade Treats for Healthy Pets: Nutritious Recipes for Your Cats and Dogs. This e-book is filled with homemade dog and cat treat ideas, which are personally formulated by my mom and me. I'm sure your pets will love them. Over 20 species-appropriate recipes – crunchy morsels, savory treats, and even pet-friendly desserts – are included.