FOOD & TREATS

Dog Treats from China: Is It Worth The Price?

Dog treat from China
Anna Smith
Written by Anna Smith

The term “dog treats from China” can be really confusing especially if you take a look at all the labels on pet food today. Pet food manufacturers are aware of the fact that when one mentions “made in China,” people would often associate it with poor quality due to the various quality issues that the country has had with its products. But almost everyone knows that a lot of the products in the market today do actually come from China or are made from materials sourced from China. What we need to think of however, is if it is really worth it at all.

We all want to get the lowest price for the stuff we buy as long as we know that we can get the same quality for them. The problem arises however with Chinese-made food products; not just those that are made for human consumption, but those that are given to our pets as well.

In the West, we value our pets almost like our own family and anything that would pose some health risk to our pets, we take as a serious issue. But, as the country had also recently been through an economic recession, can we also say that most of us would be willing to pay more for pet food?

What problems did we encounter with Chinese dog treats?

Although up to now, the FDA had not pointed out what was actually the cause of the various pet ailments and even deaths that occurred after dogs ate China dog treats, a lot of pet owners have already submitted various problems regarding these types of products.

Doggie treats packaging

It is important to take note that the number of complaints and reports that the FDA had received started in 2007 and it is continuing up to these days.  There were about 5,800 cases of dogs that have fallen ill due to Chinese-made dog treats out of which an estimated 1,000 have died.

Out of all the dogs that have died, here is a summary of what their veterinarians have found to be the cause of death:

  • Gastrointestinal problems. About 60% of the dogs who have died were found to have developed problems in their stomachs and intestines. The results both showed normal and elevated levels of liver enzymes.
  • Fanconi-like syndrome (FLS). This type of syndrome involves the deterioration of the kidneys which leads to the loss of protein and other essential nutrients to be lost in the urine. Roughly 30% of the dogs who have died supposedly of eating dog treats were found to have this condition.
  • Other ailments. The remaining 10% of the cases showed a mix of various causes of death which includes widespread cancer, mushroom toxicity, pneumonia, abscess, cardiac lesions, Cushing’s disease, bacterial meningitis, trauma, and parvovirus enteritis.

Aside from these known causes of dog deaths, there have also been several problems that the New York State Department of Agriculture and the FDA had discovered regarding pet foods and treats from China. The discovery of these problems led to the recall of some pet treats as well as the stoppage of imports from some suppliers. These problems include the following:

  • The presence of prohibited antibiotics. One of the major discoveries that led to the recall of some pet treats from China is the presence of certain prohibited antibiotics in the chicken jerky treat. The antibiotics were of the sulfate family and which had been known to cause Fanconi-like syndrome in dogs which have a particular sensitivity to this product.
  • The presence of prohibited anti-viral products. Amantadine, which had been banned by the US to be used in chicken and poultry, was found to be present in some chicken jerky products. Although the FDA did not link Amantadine with the ailments and deaths of pet dogs in the US, they did screen out pet treats containing this substance.
  • Falsification of documents regarding glycerin. Another main reason why there had been a recall of pet treats from China is the misrepresentation of one company regarding the receipt of glycerin in their plants.

Food made within the United States, however, are required to meet certain federal standards. To know what those are so you can find the best quality kibble for your dog, please check out our article on what makes good dog food.

Circumstances and symptoms involved in the deaths and ailments

Although the ailments experienced by the affected dogs seemed to show some uniformity, the circumstances surrounding them have some degree of variations. For example, some dogs exhibited symptoms hours after eating the treat while others experienced it after several weeks or months. Here are some of the things that are quite common in these cases:

  • The dogs were fed a significant amount of pet treat products. This one seems to be a common thread in some cases. The reports indicated that they fed treats to their dogs which can be considered to be more than what could be a normal amount. This does not mean though that all of them were overfed with treats. Some pets also experienced symptoms even after eating only a few pieces or after eating for a day.
  • Humans who accidentally or purposely ate the treats experienced nausea and kidney problems. The recorded cases of humans ingesting the pet treats include children who accidentally ate the treat as well as an adult who decided to eat it. The victims were hospitalized and were found to have developed kidney and urinary problems similar to what the dogs experienced.
  • There was no particular category or breed of dog that was more sensitive to the pet treat. The prevalence of the problem in various types of dog breeds, size, and age led to the conclusion that there was really something in the product that caused the illness and not to some particular sensitivity in the part of the dogs.

As to the specific symptoms that the dogs displayed after eating dog treats from China, here is a list which the FDA issued on their website. These symptoms are known to be exhibited by dogs affected by FLS:

  • Decreased appetite,
  • Decreased activity or lethargy,
  • Vomiting,
  • Diarrhea (sometimes with blood),
  • Thirstiness or increased water consumption,
  • Increased urination.

What brands of dog treats come from China?

Although the FDA had not established any links between Chinese made dog treats and the ailments in pets which ate the treats, pet owners have been putting out names as to the brands of dog treats that they gave to their pets.

Waggin Train

But aside from these treats, there are also other brands which are either manufactured in China or have ingredients sourced from China.

Purina Waggin Train Chicken Jerky Dog Treats

If you are wary about the brands of dog treats that you buy, here is a comprehensive list of those that are known to have Chinese ingredients:

Take note that there are different types of dog treats which have been involved in pet ailments:

  • Chicken jerky
  • Duck tenders
  • Sweet potato jerky

However, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the treat section of the store completely. We have a great list of some of the best dog treats customers are raving about, so why not take a look?

How did Chinese authorities and manufacturers react to the allegations of toxic dog treats?

Due to the warning that the FDA issued to dog owners regarding these dog treats, sales had started to be low and this only translated to lesser demand in the market and the pull-out of products by retailers.

A lot of dog treat manufacturers were forced to close due to the loss and owners had been really at a loss. Some have even gone to the point of eating their own dog treat products just to show that they are safe even for human consumption.

As to the Chinese government, their representative had suggested that the FDA had wrongly accused Chinese-made dog treats of causing pet illnesses and deaths even though it had not showed solid evidence to do so. They also warned that this can affect trade relations between the two countries.

There are some who have suggested several explanations as to why the dogs exhibited such symptoms upon eating the dog treats from China. First, there is the presence of antibiotics in the meat jerky which is known to cause kidney failure in humans and animals.

The second is that irradiation and the presence of glycerin in the dog treat may have contributed to the overall results. This is especially so since irradiation had been known to change the chemical structure of substances and its effects on glycerin had not been really studied.

This seems to be the case especially since the common factor among the various types of jerky products was that they were all treated with irradiation.

Product of China

Another theory is that irradiation does not totally eliminate microbes and other contaminants in meat. Lastly, there is also the issue of food safety practices in manufacturing plants in China. According to some reports, the plants and the chicken processing methods have often failed inspection but reports were being falsified by Chinese authorities themselves just to gain profits.

Surprise inspections by US authorities have also been thwarted since plant owners were able to learn about impending inspections days before they are done. The pollution in China had also been seen as a contributing factor to the poor quality of pet food products. Due to this pollution, a wide range of antibiotics and antiviral treatments had been used in animals to ward off diseases.

Why are we outsourcing products from China?

There are several reasons why China has become one of the best sources of raw and finished products in the pet care and pet food industry.  Aside from the fact that the country is one of the largest sources of agricultural products, the country boasts with one of the largest manpower sources.

These factors, combined with political and other socio-cultural reasons contribute to the overall desirability of the country as a base for the production of pet foods.

One must remember however, that the country is under a different form of government which makes it possible to harness a large scale of manpower.

  • Cheap source of materials. One of the main reasons why foreign countries rely on China for raw materials is the fact that they can offer a cheaper rate for them. One of the main reasons for this is the large area of China’s mainland which is used for agriculture. The country’s large arable areas as well as their agricultural programs help boost the country’s yearly agricultural produce. Compared to locally-raised agricultural products in the US and other Western countries, China can offer the same for just a fraction of the cost.
  • The Chinese’s preference for red meat. Another reason why China is a viable source is their innate preference of red meat over white meat. The country disposes white meat products just as much as Westerners would discard animal by-products. Due to this somehow, cultural preference, other countries have taken advantage of the “discarded” white meat to be used for pet food and pet treat products.
  • Cheap manpower. The country is able to gather a wide range of manpower resources under its form of government which makes it possible to offer labor at a much lower rate than in the West. The availability of manpower as well as the higher exchange rate of dollars against the Chinese currency makes it possible for the US and other Western countries to pay their workers at a lower rate than what they would in their own countries.
  • Political reasons. Aside from these somewhat “practical” purposes of importing from China, there is also the political aspect of the whole thing. Foreign countries have trade interests on China and to strengthen the ties between countries, they have to at least concede to some of the requirements of the Chinese government which is to establish local manufacturing and production facilities in the country.

Still feel like spoiling your dog a little? Why not give him treats that you know are healthy? Check out our article on making dog treats at home.

In conclusion, I think that the decision to choose whether you should buy dog treats from China or not should lie on whether you are willing to take the risk of having your dog incur ailments that have been associated with these treats.

They are definitely way cheaper than US or other Western-made pet products but are you willing to risk your pet’s health just to save a few dollars? I think that going cheap should never be done in exchange for your pet’s health or life. If you want to save on money, then your best option would be to make your own treats at home.

About the author
Anna Smith
Anna Smith

Anna Smith resides in beautiful Santa Monica, CA, where she works as a Pet Nutrition Expert in a leading retail pet store. She is responsible for nutritional strategies for different breeds and development of new products on the market in compliance with Association of American Feed Control Officials. Anna's passions are education about proven methods and best practices in the industry and her dog Max, who is always well-fed.

  • John Porter

    I definitely won’t risk my dogs’ life with settling with cheaper food! I got a dog to take care of and a companion; I won’t take my dogs for-granted just because I want to save a little money. We should always prefer quality over quantity.

    • Anna Smith

      We cannot really compromise the quality of the dog food because the complications will surface sooner or later. We don’t want to start bad, and we should only look for the best food sources each and every time.

  • Sarah Johnson

    It’s a personal decision to avoid dog treats made from China. For those like me with a resolve to avoid these treats, it’s important to look at the fine print. Some dog treats have misleading labels. The front packaging may feature something along the lines of “USA Quality” or “USA Approved” with fine print at the back of the package saying assembled/manufactured in China. Let’s be vigilant around what we give our dogs!

    • Anna Smith

      Providing the best nourishment is the foundation that can determine your dog’s health. This is where your dog gets its nutritional needs, that’s why as much as possible, you must aim to get the best dog treats/food to give your dog. There should be no compromise for this.

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