News, Nutrition for Dogs

Chinese Imported Dog Treats Cause Of Canine Deaths

Jerky treats from China have made news headlines again because more pups have lost their lives. We decided it was time to learn why this keeps happening. What we found is certainly eye-opening and scary. 

For those of you who might be asking if we use Chinese jerky in our treats, the answer is a resounding NO! One of our signature treats has beef jerky but it’s handcrafted and locally sourced from a small company in rural Michigan.  

Speaking of beef, let’s begin. Remember when the little old lady in the Wendy's commercial asked “where’s the beef” she just wanted a bigger burger. Today, that same question leads us all the way to China.  

Beef is one of the commodities in a high-stakes trade deal between the U.S. and China and may indirectly be responsible for thousands of dogs dying in this country and Australia. Chinese poultry, the other commodity, is likely the killing agent. 

As of May 1, 2014, the FDA has received almost 5,000 complaints of illness in pets that ate chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats, nearly all of which are imported from China.

The reports involve more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, three people and include 1,000 canine deaths.

This is a complicated and twisted tale that raises many other questions like why the U.S. continues to import these products or why can’t top-notch FDA specialists figure out the cause. There’s more to this story and if chickens could talk, maybe we’d have those answers.


In the past ten years, there has been a dramatic increase in the import of pet food from China. That’s because people in China prefer dark meat poultry which leaves a massive amount of light meat available for export.

From 2003 to 2011, the volume of pet food exports to the U.S. from China has grown 85-fold. Nearly 86 million pounds of pet food came from China in 2011 alone. What’s more, pet treats, including jerky, are now the fastest growing segment of the pet food market.


In January 2013, chicken jerky recalls were sparked by the New York State Department of Agriculture when they found some products adulterated with antibiotics that are banned in the U.S. as well as amantadine, an antiviral and anti-parkinsonian medication.

Manufacturing Plant Corruption

After inspecting five high volume jerky producing plants in China, the FDA identified one that falsified documents regarding their use of glycerin. Why is this significant? It’s because glycerin is a toxic by-product in making biodiesel fuel and it has been found in nearly every Chinese jerky treat’s list of ingredients.


Got your chemistry book handy? Glycerin is a sugar and filler. It’s classified as a humectant which means it absorbs water or moisture. It’s used in pet treats so the manufacturer can sell you the weight in water. Glycerin binds the water so as to disguise the water as a solid treat or food, and inhibit mold growth. To make a food soft, moist or semi-moist, glycerin makes up about 10-18% of the product. It’s about 60% as sweet as sugar so the treat maker benefits since dogs can taste sweetness.

Glycerin Market

Now it’s time to grab that economics book. Right now there is an extraordinary amount of biofuel glycerin coming into the market since one gallon of biodiesel yields one pound of glycerin. At this rate, the glycerin market is forced to find new uses for this product. Animal food is where it’s being dumped. 

Below are some of the brand names that contain glycerin: 

  • Beggin’ Strips
  • Beneful (Baked Delights and Snackin’ Slices)
  • Bil-Jac  (liver treats for dogs and Gooberlicious)
  • Blue Buffalo (Blue Bits, Blue Bites, Blue Stix, Super Bars, Blue Bones, Wild Bites, Blue Wilderness Wild Bites)
  • Blue Dog Bakery (Softies, Perfect Trainers)
  • Buddy Biscuits (Soft and Chewy, Chewy Tricky Trainers)
  • Busy Bones
  • Canyon Creek Ranch
  • Carolina Prime
  • Cesar Treats
  • Dentastix (from Pedigree)
  • Good Bites (from Pedigree)
  • Halo (Spot’s Chew)
  • Milo’s Kitchen
  • Pur Luv (Chewy Bites, Little Trix, Grande Bones)
  • Purina Pro Plan (various treats including Roasted Slices)
  • Real Meat Jerky Treats (Jerky Bites, Bitz, Long Stix, Large Bitz)
  • Solid Gold (Beef Jerky, Turkey Jerky, Lamb Jerky, Tiny Tots)
  • Snausages
  • T-Bonz
  • Waggin Train
  • Wellness (Wellpet, Wellbites)
  • Zukes  (Hip Action, Natural Purrz, Jerky Naturals, Mini Naturals)

Natural vs. Natural Glycerin

Until recently, most glycerin for pet food was produced as a byproduct of soap making and considered safe for pet consumption. Pet food makers that use soap glycerin try to distinguish their products by calling it “natural." Buyer beware because bio-diesel glycerin is also categorized as “natural” but it’s not been approved by the FDA yet.


Here’s another interesting fact. According to (a consumer advocacy organization) there are no reports of pet illness or death linked to the same jerky treats in Europe. What’s different? Both the U.S. and Australia use irradiation – the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation to destroy microbes. The problem is it doesn’t successfully destroy all of them and can alter the food. From the website:  “Studies show that animals fed with irradiated food have shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage.


Symptoms reported by pet owners include gastrointestinal, liver, kidney and urinary disease.

About 10% of the illnesses included neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms and about 15 percent tested positive for Fanconi syndrome – a rare and fatal kidney disease.

Consumer Awareness

Incredibly, even with all the media coverage over the years, there are still pet parents that are totally unaware of the jerky treat situation. Otherwise, how could they knowingly continue to buy the foreign jerky?  Maybe it’s because manufacturers don’t have to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products which means they still may be sourced from China.

Or, they just don’t get it. Nina Leigh Krueger, head of Purina’s recalled Waggin ‘Train brand, said they had thousands of customers calling for it to be back on store shelves. 

So Purina re-launched the treat, now including two varieties made in the U.S.  “We still produce our Chicken Jerky Tenders in China but we now get our chicken there from a single U.S.-owned supplier which oversees the process from egg through to treat,” said Bill Cooper, Nestle Purina’s vice president of manufacturing. He declined to name the supplier but said the company now routinely tests for 40 types of antibiotics.


Due to consumer pressure, PetSmart and Petco will ban all treats from China by year end 2015. 

Processing in China

Food Safety News just revealed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will soon allow U.S. chickens to be sent to China for processing before being shipped back to the states for human consumption. Considering that there are no plans to station on-site USDA inspectors at these subpar Chinese plants, it’s disturbing to say the least. Also, consumers won’t know which brands of chicken are processed in China because there’s no requirement to label it as such.

Report Complaints

You can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area  or go to: 

You can also get dog food recall alerts delivered to your Inbox by subscribing to The Dog Food Advisor’s Dog Food Recall Alert email notification list or follow them on Twitter.

Wrap Up

I hope this article has raised awareness of what’s going on in the pet industry.  Personally, I was blown away by what I discovered.  I recommend reading the Hearing on the Threat of China’s Unsafe Consumables by Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food and Water Watch dated May 8, 2013 for a good overview.

We want you to know that Arrfscarf will continue to source locally and maintain close relationships with our vendors. Our goal has always been and always will be to give your pups the very best.  

Until now, who would have imagined that jerky could be the tipping point for economic trade disaster and personal tragedy. It’s certainly a story of international intrigue. But as we found out, the real story is not about jerky, chickens, or even dogs.  It’s all about money and there’s only one way to fight back. Voting with your purchasing dollars. Buy local and U.S. made products.


MWDs—The Forgotten Veterans, Who Are They?

There are a few vets that won’t be getting discounts at their favorite store or diner today in honor of Veteran’s Day. Who are they? They’re MWD’s, Military Working Dogs. 


I must confess that I’ve never thought about “man’s best friend” being a war hero until I read about the United States’ first ever national monument being dedicated to combat dogs. Unveiled in October 2013 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, the nine foot bronze statue features a handler and four dogs representing the major breeds used since World War II:  Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Belgian Malinois.

John Burnam, who handled dogs during the war in Vietnam, said he got the idea for a memorial after military officials decided not to let dogs working in Vietnam return to the United States with their handlers. “They were heroes, and they were left to die,” said Burnam. It’s estimated that war dogs saved over 10,000 U.S. lives in Vietnam. 

Now, I knew I wanted to learn more about these furry freedom fighters.


What does it take to be a war dog? Number one qualifier is being sensitive to smell. When a dog sniffs the air, odor molecules enter its nostrils. These tiny, airborne particles travel to a membrane that contains about 220 million scent–detecting cells. That’s 40 times more than humans have. That’s why a dog gets much more information from a whiff of air than we do. 

Dogs’ noses are so powerful that they perform even better than machines. “Dogs find stuff that our sniffing technology can’t find,” says U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Greg Massey. Massey heads up the Military Working Dog Program at the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in Virginia.

When there is little or no wind, a dog can detect intruders up to an eighth of a mile.  With a little bit of wind, they can detect odors more than half a mile away! In training, the dogs learn the various odors associated with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Typically made from fertilizer and chemicals, and containing little or no metal, those buried bombs can be nearly impossible to find with standard mine-sweeping instruments. In the last few years, IEDs have become the major cause of casualties in Afghanistan. Today, dogs are trained to sniff out both homemade and commercially made devices. 

Some dogs are specially trained to not only detect stationary bombs or bomb-making materials, they can identify and alert their handler to the moving scent of explosive devices and materials left behind in the air as from a suicide bomber walking through a crowd. These “vapor-wake dogs” cost around $20,000 each.    


Dyngo, a working dog in Afghanistan spent over 1,000 hours in a field with his handler to uncover 370 lbs of explosives and a total of four IEDs that would have for sure killed the 20 soldier unit. In 2011, they were award the Bronze Star. 

The most celebrated military dog is Cairo who was assigned to the elite Navy Seals team that hunted down the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. The fact that Cairo was on the mission proves that the military working dog is one of the military’s most valuable assets. 

Dogs are the front detail. They are first to enter buildings to see what’s inside and walk in front of their units to sniff for bombs. They even parachute out of airplanes with their handlers. Dogs can re-enlist for several tours of duty until they are about 9 years old at which time they are retired or adopted.     


Just like soldiers, it’s been found that military dogs suffer from a type of canine PTSD– or post traumatic syndrome. A doctor in Afghanistan once called into a behavior specialist telling how his patient had just been through a firefight and was now cowering under a cot, refusing to come out. Even chew toys didn't work. Most likely something or someone had re-triggered that dog’s mind to think “when I see this kind of individual or object, things go boom, and I’m distressed.” One 12 year old vet named Treo still searches every room in his house for non-existent explosives. 

Treatment can be tricky since the patient can’t explain what’s wrong. Care can be as simple as taking a dog off patrol and giving it lots of exercise, playtime and gentle obedience training.More serious cases are handled by “desensitization counter-conditioning, which entails exposing the dog at a safe distance to a sight or sound that might set off a reaction–a gunshot, loud bang, or vehicle. If the training is successful, a dog can return to duty. Some are even treated with anti-anxiety drugs, like Prozac.

More than 5 percent of the approximately 650 military dogs deployed today are suffering from this disorder. Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, director of animal behavior at Tufts University said that the disorder can’t really be cured. “It’s more management, “he said. “Dogs never forget.”

We ask dogs to do a lot for us. They are neither bulletproof nor free from fear and emotions. Let’s remember that and do something compassionate and kind for a dog today in honor of these special furry vets.   


I know that my love and respect for dogs has just increased a thousand times. While my Maru isn’t exactly a war hero, she is still a hero to me. And in tribute to her fellow canines around the world, she salutes them for their bravery!


There a several websites dedicated to making the Retired Military Working Dog Adoption process easier for those interested in giving these war heroes a forever home.  About 300 retired U.S. military dogs are put up for adoption each year. 


Donations to war dogs can be made at: USWARDOGS 

Stiggy’s Dogs

Based in Northville, MI, Stiggy’s Dogs provide psychiatric service dogs to military veterans and active limited duty veterans with a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or related disorders.  The cost to train, certify, and house a dog is apx $4,000 – and dogs are FREE for VETS …along with a crate, bedding, toys, shots, and more.


Pets at Paulina - Adoption Event

For the 3rd year Sam and Willy's, a local boutique pet store, located at 3405 N. Paulina is sponsoring our little red cart! Pets at Paulina, taking place on Saturday, May 18th, gathers local merchants to help Chicagoland cats and dogs find new homes. We love to help up our local pups(and cats) in need! We will have our cart stocked with awesome dog ice cream and treats perfect to pick up after you adopt a new best friend.

Drop by Paulina and Roscoe to meet some new furry friends! (and get some dog treats)!