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Is it dangerous to feed dogs chicken jerky?

A reader has concerns about the treat. Vet Neil McIntosh advises

Chicken jerky

Chicken jerky. Should you feed it to your dog?

Q: I have read that there are dangers associated with feeding dogs chicken jerky treats. Is this true?

A: Guido Fanconi was a Swiss paediatrician, born in 1892, who spent his career in the Kinderspital (Children’s Hospital) of the University of Zurich and was one of the first physicians to recognise the importance of biochemistry to clinical medicine. In 1931, he described a child who was affected by rickets and dwarfism and, rather unusually, had glucose and protein in their urine. By 1943, his findings had been verified and a rare disorder of kidney function that results in excessive quantities of glucose, bicarbonate, phosphate and potassium being excreted in urine was named after him. Fanconi syndrome, as it turns out, occurs when there is inadequate reabsorption of these molecules in the renal tubules. There are various known causes, including congenital defects, exposure to toxins (especially heavy metals), vitamin D deficiency and adverse drug reactions.

And by now I can see your eyes are flicking back to the question that was asked, and wondering what on earth I am talking about. So, let me explain. A few years ago, out of the blue, we started to see a Fanconi-like syndrome occurring in dogs. Originally reported in the US, Canada and Australia, there have been a few cases in the UK and these related to the excessive feeding of chicken jerky products originating in China. When the treats were withdrawn, clinical signs resolved.

Diagnosis is difficult, as the clinical signs are not specific, and my guess is the syndrome is under-reported for this very reason. Affected animals have increased thirst and urination. They are dull, lack appetite and often vomit and have diarrhoea. All this can occur with kidney infections, leptospirosis, drug reactions and tumours, but what primarily separates Fanconi syndrome is the presence of glucose in the urine when blood glucose is normal or even reduced. When this is found, further tests on urine and blood samples can confirm other biochemical changes, such as low blood potassium and phosphates, resulting in weakness and bone pain. Add in a history of jerky treat consumption and Bob (or maybe Guido) is your uncle.