Was it the illegal antibiotic residue that New York Department of Agriculture found in a sample of Waggin Train and Milo’s Kitchen chicken jerky treats that caused the deaths and illnesses of U.S. pets?   Was the FDA aware of the drug residues all along?  Were treat manufacturers (importers) aware of the drug residues?  Some very concerning questions.

The following information is a collaborative effort between Mollie Morrissette and myself.  Just a theory.

The reason provided to petsumers for the recall of Waggin Train jerky treats and Milo’s Kitchen jerky treats was illegal antibiotic residues found in the treats by the New York Department of Agriculture (thank you NY!).  Both companies have stated the drugs residues were found in their treats.  Click Here and Here to read statements from each company.

The recall was announced on January 9, 2013.  As of this post (January 11, 2013), the FDA has not published the recall notices on their website or sent out the recall alert via email.  The FDA has mentioned the recalls in a related post on their site, but (very perplexed by this) they have not posted the recall press release as they do with any other recall notice.  FDA spokesperson Siobhan DeLancey told me on January 10, 2013 “We are in the process of obtaining copies of the notices from the companies and posting them. Right now, we’ve linked to the company websites. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.”

What drugs were found in the treats?

The New York Department of Agriculture told JoNel Aleccia of NBC News (who has been tremendous at keeping the spotlight on this issue alive) the drugs found in the treats are “sulfaclozine, tilmicosin, trimethoprim, enrofloxacin and sulfaquinoxaline”.

What are these drugs?  Sulfaclozine, Tilmicosin, Trimethoprim, Enrofloxacin, and Sulfaquinoxaline are antibiotics.  Significant to our theory, some of these drugs are known as ‘sulfa drugs’.

Why are these drugs illegal for use in animal feed in the U.S.?   One reason – specific to the sulfa drugs – is allergies.  Dr. Cathy Alinovi, DVM told us “many people are allergic to sulfa drugs – as are many animals.”  From the Vetmed.tamu.edu veterinary information on sulfonamides (sulfa drugs) states: “Hypersensitivity to sulfonamides – Renal function impairment.”

Quoting the Vetmed.tamu.edu sulfonamides veterinary information sheet “A large majority of the animals in which idiosyncratic toxicosis (allergic reaction) occurs have had a previous exposure to a sulfonamide combination.  Most cases involve a trimethoprim and sulfonamide combination.”

The New York Department of Agriculture found sulfa drugs and trimethoprim – this exact combination – in the jerky treats they tested.

One part of the theory:  The reason some dogs became ill and others didn’t was some were highly allergic to sulfa drugs.

But, there is more concern.  From the same Vetmed.tamu.edu sulfonamides veterinary information sheet it states: “Dogs are considered to be unable to acetylate sulfonamides to any significant degree.”

What does this mean?

From The Free Medical Dictionary (bold added): “acetylation – one of the synthetic biotransformations which operate in the metabolism of drugs in which metabolites are produced that are more readily excreted than the parent drug. Dogs are exceptional amongst the domesticated species in that acetylation does not occur in their tissues. Acetylation is one of the principal metabolic pathways of the sulfonamides.” 

Dr. Cathy Alinovi told us in layman terms this means “In order to break down sulfa drugs, the body needs to add an acetate molecule to the sulfa. Then, the liver says – oh, I know what to do with this – it can detoxify, break down and excrete the sulfa. Dogs cannot do that, so the liver says what the heck is this and the sulfa drug will not break down, so it isn’t removed from the body.”

Why didn’t someone know about the possibility of illegal sulfa drugs being fed to Chinese poultry before now?  It seems many people have known, and for years.

In 2008 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided information from testing of wastewater from swine farms in China, sulfa drugs were found.  If they knew the drugs were present at swine farms, why didn’t someone investigate poultry farms?

Someone did look at poultry farms.  Late in 2012 the world learned of  investigations that chicken sold by Yum! brand Kentucky Fried Chicken in China contained “higher than acceptable levels of antibiotics”Wall Street Journal reports the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration reported “eight out of 19 batches of chicken samples Yum sent to labs for testing in 2010 and 2011 had higher levels of antibiotics.”

(Also read Mollie’s post on this from December 2012)

What a shame none of the companies that imported the dog treats from China or FDA didn’t consider testing for commonly used animal feed drugs used in China.  The FDA has never released the names of the antibiotics they have tested for.  The use of these drugs in China is common knowledge and the sulfa drug allergy issue and dogs lacking the ability to metabolize sulfa drugs has been known for years and years.  I think it was Phyllis Entis of EFoodAlert.com that said (regarding the FDA’s investigation of jerky treats): ‘You can’t find what you don’t look for.’

A puzzler.  The Waggin Train recall notice states: “…voluntarily withdrawing its Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brand dog treats sold in the United States until further notice.”  I’ve not seen a recall notice make the statement ‘until further notice’ before.  As well, the entire Waggin Train website is now different – the entire website is only regarding the recall – products are no longer available for viewing.

One more puzzler.  A few days prior to the recall announcement, TruthaboutPetFood.com received an anonymous email sharing there is someone that could provide information about the jerky treats made in China.  I was told this person resigned from Purina/Waggin Train over the jerky treat issue.  I contacted the person – who confirmed they were a former employee of Purina and confirmed they resigned due to the jerky treat issue.  They would not confirm or disclose any more information.  But stated they felt Purina was a good company (made me wonder why they resigned then?)  A second call to this person went straight to voicemail.  I’ve received no response.

All of this information has been shared with the FDA.  For veterinarians and scientists reading this, please provide us your input if you believe the sulfa drugs and/or combination of drugs played a role in the kidney diseased suffered by dogs previously linked to the treats.

If this theory is correct, it seems impossible no one knew about this much sooner.  If this theory is correct, there is no excuse suitable.

To read Mollie Morrissette’s account on our theory, Click Here


Just sent to me from Tony Corbo of Food & Water Watch:  In a NBC article regarding jerky treat deaths, Kingdom Pets – a US distributor of Chinese Chicken Jerky treats told NBC news in August 2012:  “They say their chicken jerky treats come from the “same suppliers for KFC China and McDonalds China” and have “never tested positive for known contaminants.”   However as stated above, KFC China and McDonalds China have admitted to drug residues in their chicken.


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible

What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients?  Chinese imports?  Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 2500 cat foods, dog foods,  and pet treats.  30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. www.PetsumerReport.com




2013 List
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods.  Click Here



Have you read Buyer Beware?  Click Here

Cooking for pets made easy, Dinner PAWsible

Find Healthy Pet Foods in Your Area Click Here