Prior to September 23rd I classified myself as pet tolerant. Meaning as long as I didn’t have to interact with your pet then I was tolerant. Not the most popular opinion for sure. It just wasn’t my thing. Then on that fateful day in September my boyfriend tricked me into getting an adorable puppy that we named Science. Since then I have thrown myself into the puppy world like any new mom would.
One of the things I have discovered is the massive amounts of pseudo science and fear mongering in the pet community. So as a new puppy mom, I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this. In fact, my fellow Skepchicks have held my hand every step along the way. Many of them are incredibly knowledgable about dogs and cats and exceedingly brilliant just as you would expect. They definitely helped me sift through bad advice I havd been given. However, recently I was pointed to an example of absurd fear mongering and overreaction about dog chicken jerky.
Many news outlets have run stories about lethal chicken jerky produced in China. This is by no means a new story, just new to me. It has been going on for several years, but has resurfaced yet again. Here is an example headline, but I have yet to find any concrete justification.
The treats that are specifically mentioned are Nestle Purina’s Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek chicken jerky treats, as well as Milo’s Kitchen treats made by Del Monte Corp. Waggin’ Train’s president came out with a statement that these treats are produced in China due to their abundance of white meat chicken due to the Chinese cultural preference for dark meat.
Upon complaints about these chicken jerky treats, the FDA has been investigating the toxicity of the products since 2008. Thus far, they have not detected any definite problems. I consider the FDA a reliable source, which has tested these treats in multiple laboratories on many substances including metals, Salmonella, antibiotics, pesticides, etc. In fact, the FDA has a detailed FAQ page specifically about pet jerky. It is hypothesized that the problems could arise from a reaction between two ingredients, but the FDA has yet to find anything lethal or wonky despite headlines like the one above proclaiming that.
Each time a station runs one of these stories that locale seems to break out in an irrational state of panic instead of just doing their research or using common sense. Research and common sense are traits abundant in the skeptical community, however they are often limited else where.
Again I am by no means a pet expert, but if I notice Science vomiting or pooing all over the house then I realize something isn’t right. I would logically remove products from her diet to determine the culprit. Pet owners blame it on the treats. I am no vet, but it seems to me like there would be signs.
There are always exceptions, but if I notice a new treat is giving my puppy bad gas then I toss it. To me this is a matter of observing then reacting. I would double check the FDA’s evaluation if I was particularly worried.
One more thing that really upset me about this story was the fear mongering and irrational nature of people reacting to China as a whole. On a Facebook post there were people being out right racist towards China and their products. Commenters were declaring that they would never buy items from China again, while combining it with other terrible unnecessary racial stereotypes. Does it seem likely that there is something faulty in these products? Yes. However, problems like this can arise from everywhere including the US. Quite frankly, the US would be lost without Chinese imports so this overreaction of people NEVER buying items from China again just seems silly.
After seeing some of the horrible tweets and posts related to the presidential election this week concerning race, I am not sure why I am continually surprised. This behavior needs to stop, but that is an uphill battle.
So let me be clear, I am not running out to the store to buy my dog chicken jerky. This article isn’t about me claiming that this chicken jerky is A-OK, but it is about treating anything (particularly pet related things) through a skeptical magnifying glass. Looking for signs before something gets to far. Using research, common sense, and critical thinking. Don’t blame the first scapegoat. These skeptical principles I use everyday and will continue to use them when evaluating anything in my life.