Petco to stop selling treats from China, after 1,000 dog deaths

Hallelujah. Pet store giant Petco has announced that it will stop selling pet treats from China by the end of this year, after thousands of reports of dogs and cats falling ill, and 1,000 dogs dying.

While the US Food and Drug Administration has been unable to track the exact cause for the illnesses, all signs keep pointing to chicken, duck and sweet potato treats imported from China.

As I’ve written before, check the labels — I no longer buy any pet foods from China.


The FDA reports that it has received 4,800 complaints of pets becoming ill after eating Chinese imported treats, and an additional 1,000 dogs dying.  Only 24 of the reported illnesses were cats.

The FDA says the following symptoms have been observed:

Approximately 60 percent of the cases report gastrointestinal/liver disease, 30 percent kidney or urinary disease, with the remaining 10 percent of complaints including various other signs such as neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms. About 15 percent of the kidney or urinary cases also tested positive for Fanconi syndrome, a rare kidney disease that has been associated with this investigation.

I was surprised recently to see that one brand of jerky treats, Happy Hips, is made in China. I threw that bag out and stopped buying it months ago.

happy-hips-12 happy-hips-2

I’ve found the country-of-origin labeling on other treats to be almost impossible to read.

Of course, it’s not just pets.  Guess who else is eating chicken processed in China? You and me, baby.

Now, keep in mind that other Chinese products for humans aren’t much better.  As I’ve noted before, consumers have been plagued with Chinese poisonous toothpaste, dangerous tires that leave out a special safety featuretainted baby milk, tainted pork, toxic rice, kidney-damaging cookies, cake and candies, bird-flu infected chicken, dying pigs, the cooking oil made from sewer sludge, or the 89% of Chinese herbs tested that contained pesticides, and then there’s toxic fish.

Mmm… toxic fish.

Perhaps my favorite Chinese quality-control disaster was the exploding watermelons (which brings back memories of the old exploding Soviet television sets).  I have to admit, an exploding watermelon could be kind of fun.

AP reports that PetSmart didn’t respond to their request for comment.

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CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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60 Responses to “Petco to stop selling treats from China, after 1,000 dog deaths”

  1. kyle watson says:

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  2. Steven Leahy says:

    I don’t buy any food products for my dogs not made in the US – these stories have gone on for too long and the feds don’t seem to be doing much to regulate imports. The controls and regulations just aren’t there. I am very careful with where I source my own food as well.

  3. dcinsider says:


    Reading Comprehension: F

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  5. BillFromDover says:


  6. Houndentenor says:

    I heard a similar story on Planet Money years ago from a company that manufactured lawn mowers. They prided themselves on making quality products and to make something as cheap as what Wal Mart wanted would have meant a product that would have broken after a couple of years. Wal Mart was fine with that. (In fact, I think that was the point. People will actually wind up spending more money replacing crap than buying something good that lasts them 20 years.)

    The Walton Family are indirectly the largest recipients of welfare benefits in the country. Taxpayers subsidize their low wages and labor practices (keeping almost everyone below full time so they don’t qualify for any benefits). It’s a disgrace and you’d think at some point people would have enough to satiate their greed but some (not all) rich people can never have enough.

  7. DGT says:

    There was a documentary I saw a few years back focusing on Rubbermaid. Wal-Mart basically tells its vendors what it will pay for their products, so the companies have the choice of selling at that price or losing their top retailer.

    In Rubbermaid’s case, the only way they could produce their products at the price Wal-Mart would pay was to move production to China. They didn’t want to, but they had no choice because Wal-Mart represented something like 70% of their sales.

    While on a micro level, this has some benefit to consumers (they save a dollar when buying Rubbermaid products), at a macro level this has been disastrous. It is truly a race to the bottom, as the US has been hollowed out for the sake of saving a buck here and there — which, in the end, hurts the entire economy. Except for the Walton family, of course.

  8. Aquaria says:

    Your organic food uses very bad processes that are dangerous to humans and animals.

  9. Aquaria says:

    The Chinese currency is the Yuan. The yen is the Japanese currency.

  10. Aquaria says:

    Eh, my cat is around 18 (she was thought to be 5 in 2001, so the math says…). I’ve fed her nothing but commercial crap, and she’s doing fine. How fine?

    I’d made a mistake on the form when I went to our new vet, and the vet said she was in good health for 16. I said, no she’s probably 18, I must have gotten her confused with my other cat, who died recently (thus on my mind a lot). And then the vet said Annie was in the best health of any 18 year old she’d ever seen.

    She’s lived so long, so well, because she’s an indoor cat who’s gotten all her care when she was supposed to. I’m sure it’s also helped that I’ve spoiled her rotten, like good staff.

  11. Aquaria says:

    They don’t necessarily steal the IP. We’re HANDING it to them. A shocking percent of the people doing research in our IP are CHINESE. They go to our grad schools, get the education, do the research, and take back what they’ve learned to their own country.

  12. Aquaria says:

    The only place I trust with my seafood is a particular Chinese market in town, because I know the fishermen whose product goes directly there, no stops in between.

    I got a heads up about blue soft shell crabs coming in on a certain morning, and I made sure to be there when they came off the truck. I think the owner thought I was from one of the restaurants, because I got those babies for wholesale. A chef told me that I’d stumbled onto the dirty secret of local chefs: most of the best restaurants in town buy their seafood through that market, because it’s the best source in the city.

    I’d wondered why this place, in a residential neighborhood, hard to find, hardly anyone ever in the store, could stay in business for so many years. Now I know.

  13. Aquaria says:

    Pet CO, not PetSmart.

  14. Aren't you dead yet? says:

    Better get that revolution of yours going, Bill. At your age you don’t have much time left! lol!

  15. Aren't you dead yet? says:

    Better get that revolution of yours going, Bill. At your advanced age you don’t have much time left! lol!

  16. And not only do these Chinese treats make dogs sick–they may also make them gay! Just kidding-they only make them sick. If the Republicants get a hold of this story they will probably say something stupid like that.

  17. You should tell the supermarket, and tell some french reporters. Would you want me to pass your information along to any French reporter friends of mine? I’m happy to. Email me if you want, john at americablog dot com

  18. It just scares me, as Becca noted above, that so much of the food incorporates chinese parts.

  19. Good for you!

  20. microdot says:

    I checked the package labeling today when I was in the supermarket and they are chinese! My wife has another little white dog and I threw all of the old treats away. My dog. JJ. loved them so much, I thought they were putting drugs in them!

  21. Henry Owen says:

    I printed a couple of these articles and gave them to the manager of a local Save-A-Lot. The next time I went there, I noticed that they’d removed their toxic Chinese dog treats. Act locally – it works. I also went to their website’s “comments” section and alerted them to the serious problem (and to let them know that consumers are watching how they respond nationally).

    I’ll save my kudos to Petco until THE END OF THE YEAR, when they say they will finally stop selling this poison. How stupid is that? If you had one of these products in your cupboards, would you say “Well, once I’ve given Fido what I have left, I’ll stop buying more.” No, you would do the responsible thing and DISPOSE OF YOUR REMAINING STOCK. Petco should do the same, if they truly care.

  22. Henry Owen says:

    Welcome to the face of republican-driven deregulation and “smaller government.”

  23. marygoodwin14 says:

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  24. BillFromDover says:

    But, but… but think of how many jobs were created in China creating this poison.

    Ain’t capitalism just the fucking greatest thing since a stick turned into a snake?

  25. nummers says:

    What else are they going to do with all those participants in their “worlds highest application of the death penalty”criminal justice system. Tried the carrots, uyegars and rice flavor yet?

  26. tamarz says:

    I now buy our dog treats at our local organic market (Mom’s Organic Market). I’m not an extremist on food issues — I often but not always buy organic for my family, but the pet illnesses and deaths have made it very clear that if I want living healthy dogs, I better not buy anywhere else.
    This is the result of unbridled capitalism in those free-from-any-inspection capitalist zones.
    I don’t trust any food from China and am worried about recent FDA decision (IIRC) accepting chickens processed in China. Not me nohow.

  27. Bill_Perdue says:

    For China the first and certainly the most calamitous of their contacts with Europeans and Americans was the Opium wars. The English created large scale opium cultivation in their colonies in India and twice (1839 to 1842 and 1856 to 1860) went to war with China to force them to import and permit the sale of opium. That was China’s first taste of the ferocity of capitalism and the rabid criminality of the rich. Opium devastated China.

    The Chinese have a long way to go before they can curb the criminality of capitalists and first on their agenda has to be to a real revolution and get rid of the Maoists.

    As badly as we treat our ‘pets’ in terms of exposing them to poisoning the situation is equally alarming for humans, and getting worse. Air and water pollution and radiation poisoning from incidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima are accompanied by the new wave of food poisoning resulting from deregulation. “The CDC estimates that some 48 million people per year are affected by some form of foodborne illness. Many of those cases do not get reported, as people are not always diagnosed. … The most dramatic increase in foodborne illness was related to vibrio. New cases of food poisoning caused by vibrio increased 116 percent between 1996 and 2012. The incidence of poisoning related to the bacterium has increased 43 percent just in the last five years. … The incidence of food poisoning caused by campylobacter has increased by 14 percent in the last five years. … Even with the increases in the number of new cases involving campylobacter and vibrio, however, salmonella still accounts for far more occurrences of food poisoning than any other pathogen.”

    In their efforts to get richer the already obscenely rich repeatedly turn to crime, knowing with certainly that the vast majority of the crimes will not be prosecuted, especially in capitalist societies where they run political life by buying political parties and judges. The solution, as always is the elimination of the power of the wealthy by the abolition of capitalism and the confiscation of their wealth.

  28. OMG that’s horrible. I am so sorry.

  29. Rick says:

    The problem with the suggestion to avoid pet foods/treats sourced to China is that much of it isn’t labeled as being from China. A lot of treats I’ve looked at don’t say where they’re made. They just say “distributed by” and then the American company that imports it. Plus, a lot of dog food ingredients are imported from China but don’t say so b/c the final product is made in America.

    The same is true of imported chicken for human consumption that comes from China (as John has noted before) says that it is made in America.

    What we need are stronger labeling laws.

  30. dnamj says:

    I make my own dogs’ food using local chicken and produce, just throw it in the crock pot overnight and mash it up with a potato masher. They have been far happier and healthier ever since I started doing that a few years back. They are 17 and 14 years old and going strong.

  31. BeccaM says:

    This is the inevitable result of the economic ‘race to the bottom’. Unregulated capitalism is ultimately self-destructive, especially when the primary force of capitalism — capital (i.e., money) — is permitted to control the political process for the purpose or removing what regulations remain.

    Taking just this example, pet treats, a company that actually uses quality ingredients — and which makes no false claims about the health benefits of their products — will never be able to compete with another company that uses garbage, substandard ingredients and then is allowed to slap misleading labels on it.

    I mean, just look at that ‘Healthy Hips’ package up there. It has glucosamine and chondroitin. Sounds terrific, right? People buy the treats thinking they’ll help their pets’ joints, but guess what? There are no conclusive studies showing they do any good. How many will flip over that package, which is marketed entirely as a product that’s supposed to promote ‘healthy hips’ — to learn that neither of the ingredients, as listed in small type, are ‘recognized as an essential ingredient.’

    Yet every other word on that package says, without ambiguity, that these treats are better for your dog than, let’s say, giving him or her some actual meat scraps. Or a hunk of cauliflower. (My last dog was nuts for cauliflower, no idea why.)

    Hell, even as a supplement for humans, there are no reliable studies showing that taking glucosamine and chondroitin does anything at all. Overdosing, however, is linked with pancreas damage — which apparently many people do because they take some, feel no positive effects, and so they take more and more.

    We literally have a pet treat being marketed as an OTC medicine for our dogs — with no particular dosage guidelines, no real testing, no proof that the product name is anything but a lie — and no disclosure as to exactly where the glucosamine and chondroitin is coming from.

    My friend, The Fixer, as he commented below, is right: The TPP would make this awful situation only worse.

  32. dnamj says:

    That sucks, man. Horrible horrible thing to have happen.

  33. dnamj says:

    MiC is no good. They steal the IP for technology and poison their own people, and anyone stupid enough to import MiC consumables. I really don’t understand how they get away with it.

  34. Houndentenor says:

    Wal-Mart spent decades pressuring manufacturers to move their factories to China. It was done deliberately. Sam Walton never would have done that. (He used to have “Made in America” displays in the store while he was still alive.” His greedy children helped destroy the American manufacturing base (ironically many of those displaced workers are still loyal Wal-Mart shopers).

  35. SL Abrin says:

    The Chinese do not give f*** about you. You can be equally sure they couldn’t care less about your cat or dog. The only thing stopping the Koch Bros. from doing the same is that we still have a semblance of regulation left in this country.

    China has no enforceable regulations on their products. Libertarians believe that caveat emptor is the governing principle of a free market. Yet, China still churns out one death-causing food product after another in spite of years and years of consumer complaints.

    Another Randian lie exposed.

  36. The_Fixer says:

    This bugs me. Sending raw food to China for processing has to be the most wasteful, carbon-burning thing ever. Not to mention that it’s yet another way to ship jobs out of the country.

    Yeah, between the crap in our water poisoning the fish, and the lax food processing procedures in China, who would want to eat seafood?

  37. SL Abrin says:

    Sorry for your loss.

  38. BeccaM says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  39. Indigo says:

    China, the economic powerhouse we’re supposed to be afraid of. Who wrote that propaganda and why do they still have a job?

  40. Indigo says:

    Same here, honey from local sources is the only (safe) way to go.

  41. Naja pallida says:

    The sad part is, because of their widespread dosing of chickens, the H5N1 (bird flu) strains in China are now resistant to Amantadine. So if those strains manage to spread, and cause any significant human outbreak, they will be that much more difficult to treat. Other effective antivirals cost 2-3 times as much.

  42. The_Fixer says:

    I did wonder if that was simply because he got caught and they felt they had to do something decisive to pretend they took it seriously, or if it was just because they actually thought he did something wrong.

    Oh, I think we know the answer to that one. One head rolling vs a drastic drop in sales? The answer was easy for them. It didn’t matter that he did something wrong, it was that he went too far and got caught. If they really were all that worried about food purity, they’d have an effective regulatory and inspection regime in place. This is about not getting caught.

    It’s not limited to China – we have a similar problem in this country (though not as blatant and severe). This culture of death government has the money for ever more exotic ways to kill people in the name of “national defense”, but chokes the budgets of the FDA and other regulatory agencies that directly affect our safety and well-being.

    The Chinese business model – coming to a country near you soon!

  43. Naja pallida says:

    With Wal-Mart, their American-made products are generally just things like t-shirts, where the actual shirt is made in China, but since they did the silk-screen design somewhere in the US, they can put a “Made in USA” tag on it. On their website you can see all their American-made products… it’s a pretty sad selection considering how many millions of products they sell.

  44. Naja pallida says:

    Pretty much all Chinese farm raised fish live crammed fin-to-fin in their own waste, and are fed human and farm waste. On top of that, even many fish that are caught in US coastal waters are sent to China for processing before they come back to our supermarkets. I honestly don’t even know how people can bring themselves to consume seafood anymore, if they don’t live in a harbor city and buy it off the boat.

  45. Naja pallida says:

    In the case of the tainted baby formula, the head of the Chinese company that produced it was executed for it. I did wonder if that was simply because he got caught and they felt they had to do something decisive to pretend they took it seriously, or if it was just because they actually thought he did something wrong.

  46. Naja pallida says:

    One problem they do not mention when they stop selling one particular kind of treat, is that almost every single brand of commercial dog and cat food has at least part of their raw ingredients sourced from China. Even the fancy expensive ones. If the product is reprocessed here they don’t necessarily bother to mention that their raw ingredients come from a rendering plant in China on the label. Some may not even know they’re using it, because bulk providers of raw ingredients buy from Chinese facilities to mix with their own product to meet quotas, etc.

    Then, there’s the salmonella problem. Generally the fault of an improperly maintained production facility, which has occurred with even the most “high end” dog foods. It just seems that commercial pet foods in general don’t have much quality or safety standards to begin with, and nobody with any regulatory authority to care one way or the other. If the FDA and USDA aren’t going to bother to protect the heath of the American consumer, we’re basically screwed. Because we’re not actually allowed to know where our food comes from anymore, and not everyone can afford to buy locally produced organic food.

  47. The_Fixer says:

    Yes, this is what you get when you go to an effectively totally libertarian, completely capitalist-driven economy. China is just that – whatever you can get away with doing is done.

    I’ve argued with people right here in the comment section of this site that regulation is needed, and have read some truly remarkably dumb responses. Responses that I’ve gotten usually center around restraint of trade and “holding back the economy.” That the free market will police itself and that the court system will take care any problems.

    Tell that to the guy with the dead pet, or far worse, a dead family member. The way to correct problems is not after the fact. It’s unconscionable to know we have a problem and not prevent it when personal safety, and even lives are at stake.

    Capitalism has run amok. It’s past time to pull in the reins. Kill the TPP and bring in fair, honest and regulated trade. The billionaires already have enough money.

  48. HolyMoly says:

    I once walked through WalMart and tried to find something, anything that was made in the U.S. Takes quite a long time. I found some “For Sale” and “Keep Out” signs after an agonizingly long search. And I’m thinking, is this the only thing corporations think we’re capable of making? Baubles and doodads? What about all the platitudes we hear from politicians and CEOs about “American ingenuity” and “America’s can-do spirit”? I’m surprised they’re ever able to keep a straight face while saying things like that, considering the contempt they have for the hoi polloi.
    Maybe when they say “can-do spirit,” they’re thinking, “Yes, I can give you fries with that.”

  49. Elijah Shalis says:

    Not to mention their shrimp farms are fed human sewage.

  50. HereinDC says:

    Most of our honey comes from China…and some of that is just sugar water made to look and taste like real honey.
    I only buy local honey.

  51. Drew2u says:

    “The TPP would require us to import meat and poultry that do not meet U.S. food safety standards.

    The TPP would require us to allow food imports if the exporting country claims that their safety regime is “equivalent” to our own, even if it violates the key principles of our food safety laws. These rules would effectively outsource domestic food inspection to other countries.

    Under TPP, any U.S. food safety rule on pesticides, labeling or additives that is higher than international standards would be subject to challenge as “illegal trade barriers.” The U.S. would be required to eliminate these rules and allow in the unsafe food, or we would face trade sanctions.”

    Thought experiment: If “Buy Local” is seen as an illegal trade barrier, then wouldn’t private food gardens also be an “illegal trade barrier” if people are allowed to grow their own food and not be forced to purchase it from a store?

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  53. Buford2k11 says:

    I blame China on Nixon…he shoulda stayed home…

  54. microdot says:

    I lost my best buddy, a totally happy healthy 9 year old dog a few days ago. He was totally normal and a few hours later he was at the vets. It went rapidly, total kidney failure and he was checked out just a few months ago with flying colors. We did all we could to save him. We got lab results with no clue. I can’t think of anything he did that could have caused this…he was addicted to those bone treat sticks….and I am sure they are chinese. I would get them from the Auchan supermarkets here in France. It was sudden and I lost not only my best buddy, but my psychiatrist as well.

  55. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Hell’s bells, this is still going on? It distresses me that the cause is still unknown even though the article mentions a finding of amantadine in some samples. Amantadine. What the hell was amantadine doing in dog biscuits?!

    EDIT: Never mind, easy enough to find the answer: Chinese poultry farmers have been dosing their chickens with the stuff.

  56. luzeelu says:

    I wonder how they’re handling the items that, although “made” in the US, also include some sort of ingredient from China. I recall that several years ago there was a problem with gluten laced with melamine or something. I stopped buying chicken jerky back then and now the only treats my dogs get are lamb lung from US manufacturers.

  57. dcinsider says:

    The other option is avoid PetSmart. Most name brand treats are USA made and processed.

  58. bkmn says:

    Buy local – that way you can get to know the people growing and making your food. The money you spend stays in your community, instead of someone who already has tons of money pocketing the profits.

  59. Hatfield says:

    I try to avoid all things made in China. I know, probably impossible, but I try. China is run a lot like the Mafia. Lower level people kick up to higher and so forth. That’s all that matters. There are no real laws. And when the victims are some animals in the U.S., or even U.S. citizens, well, out of sight out of mind for them. The Chinese suffer more from this but the government doesn’t care about them either. If there were no other reason to avoid Wal-Mart, I would avoid them because most of their products are made in China.

  60. HeartlandLiberal says:

    We spend between 600 and 1,000 dollars a year at PetSmart for food and supplies for our cats. I just dropped a contact message via their web site, to ask if they are selling the same unsafe food from China that PetCo apparently has been providing.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there were government regulations mandating food safety, for both animals and humans? And that they were enforced? Or am I just being my usual socialist self by wishing for such a scenario? Do I not appreciate my freedumbz to be poisoned, since surely the market will self regulate, right?

    Anyway, on the topic of food and China, if you eat a lot of honey, buy it from local farms so you know you are getting that honey that is not tainted honey from China, Back in 2011 Asian honey was banned in Europe, because it was laced with heavy metals and other contaminants. The Chinese sell the stuff in bulk to foreign dealers, and it gets relabeled, and you cannot know for sure if the supermarket major or house brand honey is from China or not.

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