Chicken jerky treats from China remain controversial

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Q: I appreciated your column regarding chicken jerky treats imported from China. Do you know which brands are the most implicated? Our two dogs really love jerky treats. -- C.A., Miami, FL

A: There have been over 800 complaints about these treats causing illness -- and even death -- in dogs in 2012, according to the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). However, so far the products have not been recalled. The FDA CVM concedes there is a problem with the treats, but they haven't been able to pinpoint why. By law, the FDA CVM isn't allowed to suggest a recall without a specific scientific explanation to justify the action.

I can understand that position. I also understand that while most pets have suffered no apparent deleterious effects from eating the treats, too many are getting sick. Why take a chance with your own dogs?

While your pets love these jerky treats, my guess is they might also love liver treats, or any of the myriad of other dog treats on the market. Mini-carrots might be another option. Once you switch treats, I can assure you your dogs won't be sending me email, complaining they miss those jerky treats.

Several chicken jerky treat brands have been implicated, but the FDA CVM isn't sharing the list. My advice, at least for now, is to avoid all of them.

Q: What can I do about my dog, Chester's, fear of fireworks? He goes bonkers, running around, trembling, barking. I just can't calm him down. -- R.L., Boston, MA

A: If your dog's anxiety is mild to moderate, one option is to simply close the windows, pump up some music and confine Chester to a hiding place or a room as far from the big bangs as possible, such as the basement. Try distracting him with food puzzles (a wide array are available at pet stores that dogs must "work" to extract food or treats), or a favorite game, such as tossing a squeaky toy.

Many dogs do need a little help from products such as ADAPTIL, a copy of a naturally-occurring appeasing pheromone, and/or a Thundershirt (a vest designed to soothe their frazzled nerves). ADAPTIL (sold as a collar or plug-in defuser) and the Thundershirt are available at some pet stores and online. Also, many veterinary offices carry ADAPTIL.

Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall, of Philadelphia, PA, points out that a veterinary drug called acepromazine is frequently prescribed for dogs' fear of fireworks, thunderstorms and car rides. However, acepromazine only "dopes up" dogs without addressing their anxiety, she notes. Instead, for dogs who appear downright panicked, it's a good idea to talk with your veterinarian about an anti-anxiety drug, Overall SAYS.

In severe cases, a drug may not be enough and a fearful dog will need to be kept as far away from fireworks as possible.

I hope you and Chester have a fun, but quiet Independence Day!

Q: As a pet expert, I'm sure you receive questions about cats or kittens who suck on things around the house, or even suck on themselves or their owners. What do you think of my invention, the "Catsifier"? Unfortunately, I can't afford to have any made at this time, so I'm looking for financial support. -- C.E., Bennington, VT

A: I do think your invention may have merit. For a second opinion, I asked Joan Miller, a legend in the world of cats. She's been a cat show judge for over 40 years and a member of the Board of Directors of the Cat Fanciers' Association for 25 years.

"No one knows why some cats suck as if they are suckling," Miller says. "Certainly, there's a genetic component. The Siamese cat (and related Oriental breeds) seems predisposed. Also, sucking on pillows and other fabric, or on human fingers or clothing, is thought to be more common among kittens who were weaned too early, or who were hand-raised. Sometimes cats even suck on other cats."

Some owners appear annoyed at this behavior, while others -- like Miller -- don't mind it. However, these cats sometimes ingest fabric, which is dangerous, or they can ruin objects like pillows. To curb this behavior, the reader invented the "Catsifier," which appears to be a decorative pillow with little nipples for suckling. Learn more at http://www.catsifier.com.

Q: My 8-month-old kitten has the odd habit of carrying around a "blanky." At night, she sleeps curled up with it. During the day, she carries it with her wherever she goes. I've never heard of a pet with a security blanket. Have you? -- S.H., Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A: Your cat has Linus syndrome (actually, that's just a made-up name based on the Peanuts cartoon character famous for dragging around a security blanket). The "blanky" you describe does appear to function as a kind of security blanket for your pet. It's likely your cat also likes the feel of the blanket. She may or may not outgrow this attachment.

If the behavior bothers you, it might be possible to substitute something else (such as a soft dog toy) for the blanket. At least, as your cat drags her blanket around the house, she's helping you dust!

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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