Ask the Vet: Dealing with animal treat toxicosis

Ask the Vet: Dealing with animal treat toxicosis

Pixabay photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

As the holiday season approaches we start to put together lists of gifts for family members. Of course, these lists are extended to the furry members of family as well and what makes a better gift than a tasty treat. These treats may be tasty but beware — they may contain toxins.

A study released in 2015 discovered a link between dog treats and a kidney condition called Fanconi Like Syndrome, or FLS for short. In the study over 5000 dogs were affected with this syndrome. Fanconi Syndrome is a defect, or malfunctioning of a portion of the kidney called the proximal renal tubule. 

The kidney is actually made up of millions of microscopically small filters called nephrons and the nephron is broken into specific parts. One of these specific parts is called the proximal tubule. The proximal tubule’s job is to allow toxins and some fluid to pass while reabsorbing needed nutrients like glucose (sugar), amino acids, bicarbonate. FLS leads to loss of these nutrients and, if untreated, eventually irreversible kidney failure. 

The symptoms of FLS are lethargy, inappetence, increased drinking and increased urination. Bloodwork shows elevated kidney enzymes, acid-base and electrolyte imbalances, and glucose in the urine despite having a normal to below normal blood glucose. Your dog may need to be admitted for supportive care (IV fluids, injectable medications, etc) to initially treat the disease. Your veterinarian may wish to run other tests for other causes of Fanconi Syndrome such as genetic predisposition, infections, and medications. 

The good news is that stopping these treats usually resolves the situation before permanent damage is done. The treat flavors implicated were chicken, duck, and sweet potato. Initially, only treats from China were implicated; however, later treats produced in the United States were also implicated. Manufacturers are not required to disclose their suppliers of raw materials. 

Another problem was of chicken and turkey treats made with neck meat (there are treats that are literally freeze-dried chicken, duck, and turkey necks. The thyroid gland is on the neck and these treats had abnormally high levels of thyroid tissue. Ingestion of thyroid tissue can lead to hyperthyroid, or overactive thyroid symptoms, possibly even thyroid cancer. 

The good news is almost all of the cases in these studies, the symptoms resolved when the treats were discontinued the symptoms resolved. So, don’t forget to stuff their stockings with all sorts of treats but just be aware of the ingredients.

 Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.