If you’re a pet owner, beware of jerky treats made for dogs. For quite some time, jerky treats made in China have been suspected of killing hundreds of dogs and making many more sick (and a few cats, too). The Federal Drug Administration issued a caution to dog owners at the end of 2011 and has now issued a consumer update about the jerky treats.

According to NBC News, rates of sick animals have fallen since January. Two major manufacturers and some smaller ones voluntarily recalled their jerky treats after almost 500 pet deaths were reported. Since the FDA has not issued a recall, there still may be versions our there on store shelves. Pet owners should not think that jerky treats sold on the market are safe. Since January, about 80 more deaths have been reported.

The FDA has done extensive testing, but it cannot find the source of the problem that has led to the animal deaths and illnesses. The problem has affected breeds of all sizes that have eaten chicken, duck and sweet potato jerky treats. Since the agency can’t find the source of the problem, it can’t issue a recall; it can only issue consumer updates.

Now the FDA is asking veterinarians to “to track and send detailed information about any animals sickened by jerky treats.” It is also telling pet owners that treats are not necessary to keep pets healthy.

The take-away here? If you have been giving your dog or cat jerky treats, stop — even if your pet hasn’t gotten sick yet. This illness is so mysterious, there’s no way to know your pet won’t get sick eventually.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

No FDA recall on jerky treats killing hundreds of pets
Almost 600 dogs have died and thousands more have fallen ill in an outbreak linked to jerky treats made in China.