The American Veterinary Medical Association’s House of Delegates backed away last week from a proposal that would have discouraged the feeding of jerky treats to pets and instead recommended that veterinarians continue to work with federal investigators to determine whether jerky is to blame for the deaths of hundreds of animals since 2007.
The House of Delegates, which enacts policies for the veterinary profession, returned a petition to the Executive Board with a recommendation that AVMA members "provide input to the Food and Drug Administration on incidents and conditions [that] could be associated with pet food and treats.”
The FDA admitted in October that the agency could not conclusively link jerky treats and pet illnesses. Bernadette Dunham, DVM, Ph.D., the director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, at the time called the episode "one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered.”
The FDA also urged veterinarians to contribute to the ongoing investigation by reporting adverse events.
The House of Delegates, which met during the Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago, endorsed the federal investigation and urged veterinarians "to work with FDA to enhance efforts in safeguarding a healthy pet population through quality control of pet food and treats.”
The Executive Board, which is responsible for setting policy for AVMA members, is scheduled to take up the issue in April. Until then, the board will collect information about the recommendation from AVMA entities such as the Food Safety Advisory Committee, spokesman Tom McPheron said.
Complaints about jerky treats, many of them produced in China, bubbled up in 2007 and escalated over the years. About 3,600 dogs and 10 cats were reported to have fallen ill as of last fall, many of them from gastrointestinal, kidney or urinary problems.
In all, nearly 600 dogs died, the FDA stated in its October update.
Like the House of Delegates, the FDA stopped short of advising consumers to eliminate jerky from their pets’ diets.
"Jerky pet treats should not be substituted for a balanced diet and are intended to be fed only occasionally and in small quantities,” the FDA noted.
The House of Delegates, which comprises representatives from dozens of veterinary organizations, also acted on other resolutions. It:
• Defeated with 80 percent of the vote Resolution 1-2014, which would have ended AVMA accreditation of veterinary colleges outside the United States and Canada. The New York State Veterinary Medical Society proposed the change, arguing that the accreditation of foreign schools is "logistically challenging” and "requires a great deal of effort from AVMA members and staff.” Among the 46 AVMA-accredited veterinary schools are 13 universities in Australia, England, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland and the Caribbean.
• Approved with 97 percent of the vote Resolution 4-2013, which granted the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture a seat on the House of Delegates.
• Defeated with 90 percent of the vote Resolution 3-2013, which would have declared homeopathy "an ineffective practice” and discouraged its use. The charge against homeopathy was led by the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, which pointed to "strong, widely accepted scientific evidence that the theoretical foundations of homeopathy are inconsistent with established principles of chemistry, physics, biology and physiology.” Clinical trials have cast doubt on homeopathy’s effectiveness in treating and preventing disease, the Connecticut organization stated.
The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy issued a statement that it was "thrilled” by the action.
"The AVH and [American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association] will continue to work with the AVMA to defend our clients' right to obtain homeopathic therapy for their animals from trained veterinarians,” the organization reported.