3OYS: Sun City couple believes treats killed their dog

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SUN CITY, Ariz. -- For many of us, our pets are almost like our kids.

We shower them with love, praise them and feed them.

But one Sun City couple claims what they fed one of their Yorkshire terriers might have actually killed him.

We're talking about dog treats. Most pet owners give their animals treats, but some could be toxic and many consumers have no idea.

Shirley and Bob Haarhues spend a lot of time with their dogs, but one of their Yorkies, Sparky, isn't around anymore.

"We had Sparky for pretty close to 10 years," Shirley Haarhues said.

"Sparky was an outstanding dog. He and I were inseparable," Bob Haarhues added.

But now, an urn holding Sparky's ashes is a heartbreaking reminder of his unexpected death a few months ago.

"He was jerking and moving and shaking his head," Bob Haarhues recalled. "I got him out and held him close and consoled him and told him everything was OK."

"It was very traumatic for us," Shirley Haarhues added.

The Haarhueses say what makes Sparky's death even more devastating is that they now feel it could have been prevented.

"At that time the vet told us, 'Whatever treats you have at home, throw them in the garbage,' " Bob Haarhues said.

"I'm 100 percent positive he died from the contamination of the dog treats," Shirley Haarhues said.

The Haarhueses aren't the only ones who suspect the dog treats killed Sparky.

“It was a sad, sad situation," said veterinarian Dr. Charlie Sink.

Sink, who owns Grand Paws Animal Clinic in Surprise, told 3 On Your Side he suspects Sparky may be another victim in a long list of animal deaths reportedly caused by dog treats.

"My expert opinion, I think the treats were no doubt the cause of the death," he said. "Personally, I am totally against any treats that have chemicals, dyes or preservatives in them."  

Since 2007, the Food and Drug Administration has been cautioning consumers about dog treats, specifically jerky treats like the ones the Haarhueses say they used.

In a written statement to 3 On Your Side, the FDA said, "The agency has repeatedly issued alerts to consumers about reports it has received concerning jerky pet treat-related illnesses involving 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. since 2007. Approximately 580 of those pets have died."

Sink isn't surprised, and he believes treats can contain harmful ingredients.

"Propylene glycol is found in antifreeze, and I've read articles where some of that was found," he said.

Shirley and Bob Haarhues say they wish they would have been more aware of the dangers and hope something can eventually be done.

"I'll say 99 percent of the people are unaware, totally unaware of the situation with the dog treats," Shirley Haarhues said.

The couple also hopes their tragic story will help educate others.

The distributor for the dog treats says the company sympathizes with the couple's situation but stands behind its products, claiming they go through a thorough inspection and are made in the United States.