3OYS Update: FDA searches for clues in pet treat deaths

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SUN CITY, Ariz. -- Shirley and Bob Haarhues say they still aren't over the unexpected death of their little Yorkshire terrier named Sparky.

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

In our first 3 On Your Side report, we told you about Sparky's death and how the Haarhueses believe his jerky dog treats were the cause.

Even Sparky's veterinarian agreed.

"My expert opinion, I think the treats were no doubt the cause of the death," Dr. Charlie Sink said.

The Food and Drug Administration has known about similar animal deaths and illnesses since 2007 when it began looking into the matter, but the agency has never discovered any definitive answers.

However, just one week after 3 On Your Side shared Sparky's death with the FDA and pressed for answers, the agency issued an alert that Shirley Haarhues found interesting.

The FDA acknowledged that the problem is even worse than officials originally believed because the number of animal deaths and illnesses has increased.

The FDA said it has received 1,800 additional case reports since October 2013 and as of this month, there have been more than 4,800 complaints of illnesses in pets that ate jerky treats. The complaints included more than 1,000 canine deaths.

The FDA still hasn't been able to identify what exactly is making pets like Sparky so sick, but said it has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its search for answers.

The Haarhueses say they just hope their story helps other pet owners

“We had a horrible, horrible time with (Sparky)," Shirley Haarhues said. "He was so sick and so bad, and we didn't want that to happen to anybody else.”

If you suspect your pet became ill or died from pet treats or food, the FDA wants to hear from you.

Click here to report a complaint about jerky pet treats.