With animal treats recently linked to illnesses and death, local pet owners may need to be more cautious when walking down the pet aisle.

About 600 pets have died since 2007 and thousands have gotten ill from jerky treats, according to a Food and Drug Administration news release. The FDA is urging customers to report symptoms.

Pet food companies recalled in 2013

Richard Hill, a UF College of Veterinary Medicine associate professor, said it’s difficult to attribute the outbreak to one specific factor.

Veterinarians have seen specific instances of clinical signs, specifically a rare kidney disorder called Fanconi syndrome, that are associated with these jerky treats, Hill said.

“It may be that the source of the treats changed,” he said. “It may be that a lot of them came from China or that something changed when the treats were processed.”

Hill suspects jerky treats from China are responsible.

“Unfortunately, it’s not possible to tell just by looking at the packages where the treats came from,” he said.

Pet owners can stray away from giving treats or stick to purchasing them from major manufacturers. They have better control of where they are getting their treats from, Hill said.

CJ Hall, a 21-year-old UF pre-vet senior, fosters animals but does not purchase dog treats.

“It’s just shocking,” he said.

A version of this story ran on page 5 on 10/28/2013 under the headline "Jerky treats linked to pet deaths, cause concern for owners"