NEW YORK The federal government issued a health alert Tuesday about an outbreak that has killed close to 600 dogs and sickened more than 3,000 since 2007.

The mysterious illness which affects kidneys is connected with jerky treats made in China, federal officials said. The Federal Drug Administration has issue several health alerts over the years, but the agency has yet to issue specific recalls or identify any particular brands as the cause. The treats are described as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit.

This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered, said CVM Director Bernadette Dunham, DVM, Ph.D. in a statement on the FDA website Tuesday. Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it.

Symptoms of the illness include decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, and/or increased urination, the FDA said.

The FDA said Tuesday, that they had sent out a letter to U.S. veterinarians asking them to document the symptoms of the illness if they come upon it.

In March of 2012, NBC reported that the FDA had cited Nestle Purina PetCare Co. and Del Monte Corp for the products Waggin Trait or Canyon Creek Ranch treats and Milo s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats in connection with illnesses.

NBC reported Tuesday that Robin Pierre of Pine Bush, N.Y., claimed that Waggin' Train chicken jerky treats were responsible for the sudden death in 2011 of her 2-year-old pug, Bella, who developed kidney failure.

I am disgusted that our government continues to protect corporate American and China, she told NBC News. They need to start protecting the American consumer so that this does not happen again. As soon as a product is in doubt, a warning label should be placed at the point of sale so that consumers can make an educated choice.

The FDA posted a Fact sheet on their website for concerned dog owners and recommends any owner with a dog showing symptoms should take them to a vet and document the events HERE.

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