Woman claims Chinese dog treats nearly killed her dog

SEATTLE -- A local pet owner says her dog nearly died after eating pet treats with chicken jerky, and she's now part of a class action lawsuit aimed at getting the treats off the market.

The treats are made in several different varieties, but the one common factor is that the chicken jerky is made in China.

Bandit is a healthy and active miniature rat terrier, but owner Maria Higginbotham said seven months ago the dog nearly died.

"He couldn't lift his head, he couldn't blink at me, he couldn't do anything," she said.

In a matter of hours, Higginbotham said Bandit went into organ failure and not even her vet knew what was wrong.

There was just one clue.

"By his elevated liver toxins they could tell that he'd ingested some type of toxin," Higginbotham said.

Two weeks later, Higginbotham said she learned of an FDA warning about dog deaths and illnesses that may be associated with chicken jerky dog treats made in China.

She'd been feeding Bandit, as well as another dog named Cali, the treats for four days prior to Bandit getting sick. She said Cali had diarrhea, but figures she didn't get as sick because she's twice the size of Bandit.

"There was nothing new in their pet diet other than the treats," she said.

A class action lawsuit blames Nestle Purina and Waggin' Train dog treats for hundreds of dog deaths and thousands of illnesses.

In a written statement, Nestle Purina denied the allegations, saying, "(We) believe the claims made in the suit to be without merit, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves." The statement goes on to say, "Waggin' Train products continue to be safe to feed as directed."

Costco, Target and Walmart all carry the treats, and Costco officials say they've undergone extensive safety testing.

"Until we get more information, we're considering this item to be wholesome," said Craig Wilson of Costco.

But Higginbotham insists the products should be removed from store shelves to protect other pets.

"These animals don't have to suffer," she said. "They don't have to die."

The FDA has issued three warnings about chicken jerky treats from China, but officials say unless they can isolate a specific contaminant, they are limited in what they can do.