TUMWATER, Wash. - Suzanne Dinning knew something was wrong with her dog, Randi, when the Chihuahua wouldn't get out of the bed and had no appetite.
Dinning didn't expect to have to euthanize the 7-year-old dog a week later.
"It was horrible," said Dinning.
Dinning's dog died from kidney failure. Veterinarians told her it may have been from jerky treats the dog had eaten.
The Food and Drug Administration links nearly 600 deaths and more than 3600 dog illnesses to jerky treats dating back to 2007.
Most of the treats were made in China.
FDA investigators have not been able to determine what is causing the deaths.
That's why the FDA mailed letters to veterinarians this week encouraging the reporting of incidents that may be linked to the food.
The FDA will also pay to analyze samples from sick animals.
The owner of Tumwater Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Gregg Bennett, said that could help investigators learn much more about the illnesses.
"In the past it's been very difficult to take the next step," said Bennett, who had staff Wednesday printing out copies of the FDA's fact sheet on the jerky-related deaths.
Bennett said he does not recommend pet owners feed their animals food made in China.
"Don't go down that road," said Bennett, "Why would you want to?"
According to the FDA's website, dog owners who notice their animals appear to be sick after eating jerky treats should consider contacting their veterinarians.
Dinning is glad the FDA is increasing its efforts to identify the problem and to raise awareness.
That's something she's been doing since having to put Randi down in August of 2012 after eating jerky treats made in China.
"If I see somebody pick up a packet I will tell them my story," Dinning told KING 5 News, "Most of the time they put the packet down and I feel like, 'Oh I saved another 'fur-baby.'"
For a copy of the FDA letter sent to veterinarians, go to: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm371453.htm
The FDA has issued a fact sheet on the issue at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/NewsEvents/Newsroom/FactSheets/UCM371715.pdf