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Wiley, a West Highland White Terrier, died shortly after experiencing symptoms eerily similar to those reportedly killing hundreds of dogs in the U.S. after they consumed pet treats processed in China. (Photo courtesy of the DuBord family)

Riley, a spunky and lovable Westie with shoe-button eyes, had a chance at a happy life with her doting family, but it was suddenly and tragically cut short – leaving her loved ones wondering how such a healthy dog went from the epitome of health to death’s door in less than two weeks.

The scrappy pooch with snow-white fur and stubby legs accompanied California owner Tracy Dubord and her husband, Todd, everywhere they went for nine years.

“Once we took her to the movies,” Tracy said. “I bought a ticket then went around to the back door and sneaked her in. When she was small enough to fit in my jacket, I would take her to the grocery store with me.

“I took her to the top of the space needle in Washington. She got to see the wax museum in Victoria, British Columbia. She always went camping with us. Riley went nuts whenever she got to go ‘bye bye’ in the car. She loved to stick her head out the window and have the wind blow in her face.”

Tracy taught Riley typical dog tricks, like how to sit, shake, sit up, lie down and roll over. She constantly rewarded Riley when she behaved and obeyed commands.

“When I would get her chicken jerky treat and give a command, she would do all the tricks in a row,” she said. “I couldn’t get her to do just one command. It had to be all or nothing.”

But her owners were stunned in 2011 when Riley – who was full of boundless energy and had a life expectancy of up to 16 years – suddenly became ill, panting constantly, drinking large amounts of water, vomiting and refusing to eat food.

Tracy and Todd were taken aback. They wanted to know: What was wrong with little Riley?

So the couple took the pooch to a veterinarian, who gave her intravenous fluids and tested her blood.

The vet returned with shocking news: Riley’s kidneys and liver were failing. And nobody knew why.

Tracy decided to seek a second opinion from another vet, who kept the dog for several days, conducting tests, giving medicine and IVs. But Riley was growing weaker by the moment, and she was unable to walk. No one had answers. Repeated blood samples revealed nothing.

The dog was in obvious pain and discomfort. The vet bills were soaring, and nobody had answers as her organs began to fail. So Riley’s family made the merciful decision to euthanize her, rather than allow her condition to grow exponentially worse.

Around the same time, the DuBord family’s remaining three dogs, Zoey, Lacey and Gracie, contracted intestinal problems, began drinking large amounts of water and lost their appetites. But the family was relieved when they cut out all treats and food scraps and each of the three dogs began to improve.

Over the last couple of years, the DuBord family has wondered why Riley suddenly became gravely ill.

They were mystified by the experience until the Food and Drug Administration recently reported that nearly 600 pets have died and more than 3,600 sickened by jerky treats made in China since 2007. The FDA handles pet food complaints, but it doesn’t examine pet-food products brought into the U.S.

In the last six years, U.S. pet owners have been reporting that their dogs and cats are being stricken with gastrointestinal and kidney problems after eating the popular treats. Just this week, FDA spokeswoman Bernadette Dunham said the spate of pet illnesses is “one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered.”

Approximately 60 percent of the cases involved gastrointestinal illness, and 30 percent reported kidney or urinary troubles. All of the reported symptoms are eerily similar to the ones that prematurely ended Riley’s life: decreased appetite and activity, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption and urination and sometimes even kidney and/or liver failure.

China has a troubling food-safety record and regularly makes news headlines for selling tainted food products for human consumption as well.

In recent months, China’s chicken flocks were also stricken with an outbreak of avian influenza. Agriculture authorities have closed live poultry markets to limit human contact. The World Health Organization has confirmed 136 cases. According to an Oct. 16 statement from the U.N. health agency, three people continue to be hospitalized and 88 have been discharged.

In his WND report, “Want China processing your chicken?,” Roger Simmermaker revealed, “Chinese-processed chicken will soon become a reality in America, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, unless the American people are willing to make a move right now to stop it!

“The USDA has given permission to four chicken processing plants in China to import U.S. chicken, process it, and then export it back to America to your favorite grocery store.

“And no country-of-origin labels will be required, so American consumers will have no idea if the chicken they’re buying was sent to China and back first or safely stayed only in America.

“And since absolutely no on-site monitoring is mandated in China, Americans will have no way of knowing for sure if China is sneaking in shipments of their own homegrown chicken destined for our sovereign shores.”

As for the apparently tainted dog treats, the FDA warns, “Pet owners should be aware that manufacturers do not need to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products, so packages that do not state on the label that they are made in another country may still contain ingredients sourced from China or other countries that export to the U.S.”

Todd told WND, “While I can’t tell you 100 percent that jerky treats killed our precious Riley, we used to give our dogs jerky treats all the time. The fact is, thousands of other dogs could have died by these contaminated jerky treats over the past few years that were just like Riley, but the 600 only represent those [the FDA knows about].”

The DuBords now say they will never give their four-legged sidekicks another jerky treat ever again.

“Riley was the best dog we ever had,” Tracy said, fondly recalling memories of her beloved travel companion. “She didn’t belong to us. We belonged to her.”

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