Amber Alert

Tainted Pet Treats Left Teen Fearing for His Life

Brandon Jacklin will never handle a dog treat the same way after contracting salmonella from contaminated pork treats, now the subject of a voluntary national recall.

The 13-year-old lost 15 pounds during the ordeal that initially baffled health officials and frightened his family.

Only after an official with the Calgary Health Region remembered a similar contamination problem involving dog treats nine years earlier did the family start to get answers.

Brandon's mother, Debbie, said the family often bought the Rollover pork tenders for their two dogs -- a chihuahua and a chihuahua-Shih Tzu cross -- including two new packages purchased in February.

"The dogs go insane for them. We've used them for years."

And the family never gave a second thought to how they handled them until Brandon was suddenly afflicted with a high fever, vomiting and severe diarrhea about six weeks ago.

"He couldn't have anything to eat or anything to drink, not even a sip of water," she said.

After the teen's condition grew steadily worse, his parents took him to the urgent-care centre in Sundance.

"When we took him to urgent care that night, I didn't think he was going to make it," Jacklin said. "Brandon did think he was going to die."

But all medical staff could do was rehydrate Brandon after blood tests failed to indicate what was wrong with him. He was sent home, but told to come back if his condition worsened.

The next day, Brandon was in fact worse, and more tests were ordered.

"We had absolutely no idea what was going on," Jacklin said.

Later that week, the Jacklins received an urgent call from a health official with the Calgary Health Region saying Brandon's illness had been diagnosed: he had two rare strains of salmonella.

After writing out an extensive list of all Brandon had done and eaten in the three days prior to falling ill, there were still no answers on what caused the poisoning.

And then the health official -- familiar with a salmonella outbreak at the High River-based Rollover Premium Pet Food plant back in 1999 -- asked if the family had dog treats.

After testing the two bags of treats the Jacklins had, he was able to confirm they were contaminated.

"I had no idea that normal dog treats you take out of a bag could make someone so sick," said Jacklin of the diagnosis.

The Calgary Health Region would not comment on the case until it received more information from the health official who investigated.

The family's two dogs also showed symptoms of contamination.

High River's Rollover plant and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have warned consumers not to purchase or use the treats and dispose of any they have.

Rollover has also voluntarily recalled the 50-gram packages of pork tender dog treats.

According to the food agency, one illness associated with the treats has been reported.

While Brandon is now back at school, the ordeal continues to have an effect on him and the family.

Salmonella continues to be contagious for four months after symptoms have subsided and the Jacklins have to be extra cautious.

Brandon also had to drop out of his foods class at school.

And now, the Jacklin family is extra vigilant after dealing with dog treats, ensuring they sanitize their hands afterward.

By Gwendolyn Richards at the Calgary Herald

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