DENVER (CBS4) – Within the last month, three distributors of popular dog treats have voluntarily pulled their products from store shelves. Chicken jerky treats made in China have long been associated with illnesses and even deaths in dogs.

The Food and Drug Administration has collected thousands of reports from dog owners connecting the treats to serious illnesses and sometimes deaths of dogs.

The recalls came on Jan. 9 and Jan. 25, and include some popular dog treats.

Nestle Purina Recall:

– Waggin’ Train

– Canyon Creek

Del Monte Foods Recall:

– Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky

– Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Grillers

Hartz Mountain Corporation Recall:

– Chicken Chews

– Oinkies Pig Skin Twists

Denver dog owner Doug Danger made the connection between the death of his beloved yellow lab, Gracie, and the chicken jerky treats made in China that he had just started feeding her.

“If I would have known. I think it’s the guilt that’s the hardest thing to deal with, it’s the guilt,” Danger told CBS4.

In three weeks after eating chicken jerky wrapped in peanut butter Gracie died. Just 5 days later, Purina and Del Monte announced their recalls. Both recalls site testing from the New York State Department of Agriculture which found “trace amounts of residual antibiotics” in samples of the treats. The antibiotic found is not approved for use in the United States, but is widely used in China and other countries including Europe. Both companies maintain that the residue is not enough to cause sickness in animals, and that their products are safe when used as directed. The FDA agrees.

In a report issued Jan. 9, the regulatory agency states:

There is no evidence that raises health concerns, and these results are highly unlikely to be related to the reports of illnesses FDA has received related to jerky pet treats.

Related: FDA Report Regarding Jerky Pet Treats and Illnesses

But dog owners remain convinced that chicken jerky treats made in China are what are making their pets ill.

“I’m 100 percent convinced. I’m a 100 percent convinced,” Danger said.

Bonnie Rohn told CBS4 last May that the treats killed her dog Teri.

“She went into kidney failure,” Rohn said.

Sandi Stephens said the treats made her dog, Sophie, violently ill.

“Diarrhea and vomiting for no reason,” Stephens explained.

FDA officials released four spreadsheets with the thousands of complaints they’ve received about these treats over the last 5 ½ years. The agency says it’s investigating the complaints but also points out that the reports are subjective and not part of a controlled clinical trial.

Related: FDA 2010 Complaints

Related: FDA 2011 Complaints

Related: FDA January – April 2012 Complaints

Related: FDA April – August 2012 Complaints

4 On Your Side has been investigating the connection between dog deaths and chicken jerky treats made in China for a year. When CBS4 did its first report on the treats the FDA had released a report stating “no specific products have been recalled because a definitive cause has not been determined.”

But the agency had issued warning about the treats in 2007, 2008, and in 2011. In the its latest report in Jan. 9, 2013, the FDA says it is continuing to actively pursue this investigation from a number of different angles. In 2011, the agency sent inspectors to manufacturing facilities in China. The Jan. 9 reports indicates that the inspectors did not find anything that might be causing the illnesses. They did site one manufacturing facility for using mislabeled glycerin, but they called that a record-keeping error.

For now, some of the most popular chicken jerky treats are off store shelves. But both distributors are working to come into FDA compliance and return their products to stores. Pet owners need to be vigilant about looking for the “Made in China” label and decide for themselves if they feel the treats are safe. The FDA reminds dog owners that jerky pet treats are not necessary for a fully balanced diet, and can be eliminated from a pet’s diet.

RELATED: Previous Dog Treats Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks

– Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith