Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Raw meat diets pose danger to pets and owners, study finds

Raw meat diets pose danger to pets and owners, study finds

Michael Bellingham, Chief Executive of the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association, said: "We have seen a growing interest in raw pet food and we know from our contact with the veterinary profession that vets are getting more questions from pet owners on these diets and how they can feed them safely".

23% of the products tested contained E coli - a type that can cause kidney failure in humans - and 80% contained antiobiotic-resistant E coli.

What's more, a pet's raw diet may put humans at risk for these infections, too.

Vets say that feeding pets a raw meat-based diet (RMBD) instead of the more conventional dry or canned pet foods has become increasingly popular but brings with it increased risk of infection from food bugs and parasites.

"This can be through direct contact with the food; through contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands; through contact with household surfaces; or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food", he added.

Marketing campaigns assure consumers that they have plenty of positive effects on animals, including facilitating digestion, reducing allergies, improving energy levels or even easing the treatment of diabetes and epilepsy.

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They found E. coliin 86 percent of the products, while 54 percent included L. monocytogenes and 20 percent held Salmonella. The former is known to be risky to farm animals, while the latter has been linked to illnesses in cats and humans (including mental illness in cat owners) in the United States.

Two potentially harmful parasites-Sarcocystis cruzi and Toxoplasma gondii-were also detected in 11% and 6% of the products. Introducing these pathogens into homes through contaminated pet foods presents the possibility that they could also sicken people, the study authors reported.

For their analysis, the team led by Paul Overgaauw at Utrecht University looked for four types of bacteria and two types of parasites in 35 raw meat-based pet food products commercially available in the Netherlands. That can have further implications for pet owners and for public health in general.

"T$3 he claimed health benefits attributed to the feeding of raw meat-based diets are mostly anecdotal, and no studies have produced results in support of these statements", the team writes in the study. "I think that in the USA especially, owners are much more liking the convenience, and buy these products instead of preparing raw food on their own".

"It is important to encourage awareness of the possible risks associated with feeding RMBDs to companion animals, and pet owners should be educated about personal hygiene and proper handling of RMBDs", the study said.

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