Raw pet food trend risks E.coli and Salmonella in owners

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Pet owners who are interested in raw meat-based diets should talk to a professional rather than feeding their pets uncooked meat. These can then be passed to animals, and even their owners. The foods contained raw meat, bones, and animal by-products from beef, duck, chicken, lamb, and horse, along with additional ingredients. 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.

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".

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.

The study was published January 11 in the journal Vet Record. On the other hand, the main health risks present in such a diet have been backed by analysis.

Previous findings also note that RMBDs can lack important nutrients, which can lead to health problems - particularly in young animals. In a new analysis of 35 commercial raw dog and cat foods, researchers found that 86% of products contained potentially unsafe bacteria.

Fifteen products contained species from the nasty Listeria genus, eight products had Escherichia coli, and seven products contained at least one Salmonella species.

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In 23% of the test packs there were traces of e-coli.

And Salmonella speciesanalyzed in the study presented another unpleasant surprise - they were resistant to antibiotics, which would make infections hard to treat.

Although animals do not always show symptoms of infection, the bacteria can be transmitted to humans and cause different levels of damage.

"Feeding of freshly prepared, non-frozen raw meat based-diets to companion animals cannot only result in infection and disease in the animals, but also poses a risk to public health and livestock farming through shedding of pathogens into the environment", the researchers conclude.

"It is clear that commercial RMBDs (raw meat-based diets) may be contaminated with a variety of zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens", the authors of the study wrote. To avoid contamination, pet owners should also be educated about personal hygiene and proper handling of raw meat-based diets.

"In addition, warnings and handling instructions should be included on product labels and packages".

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