Scientists criticise trend for raw meat pet food after analysis finds pathogens

Representational Image Creative Commons

Contaminated raw meat, is a risk not only to the animal's health but also to the pet's owner, as bacteria and parasites can be passed between animals and humans easily.

Four products (11%) contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi and four contained Sarcocystis tenella.

Researchers said these raw meat foods should be labeled to reflect their potential risks, which include cross contamination with human foods or pathogen shedding by pets - both of which could be harmful to people.

"It has been claimed that feeding pets raw meat results in a better overall condition of the animals and could have a supportive role in controlling and preventing certain medical conditions in both dogs and cats such as allergies, skin and gastrointestinal tract problems", said lead researcher Paul Overgaauw, from Utrecht University.

The team said the bugs risked the health of the animals themselves, as well as their owners. Do you feed your pet raw meat, or do you think it's too risky? "But I can imagine that cross-contamination in the kitchen during preparation of the food, and cleaning of the food bowls-as well as direct contact with infected animals-are the highest risks", he says.

A growing trend has seen pet owners plump for products such as meat, bones and organs which can be bought frozen and then thawed before being fed to dogs and cats.

The increasingly popular practice of feeding dogs and cats raw meat may be unsafe for both the pets and their owners, according to a new study.

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It found that E. coli was present in eight products (23 per cent), Listeria species were found in 15 products (43 per cent) and Salmonella species in seven products (20 per cent). The study looked at brands of raw meat pet foods sold in the Netherlands.

Studies have also shown that cats and dogs who eat raw-meat diets are also more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than those on conventional diets of dry or canned food, the authors add. "I think that in the US especially, owners are much more liking the convenience, and buy these products instead of preparing raw food on their own".

Pet owners who are interested in raw meat-based diets should talk to a professional rather than feeding their pets uncooked meat.

The study was published January 11 in the journal Vet Record.

They therefore suggest that pet owners should be informed about the risks associated with feeding their animals RMBDs, and should be educated about personal hygiene and proper handling of RMBDs.

Caroline Kisko, the organisation's secretary, said: "We would recommend that dog owners speak to their vet about which option might be best for their individual dog, particularly if they have concerns over a product".

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