January 24, 2019

Raw meat is unsafe for pets and their owners, study finds

13 January 2018, 11:42 | Randall Craig

Pet owners who choose to feed their animals with a raw meat-based diet may think that they are offering a healthier choice

Pet owners who choose to feed their animals with a raw meat-based diet may think that they are offering a healthier choice

"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.

The Dutch study, which analysed 35 products, found E coil in eight, listeria species present in 15 products and salmonella in seven.

We know you probably think you're doing a lovely thing for your cat or dog by giving them fresh, uncooked meat (that's what they'd eat in the wild, right?), but it turns out that a raw food diet really isn't the best option for your pets.

According to researchers at Utrecht University, these diets could be contaminated with bacteria and parasites that can harm your pet, which puts both animal and human health at risk. The meat carries bacteria that can be risky to both animals and humans.

"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. These can then be passed to animals, and even their owners. Even more worrisome, E. coli 0157-a particularly unsafe strain now responsible for a lettuce-based outbreak in North America-was found in 23% of the samples. 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. Conventional pet food is also heated during processing, which kills all germs. Lastly, researchers found two products (six per cent) with Taxoplasma gondii.

Some people feed raw meat, bones and organs to their pets instead of the more traditional dry or canned products, which are processed and often contain added salt, sugar and artificial colorings.

Raw meat diets for pets have become increasingly popular, but there is no evidence that they are healthier than typical pet foods, the researchers said.

After thawing the meat, the scientists looked for the presence of salmonella, listeria, E coli and antibiotic-resistant E coli as well as two types of parasites: species of Sarcocystis and Toxoplasma gondii - a parasite that, among its risks can cause problems in babies. "The most concerning from our public health point of view is that they are finding multi-drug resistant bacteria in the food source", he said. "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".

"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", said the paper.

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