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

David Baileys via Getty Images

David Baileys via Getty Images

A team led by Paul Overgaauw at Utrecht University analysed 35 commercial frozen raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) from eight different brands that are widely available in Netherlands.

It's a trend gaining momentum among pet owners who believe feeding their dog or cat such a diet is healthier and more natural, as opposed to giving their animals foods that contain additives.

But Dutch scientists say a raw meat-based diet brings an increased risk of infection from bugs, such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria, and parasites, such as toxoplasma, the Times of London reports.

The same study also recognized the safety risks surrounding possible pathogens in the uncooked meat.

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Salmonella was found in 20% of the products while species of sarcocystis were found in 23%.

Wild relatives of domestic dogs and cats thrive on raw flesh, but a so-called "raw" diet for pets carries risks of their exposure to parasites and bacteria, a new study finds. "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.

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. Even more worrisome, E. coli 0157-a particularly risky strain now responsible for a lettuce-based outbreak in North America-was found in 23% of the samples.

In addition, four products (11 per cent) contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi and another four contained Sarcocystis tenella. Introducing these pathogens into homes through contaminated pet foods presents the possibility that they could also sicken people, the study authors reported.

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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".

"Cats and dogs that eat raw meat diets are also more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals on conventional diets, which could pose a serious risk to both animal health and public health", he said.

If you're planning to do the switch, keep in mind, that some pets develop gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhoea, when changing to a raw meat-based diet.

In general, the microbial evidence that the researchers gathered from their samples fell within acceptable limits for commercially produced pet products in the Netherlands. They should be educated about proper handling of the products and personal hygiene measures, and the products should include warnings and handling instructions, the investigators said.

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