Is feeding raw food to our pets worth the risk? Many veterinarians don’t think so, and now the United States Food and Drug Administration agrees.

The risks of raw food for pets

The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine conducted a two year study on pet food and found that commercially available raw dog and cat food was more likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can cause disease when compared to traditional cooked and pelleted foods.

The study concentrated on two common pathogens—Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. I’m sure you’ve heard of (or maybe known someone who has dealt with) the effects of being exposed to Salmonella, and it’s not a pretty picture. Severe gastrointestinal symptoms occur within 12 hours to three days of exposure and can last up to a week or more. Sources for Salmonella include undercooked or raw meat and eggs, both of which are common ingredients in raw pet foods.

Listeria is not as infamous as Salmonella, but it, too, packs quite a punch for those who are exposed to it. Pregnant women are most at risk—in fact, they are 20 times more susceptible than non-pregnant adults. Symptoms may be mild in these women, but can be deadly for their unborn babies. Again, raw meat is a common potential source for this deadly bacteria.

Let’s get back to the FDA study for a minute now that we’ve touched on the two main bacteria they looked for. The proof, they say, is in the pudding: of the 196 commercially available raw dog and cat foods that they tested, 15 were positive for Salmonella and 32 were positive for Listeria. Pretty scary stuff.

Obviously, because your pet is meant to ingest these foods, they would be exposed to these pathogens and be at risk of developing clinical disease from them. But, these foods also pose a threat to humans in the household as well, making these raw pet foods a public health risk in addition to being a threat for your pet.

I don’t know about you, but in my house, there are lots of kisses. Big, wet, sloppy dog and cat kisses for all family members and any friends who step foot in the door. Imagine that your pet just ingested contaminated food and then sauntered up to your toddler and gave her a huge, juicy kiss on the face. Again—pretty scary stuff.

In light of this study, the FDA recommends avoiding feeding your pet a raw food diet.

However, I know that many people will want to stand by their pet’s raw food diet, especially if they feel that it is the healthier choice for their pet, despite the warnings. If this is the case, the following tips are for you.

5 rules to follow when feeding raw

1. Wash your hands thoroughly after feeding your pet.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching your pet’s food bowls, counters, or anywhere else their raw food has touched.

3. Disinfect contaminated surfaces after feeding.

4. Pick pet’s bowls up as soon as meal time is finished.

5. Don’t let your pets lick your face or hands.

Oct 1, 2014
Pet Health

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