Raw dogfood is being criticised and it has been criticised in the past. The same goes for raw cat food. But advocates of home-made raw foods speak highly of it in terms of animal welfare and health. The problem is that it harbours pathogens which can both harm the animal and the owner.
A recent study that was presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & infectious diseases revealed that raw dogfood presents an international public health risk to the citizens of Europe! It contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria including the sorts of superbugs that we read about and which kill hospital patients.
There is a trend for home-made raw cat and dog food but The Times newspaper says that “trendy uncorked dogfood could kill pet owners and poses and international public health risk”. Big words which are sure to impact the popularity of this product. And the popularity of the product is largely due to the distrust that a significant proportion of companion animal owners have of conventional, commercially prepared pet foods. They are perceived by many as being inadequate and too artificial. They contain grains when cats are obligate carnivores. And dry cat foods can leave cats permanently dehydrated despite their addictive qualities. It is these sorts of issues which undermine the popularity of the conventional product.
But in the research that I’ve mentioned they analysed 55 samples of dogfood of which 14 were of the raw variety across 25 brands that were available internationally. 54% contained enterococci and more than 40% of the enterococci bacteria was resistant to many antibiotics. It was even resistant to linezolid which is a last resort antibiotic and considered vital by the World Health Organisation.
The Times newspaper refers to the research at Porto University. I believe it is the research that was presented at the convention to which I have referred. The Times author reports that people believe that raw foods boost a dog’s energy and improves their coat skin and teeth. However, on the downside, it contains, as mentioned, drug-resistant bacteria which could be “fuelling infections that kill 700,000 people a year”.
Turning to the USA, there is an FDA fact sheet online concerning a two-year study from October 2010 through July 2012 in which the FDA Centre for Veterinary Medicine screened over 1,000 samples of pet food for bacteria which can cause illnesses. The study concluded that compared with other types of pet food, raw pet food was more likely to be contaminated with bacteria.
The FDA study included 196 samples of commercially available raw dog and cat food. They bought it from different manufacturers online and shipped it to 6 laboratories. They found that “quite a large percentage of the raw foods for pets we tested were positive for the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. Of the 196 samples analysed 15 were positive for Salmonella and 32 were positive for Listeria monocytogenes“.
People could be infected. The study “identified a potential health risk for the pets eating the raw food and for the owners handing the product”.
Veterinarians have always advised against companion animal guardians making their own raw food. They perhaps have two objectives (1) to try and sell more of their commercially prepared dry foods in their clinics and (2) a genuine concern for the health of their customers and the pets that they service. Despite this, raw foods are quite trendy amongst the knowledgeable section of pet owners.
You can take some steps to minimise infection. You should thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling raw pet food and after touching services which have come into contact with the food. And of course, you should thoroughly clean and disinfect all services and objects that come into contact with the food.
SOME MORE ON FOODS: