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

Representational Image Creative Commons

Representational Image Creative Commons

Experts are warning pet owners against feeding their cats and dogs on raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) because the food may carry deadly bugs - and they could be passed between animals and people.

Chan added that the study was important as it showed that buying commercial, frozen products rather using than home-prepared food, did not circumvent the dangers of pathogens.

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Researchers say that there are cases where cats have died after eating raw meat.

They added: "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".

In fact, when researchers tested 35 commercial frozen foods from eight different brands in the Netherlands, eight products (23 per cent) were found to have E. coli present, 15 had Listeria (43 per cent) and seven products had salmonella (20 per cent). "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. 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.

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.

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"Feeding of freshly prepared, non-frozen raw meat based-diets to companion animals cannot only result in infection and disease in the animals, but also poses a risk to public health and livestock farming through shedding of pathogens into the environment", the researchers conclude.

Commercial dry or canned pet foods are safer because the composition of the food is complete and optimally balanced in terms of nutrients, he said.

As such, researchers said that the bacteria and parasitic pathogens found in the foods may be a possible source of infection in pets and, if transmitted, pose a risk for human beings too.

Others argue that it's more natural for a carnivorous species to eat raw meat products.

"T$3 he claimed health benefits attributed to the feeding of raw meat-based diets are mostly anecdotal, and no studies have produced results in support of these statements", the team writes in the study.

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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