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Feeding raw meat to pets could be unsafe, say scientists

13 January 2018

Currently, as many as 1 million Dutch households provide their pets with a diet that includes raw meat or raw by-products, the researchers wrote in the study.

Fifteen products contained species from the nasty Listeria genus, eight products had Escherichia coli, and seven products contained at least one Salmonella species.

Despite pet owners' best efforts, however, feeding cats and dogs raw meat and bones is increasing the potential for disease, researchers say.

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"We have known that there are risks associated with raw meat feed diets since the early 2000s, but this is the first [research] in Europe that has gone as far as to check commercially available frozen raw meat diets", he said.

Raw meat, touted by some as an easily-digestible, nutrient-filled superfood for domestic dogs and cats, may put not only your pet at risk, but your own health too, researchers warned Friday.

Additionally, depending on your country's laws, the preservatives used to keep meat fresh may not even be labelled properly, and can end up being toxic for both dogs and cats.

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The team said the bugs risked the health of the animals themselves, as well as 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.

Despite the relatively low number of products tested in the study, the authors say it's clear that commercial RMBDs may be contaminated with a variety of zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens, which can pose a risk to pets and to their owners. The former is known to be unsafe 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. Toxoplasma gondii, the bacteria responsible for toxoplasmosis, was found in 6% of the diets.

Four products contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi and another four contained Sarcocystis tenella, both of which can cause nausea, stomach ache and diarrhea. 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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Among the ideas fuelling the movement is that these diets are more "natural" for pets, avoid problems of additives or contamination in processed food, and can help to tackle issues like skin problems and allergies. That can have further implications for pet owners and for public health in general. "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". Pet owners should also be educated about personal hygiene and proper handling of raw meat products.

Feeding raw meat to pets could be unsafe, say scientists