Is It Correct to Feed Pet Raw Meat?

Is It Correct to Feed Pet Raw Meat?

Just as many people are trying to eat less processed food to improve their health, some dog owners are turning away from conventional pet food. Instead they’re trying to get back to what they see as a more traditional “butcher’s dog” diet of raw meat.

A recent study has raised concerns about the health risks of these raw meat-based diet products as possible sources of some bacterial and parasitic diseases. But just how big a problem is this, and who is really at risk?

Domestic dogs aren’t like wild carnivores. They have been evolving alongside humans for approximately 30,000 years, and their diet has been shaped by our own food and environment. They can easily survive on a mixed diet, often on waste from human settlements, and have even evolved to digest starch.

Traditional dog diets would have included raw meat but also table scraps and other homemade foods. And unlike most human processed foods, manufactured pet food is often tailored to provide a key range of nutrients.

A recent study analyzed 35 commercial frozen raw meat products from eight different brands. It found E coli in 28 products, Listeria monocytogenes in 19 of them and Salmonella species in seven. Several products also contained parasites. Other studies have previously highlighted similar contamination of raw pet food in Canada, North America and New Zealand.

For dogs, the bacteria and parasites found in food aren’t actually that much of a problem. Dogs are pretty resistant to many of the possible bugs that can be isolated from raw meat and they rarely become ill, though they can suffer gastric illness as a result of Salmonella.

But dogs can become carriers of these bacteria and spread them through their faeces, which can lead to serious illness in humans.

 

Here are some tips to minimize the risks:

The same guidance for storing and preparing food for human consumption applies to raw meat pet food. Wash hands and surfaces thoroughly and often. Separate different foods to prevent cross-contamination. Defrost frozen items in the fridge, ideally in sealed containers and on the lowest shelves. Handle pet food bowls with care to prevent bacteria spreading to other surfaces and utensils.

Where the dangers from pet food differ is in the fact that pets can pass on bugs after they’ve eaten. Owners can become exposed in a range of ways, such as direct contact via touching, petting, exposure to saliva and faeces and even sharing sleeping spaces. Bugs can also be passed on indirectly through contact with contaminated surfaces such as floors and toys.

But sensibly handling, cleaning and caring for your dog should minimize the risks. Wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling your dogs’ food and after poo picking. Store human and pet bowls and utensils separately and, if possible, keep your dog out of human food preparation areas. With a little education and awareness, it is possible to go for raw food and minimize the potential risks.

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