Raw meat diets pose danger to pets and owners, study finds

  • Raw meat diets pose danger to pets and owners, study finds

Raw meat diets pose danger to pets and owners, study finds

A recent trend in feeding pets raw meat, bones and organs in diets that are considered more "natural" by some owners, is receiving heavy criticism from experts who say these "food" sources could be risky for both animal and human alike, the Guardian reported.

To find out how real these risks are, Overgaauw and his colleagues analyzed samples of 35 frozen pet-food products from eight different brands, all of which are available at pet shops and supermarkets in the Netherlands.

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.

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.

By feeding this diet to pets, owners are not only risking the health of the animals but also their own health. But even a little meat can be harmful to pets if it's still raw and not heated, Overgaauw says.

Some pet owners believe "Barf diet" - which stands for "bones and raw food" or "biologically appropriate raw food" is healthier than conventional processed pet food which often contains artificial colourings, salt and sugar. More than half of the food had listeria species present, 20% contained salmonella and 23% had sarcocystis - a parasite that causes anorexia, nausea and abdominal pain.

"This can be through direct contact with the food; through contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands; through contact with household surfaces; or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food", he 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". The food also carries a number of bacteria that could infect dogs and spread to their owners.

Raw meat diets are controversial, but in recent years it's becoming increasingly popular to swap canned food for "natural" raw meat.

"It is important to encourage awareness of the possible risks associated with feeding RMBDs to companion animals, and pet owners should be educated about personal hygiene and proper handling of RMBDs", the study said.

Pet owners who are interested in raw meat-based diets should talk to a professional rather than feeding their pets uncooked meat.

If you're concerned about how best to feed your cats or dogs, chat to a vet for their recommendations.