Popular Pet Food Trend Could Be Poisoning You And Your Animals

The well-intentioned (and often expensive) act of feeding the pets raw meat may actually be putting everyone’s health in danger, based on research by veterinary scientists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

The group found a troubling prevalence of harmful parasites and bacteria in eight major brands of raw raw meat-based diet (RMBDs) products for cats and dogs following performing microbiological investigation on 35 trials. To reduce the possibility that storage place impacted the outcomes, the RMBD products were purchased from shops in 14 different areas around Utrecht. The findings have been published in the journal Veterinary Record.  

Varying species of Escherichia coli bacteria were present in 86 percent of samples, and 80 percent comprised a form known to be immune to a number of antibiotic drugs commonly given to  animals and humans. Moreover, eight products from three different brands comprised a breed known as  E. coli O157:H7, a dangerous pathogen which frequently triggers outbreaks of food-borne ailments in people. The bacterium produces a potent toxin which can lead to hemorrhagic colitis (meaning hellacious, bloody diarrhea) and may even lead to kidney failure in children and the elderly.

Cultured E. coli bacteria. Wiki Commons

Across all 35 samples, the entire content of E. coli germs, measured in clumps of cells called colony-forming units, failed to fulfill the hygiene threshold needed for a food product to be labeled as “suitable for human consumption”. Fortunately for the pet partners, O157:H7 seldom makes animals ill, and their own bodies only become short-term carriers of the bacteria until it’s excreted in their poop. And although you’re unlikely to consume your pet’s supper, the authors note in their paper which very low doses of E. coli O157:H7 (possibly as few as one bacterial colony) may lead to disease in humans. This usually means that pet owners may be in danger of contracting a serious infection indirectly.

“This could be via direct contact with the food; via contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the exact same bed and enabling licking of the face and hands; via contact with family surfaces; or simply by eating cross-contaminated human food,” the newspaper states. “Cross-contamination may occur after preparing RMBDs or cleansing infected food bowls on the kitchen sink. ”

The frozen meals also contained Listeria (43 percent of samples) and Salmonella species (20 percent), two big names in human food poisoning.  

While Listeria is frequently benign in cats and dogs, Salmonella poisoning can lead to significant disease with symptoms like those experienced by people. The same as E. coli, these germs may get passed to you from managing the products or cleaning up after your pet.

Moving on from germs, two kinds of parasites were identified in the RMBDs: Sarcocystis species (11 percent) and Toxoplasma gondii (6 per cent). The former causes noticeable disease in pets and humans, whereas the latter travels into the mammalian brain and has been linked to changes in behavior and maybe even  schizophrenia.  

Countless Toxoplasma parasites (stained red) are wrapped in a uterus inside mouse brain tissue. Wiki Commons

If you purchase frozen raw pet food, the very low storage temperatures will inactivate most parasites, but some RMBD enthusiasts opt for more comprehensive options.   The paper warns that “this research does show that when raw pet food has been purchased fresh and prepared in the home without freezing, there’s a potential threat of parasitic infections in pet creatures, which could result in shedding of oocysts in the environment, thus leading to potential further exposure to human beings. ”

Despite being a small study that concentrated on not a lot of RMBD manufacturers, the findings are in line with microbiological research of uncooked meat performed in different countries, implying most if not all raw pet foods harbors  naturally-occurring pathogens.

“Feeding raw meat to pets continues to be practised all over the world as shown by the several reports from Australia, the USA, Canada and Europe. This usually means that this issue is of international importance,” conclude that the the authors.

And if you are thinking that the benefits to your pets may outweigh the threat, the writers deliver further bad news: The wellness claims surfaced on product packaging or advertisements are only marketing, also not according to published study.  

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