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

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A raw meat-based diet (RMBD), also known as Bones and Raw Food (BARF), contains a number of parasites and bacteria that could be passed on to humans, say researchers from the Institute of Risk Assessment at Utrecht University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

In addition, four products (11 per cent) contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi and another four contained Sarcocystis tenella.

Researchers said in a press release: "Despite the relatively low sample size of frozen products in our study, it is clear that commercial RMBDs may be contaminated with a variety of zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings".

"It has been claimed that feeding pets raw meat results in a better overall condition of the animals and could have a supportive role in controlling and preventing certain medical conditions in both dogs and cats such as allergies, skin and gastrointestinal tract problems", said lead researcher Paul Overgaauw, from Utrecht University.

What they found was a veritable smorgasbord of pathogens that can pose risks not just to pets, but to people and farm animals as well.

Dutch scientists are warning pet owners against feeding their cats and dogs raw meat.

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"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. But when we feed our pets raw meat, that bacteria thrives.

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

They wrote: "The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in RMBDs could therefore pose a serious risk to both animal health and public health - not only because infections with these bacteria are hard to treat, but also because of the potential of it contributing to a more widespread occurence of such bacteria".

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

Giving them the reason to ditch dry and canned pet foods and feed their pets raw meat-based diets (RMBDs). The food also carries a number of bacteria that could infect dogs and spread to their owners. They should be educated about proper handling of the products and personal hygiene measures, and the products should include warnings and handling instructions, the investigators said.

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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