Treacherous Thames – Canine Casualties on the Tideway

When most people think of lifeboats they have images of dark and stormy nights, Grace Darling battling huge waves and dramatic launches from seaside slipways. It may be surprising then, to realise that the busiest lifeboat station in the UK is on the river Thames at Tower Bridge, with the other three Thames stations at Chiswick, Gravesend and Teddington being the next busiest. The Thames has had its own lifeboats since 2001 when a safety enquiry following the Marchioness disaster saw the establishment of Tower Bridge station. Uniquely, the Thames stations are manned permanently and vessels are required to be afloat within 90 seconds of being notified of an incident. Chiswick has 3 E-class inshore boats that were designed specifically for the conditions on the Thames: the Chelsea Pensioner (E-003), the Joan and Kenneth Bellamy (E-006) and Dougie and Donna B (E-008). E-class boats are the fastest vessels in service with the RNLI and can reach up to 95% of casualties between Canvey Island and Teddington within 15 minutes.

The Thames is a dangerous place. The tide can rise and fall up to 24ft twice a day and hide all sorts of submerged hazards as well as create treacherous currents and dangerous mud. The average water temperature is 12C (54F); cold water shock can occur at any temperature below 15C (59F). 34 people died in the river between 2000 and 2014. It doesn’t help that charming riverside pubs can create not-at-all-charming drunks who either fall in or think that they are invincible and can swim in all conditions.

Chiswick came into operation in January 2012. Up until the end of 2017, crews had attended 3,328 incidents and rescued 1,707 people, some of whom would otherwise have died.

The dangers aren’t just faced by humans but by dogs too. Involuntary ingestion of river water and the dangers of being infected by leptospirosis (Weill’s disease) can kill dogs and humans. Even the strongest swimmers can and do get swept away by the tide and can get trapped in a variety of hazards by unexpected currents that may not be visible from the bank. Already this year, the Chiswick station, operating between Richmond half lock and Battersea, has been called out for the seventh time to rescue a dog. Crews have also had to rescue handlers who try to retrieve dogs from the water and, as with the seashore, can be in greater danger than the dog that they are trying to bring in. Even if dogs don’t enter the water voluntarily, they can and do fall in not least when banks are slippery with weed and mud (and that’s the polite description, at least until the Thames Tideway becomes operational).

This is what happened when two dogs and their handlers got into difficulty on the Thames this summer.

There were a total of 132 lifeboat launches to dog walking incidents in 2015, with 119 handlers being rescued.

Don’t let yourself or your dog add to the statistics. Respect the water, keep your dog on the lead and/or get a canine lifejacket*. Don’t let your dog swim in the Thames or other tidal waters and make sure that there is no danger from algal blooms and similar in running or still water.

Never go in after your dog.

If your dog does get into difficulties, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard and keep yourself safe and, if necessary, warm.

Chiswick lifeboat station costs £495,000 per annum to run. The RNLI is completely independent of government and relies on volunteers and fundraising to operate. You can support Chiswick or any other part of the RNLI by taking part in a regular event such as SOS day at the end of January or National Lifeboat day in May or local events or by making a purchase from the RNLI shop* . Drop some change or even notes, into a tin. Even a small donation can help with the annual running costs.

Most of all, you can help by keeping yourself and your dog safe around water.

* CreDO and DogsNet.org do not take responsibility for products advertised on or purchased from third party websites.

Running Commentary

As we are (I hope) coming to the end of a miserably hot summer I find that it beggars belief how many people continued to inflict heavy exercise and exposure to direct sun on their dogs without any apparent concern for their welfare. Most owners have a very poor grasp of how to fulfil their dog’s needs for stimulation and exercise and assume that “a good run” is ideal regardless of the weather or the obvious distress of their dog.

The numbers of people running with dogs and towing them behind bicycles has increased massively in recent years and with it consequential stress and probably injury to dogs. It hasn’t been helped by the heavy promotion of running and cycling and dog ownership as being beneficial (to humans) without a simultaneous education campaign about canine welfare and owner responsibilities.

No doubt the runners soak their own aches and pains in a hot bath or pay for a massage but do they ever consider how sore their dogs are after they have been pounding tarmac for an hour? What exactly possessed the owner whom I see in the park to force his limping, overweight (black) dog to run with him a few short weeks after having cruciate ligament surgery, itself damage exacerbated by her excess weight? But damaged ligaments and sore muscles are not the only danger to dogs that are made to run.

When the message that dogs can die in minutes in a hot car hasn’t got through to professionals, never mind the public, no wonder that owners give little consideration to heat stress in their companion dogs. It is not just people competing with their dogs in sports such as Cani-X, Bikejor and sled racing but individuals who decide that they can kill two birds with one stone by getting the “chore” of the dog walk and their own exercise completed in one go.

A new study investigating the body temperature of dogs competing in Cani-X is therefore a very important step towards establishing reliable guidelines as to the effect on canine welfare when dogs run.

This study and those that it cites confirm that there are many factors that affect whether a dog will suffer from heat stress, or worse, heatstroke, when obliged to run, including the weather conditions on the day. Heatstroke can be fatal condition and can occur after just six minutes of exercise in hot conditions. Owners have little or no understanding of how their dogs regulate heat as evidenced by the number of people shaving off their dog’s coat or swaddling their dogs in raincoats just because they don’t want them to get dirty. The warmer that the environment becomes, taking into account humidity and wind as well as “actual” temperature, the less efficient that the dog’s natural mechanisms of heat loss become.

There are other factors to consider in addition. Dogs measured after competing in Cani-X were significantly hotter than bitches and dark-coloured dogs developed significantly higher temperatures after running when compared to medium-coloured dogs, but not when compared to pale-coloured dogs. The dogs with the hottest post-running temperatures were thus more likely to be male and dark coated. Also, dogs that completed the course in the fastest times had higher post-running temperatures. This would suggest that a sprinter, such as a greyhound, would be hotter after running a typical race than might a Siberian Husky after running a long-distance sled course. Dogs running up a slope also had significantly higher temperatures after racing than those running on the flat.

The study suggested that, theoretically, all racing dogs would exhibit potentially dangerous high temperatures once the temperature reaches 22°C (taking into account the humidity and wind factors). The longer that the dog’s temperature remains high (approximately 3°C above the average resting temperature) the more likely the dog is to sustain long-term damage from heatstroke. In all of the races where dogs’ temperature was measured in the study, at least one dog developed a body temperature that would be considered to be at risk for developing heatstroke, with the highest recorded temperature being 4.5°C above the average resting temperature (bearing in mind that there is some individual variation). All of the dogs returned to a normal body temperature within 10–20 minutes of finishing their race. However, had the ambient temperatures been higher, this may have taken longer and owners also need to realise that dogs do not cool down immediately after stopping any more than people do. Running with a dog and then transporting it in a hot car and/or leaving it in a hot room may inhibit cooling considerably. It must also be noted that some of the dogs that had been raced when it was snowing still exhibited potentially dangerous high temperatures after running.

Owners who compete regularly with dogs are likely to monitor their water intake and regulate their diet with a great level of precision and understanding of their dogs’ requirements. Owners who haul their unfit dogs around the park are not. As the study’s author commented, “An unfit, poorly acclimatised, dark coated male dog may be at greater risk of heatstroke running in late autumn than a pale coated, female dog in regular training, running in the middle of summer”.

It beggars belief that owners with brachycephalic and achondroplastic dogs force them to run but it is easy to see that they do in any park on any day. Small dogs are also less able to regulate their temperature and are often those rugged up at every opportunity, including on warm, wet, muggy days when they too, are forced to run.

Dogs that are only taken out to run with owners have no opportunity to sniff and socialise and are often interpreted as being aggressive by other dogs as they run past in a desperate attempt to keep up with their owners. I have seen extremely fearful dogs quivering with stress as they weigh up whether to risk running past another dog or lose sight of their owner who, more often than not is either oblivious with headphones blasting muzak into their ears or running on whilst screaming at their dog to catch up.

It is amazing, especially this summer, that more dogs do not suffer from heatstroke as a consequence, although the long term damage to their social requirements and toll on their bodies is less apparent.

All owners need to be alert to the potential for heat stroke and over exertion in their dogs and to ensure that they neither drink too much or too little.

Many thanks to Emily J Hall and Anne Carter Pullen for making their research available and for the permission to link to the canine heatstroke website.

It’s in the DNA

DNA sequencing is the process of determining the precise order of nucleotides within a DNA Whole genome sequencing has made the complete DNA sequence of an organism available for analysis and study. The first organism to be sequenced in 1977 was a virus and the human genome project was launched in 1990, with the first draft of the full sequence being published in 2001 and the final draft in 2003. The dog genome was published in 2005 and <ahref=”https://research.nhgri.nih.gov/dog_genome/study_descriptions/publications-study.shtml#genomics_dog_breeds” target=”_blank”>several peer-reviewed publications detail research into the origins of the domestic dog, variations in physical characteristics and canine diseases.

Originally an expensive process, DNA testing and sequencing has become considerably cheaper and 19 laboratories across the globe support commercial provision of approximately 200 DNA tests, most commonly undertaken for disease prevalence and to determine breeds in crosses. However, not all DNA tests are the same. Knowing what breeds constitute a cross may provide a broad idea of temperament but the effects of epigenetics and other environmental factors, not to mention training, play a huge role in determining how a dog will behave. Even where susceptibility to disease and defects are concerned, DNA tests need to be treated with caution, as indeed do other tests such as screening for hip and elbow dysplasia which need to be seen in the context under which the results are reported as well as assessing the validity of the tests themselves. Inaccuracies in human genetic tests can be as high as 40% and with humans and dogs, the tests are often only partial, with companies failing to screen for all known disease-linked mutations. For example, a mutation in the ABCB1 gene occurs in many herding dogs including collies, Australian shepherds and Shetland sheepdogs that renders them susceptible to poisoning by commonly used veterinary medications such as flea and worm treatments., Although there is a genetic test available to screen for one type of this mutation, it appears that two other types are not screened for which may result in dogs being designated as clear when they are not.

An article in the prestigious journal Nature has raised serious concerns about the scientific basis behind DNA testing to predict the likelihood of disease occurrence as well as concerns regarding conflicts of interest. They state that most genetic tests for health are based on small studies where the accuracy and ability to predict health outcomes has not been validated. Owners are likely to come across the results via breeders and/or vets, neither of whom are unlikely to possess detailed knowledge about the limitations of such tests. This can not only lead to owners being misled, but to dogs undergoing invasive and unnecessary testing and even being euthanised on the basis of the results.

As with human DNA testing, researchers look for mutations on “candidate genes” that might lead to future genetically-linked health problems. However, just possessing a mutation is not guarantee that disease will develop: this has only been found to be the case in 2% of human candidate gene studies. In human genetics, collaboration between industry, academia, doctors and patients has resulted in a more detailed and nuanced assessment of the effect of candidate genes. No such collaboration exists, or is likely to in the near future, where canine health is concerned.

There is also plenty of scope for conflict of interest and little or no regulation with a predicted explosion in the availability of relatively cheap testing for dog owners.
The authors of the study are calling for:

  • The establishment of common standards in testing methodology and the reporting of test results
  • The establishment of guidelines drawn up by interested parties and which may form the basis for legislation
  • Comprehensive sharing of anonymised data
  • Recruitment of dedicated expertise to manage and analyse data
  • The development of a cadre of professional genetic counsellors to provide support and advice to owners following genetic tests with potential for affiliation with counterparts in human genetic counselling at leading academic medical centres.

Genetic testing is a vital tool for improving dog health and it would be a tragedy for dogs if commercial incentives and incomplete knowledge were to lead to it being generally discredited because it has been falsely presented. We have seen the damage being wreaked from the false information spread about vaccination. It should serve as a warning.

3 Out 1 In

Three pieces of legislation affecting dogs will be repealed in October 2018 and a new piece of legislation will be introduced covering the licensing of activities involving animals: specifically in the case of companion dogs, all types of boarding and breeding. The requirements for the provisions made for dogs being boarded are more detailed than previously and are explicit regarding permissions for day care and overnight boarding. The provision which allowed one additional dog to be boarded with an owner’s own dog without requiring licensing has thankfully been rescinded.

Main points for overnight boarding include:

  • Dogs may only be boarded in a home
  • Boarded dogs must have direct access to a private, non-communal, secure and hazard-free external area and there must be at least two secure physical barriers between any dog and any entrance to or exit from it
  • Dogs from different households may only be boarded at the same time with the written consent of every owner
  • Each dog must be provided with its own designated room where it can, if necessary, be kept separate from other dogs
  • Any equipment that a dog is likely to be in contact with and any toy provided must not pose a risk of pain, suffering, disease or distress to the dog and must be correctly used
  • Dogs which on the advice of a veterinarian cannot be exercised must be provided with alternative forms of mental stimulation
  • If any person aged under 16 years resides at the home, there must be procedures in place to regulate the interactions between the dogs and that person.

Main points for day care boarding include:

  • No dog may be kept on the premises overnight
  • There must be an area where any dog can avoid seeing other dogs and people if it so chooses
  • All dogs must be screened before being admitted to the premises to ensure that they are not afraid, anxious or stressed in the presence of other dogs or people and do not pose a danger to other dogs or staff
  • Any journeys in a vehicle must be planned to minimise the time dogs spend in the vehicle.

Frankly, I know of very few people boarding dogs currently in their home who would be compliant with the new legislation and, in the case of the immediate area where I live, not one is boarding legally anyway. Abuses that I know of include the women who “boards” dogs overnight in her car which is not even always parked outside her house or the woman who let two dogs run out of an open door, one of which was immediately killed by a devastated, dog-owning driver through no fault of his own. The obligation to provide a designated room for each dog should severely limit numbers which is no bad thing. The prohibition on causing pain and suffering by the use of equipment is interesting and could potentially stop the use of a variety of common restraints. It is particularly good news that there are restrictions on contact between boarding dogs and under 16s.

It would have been useful to have had specific provisions for dogs taken away from the home area such as to farms etc which became more common when parks began to restrict the number of dogs that could be walked at any given time. Sadly, very, very few people dealing with dogs recognise signs of fear, anxiety and stress and often miss the subtle signals that dogs show. The restriction on time spent in vehicles is a bit vague, but at least it could include the provision for demonstrating that there is a written plan.

The legislation covering breeding is more straightforward, but there are still potential difficulties in enactment. It states that “A puppy may only be shown to a prospective purchaser if it is together with its biological mother.” However, the only way to prove that would be to undertake a DNA test and wait for the results. How that could occur in practice and who would pay for it remains to be seen. Licensed breeders “must implement and be able to demonstrate use of a documented socialisation and habituation programme for the puppies” which means that potential owners can request to see it.

There are two major provisions of the breeding section of the regulations that could have an explosive impact if fully enacted. The prohibition on mating any bitch that has had two litters delivered by caesarean section could severely limit the number of dogs bred that are unable to give birth naturally, although again, it is not easy to see how it will be policed.

But the one section that made me really sit up and take notice is this:

“No dog may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, phenotype or state of health that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health or welfare of its offspring.”

That may well be the golden key to preventing the horrors that have been perpetuated for far too long on brachycephalic and achondroplastic dogs. We can only hope.

In the end, as with all legislation, it remains to be seen what resources are put into policing it.

Shocking Stance of CA – Literally

It was with horror that I read the news release from the Countryside Alliance which supports the use of shock collars and makes erroneous connections between the type of electric fencing used to confine cats and dogs with that used to confine livestock.

Comments from Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the CA include stating that the issue does “not seem like an issue to die in a ditch about” and that the motive behind the proposal to ban shock collars in England is for “the sake of a few headlines and tweets”. he then goes on to suggest that it could lead to “more cats and dogs being euthanased and placed in danger”. He then erroneously equates shock collars and electic boundary fences used in conjunction with shock collars with electric fences widely used to protect livestock.

The CA could take a lead in promoting non-adversive training which many of its members use to train dogs for the field, but instead is now allying itself with the animal abuse which many of its detractors have accused it (erroneously) in the past.

It is not too late for the CA to admit that they are in the wrong here. If you feel strongly and/or train your dog for the field using non-aversive methods, contact them today.

The consultation on the proposed ban on electonic shock collars closes on April 27th, 2018 so there is still time to have your say.

Click here to read the response from CReDO and DogsNet.

Against the Grain

There has been an explosion in the availability of grain-free canine diets, not to mention the increasing popularity of meat-based raw diets which accompany the belief that dogs are “natural” meat eaters and little changed from their supposed carnivorous wolf ancestors. Unlike cats, even wolves are not obligate carnivores and eat a varied diet including the grain and grasses in the stomachs of their prey as well as berries.

It bears repeating yet again then, that the domestic dog is not descended from any living wolf but from a mega-fauna wolf that is now extinct. In the initial process of self-domestication, rapidly accelerated when man began to intervene, the dog adapted to new environments and became something utterly unique.

Whole-genome re-sequencing of dogs and wolves has identified 3.8 million genetic variants and 36 genomic regions that are thought to represent targets for selection during dog domestication. Ten of the genes play key roles in starch digestion and fat metabolism which show also that dogs changed as they became domesticated. Mutations in key genes enabled increased starch digestion in dogs relative to wolves, indicating that the early ancestors of modern dogs thrived on an omnivorous diet rich in starch relative to the largely carnivorous diet of wolves. This was a crucial step in
domestication because early dogs probably both scavenged from and lived with man, either way sharing a diet that included starch-based nutrients.

Further evidence that dogs are perfectly well-adapted to eating grain and starch has come from recent research into the Mayan civilisation dating from 1000 BCE to 250 CE. The Pre-classic Period between 1000 BCE and 175 CE provides the earliest direct evidence that live dogs were traded in the Americas as remains of two dogs and one jaguar-type feline, deposited between 400 and 300 BCE, were found to be non-local animals. The remains were recovered from two large pyramids in a central plaza and dated using radiocarbon dating techniques, leading researchers to conclude that that all three animals may have been involved with early ceremonial events at the site. It is thought that the dogs originated from the Guatemalan volcanic highlands and the foothills of central Guatemala and that they were imported via a trade network as gifts or as companions belonging to humans travelling along the route.

Remains of dozens of local dogs proved that they had been eating a diet rich in maize, whilst the two imported dogs showed evidence suggesting that they also consumed less meat than a carnivore. The canines were mostly small and resembled modern Chihuahuas. Butchery marks found previously on ancient dog bones at other Mayan sites suggest that the dogs were raised as a food source and it is possible that maize-fed dogs were a significant protein source for the Mayans before they domesticated turkeys.

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore Irgo

In an update to yesterday’s post, it appears that United Airlines has made another serious error this week when transporting a dog.

A 10 year old German Shepherd should have been travelling with his owners on a 1,641 mile internal flight from Oregon to Kansas. Upon landing, the owners were handed a Great Dane. Irgo the German Shepherd had instead been taken on a 5,026 mile international flight to Japan.

Flying is a stressful event for all animals, let alone an elderly dog and a giant dog. The German Shepherd faced a flight of 6,219 miles to get to Kansas.

United, perhaps well aware of the adverse publicity and exposure of its multiple failures where carrying animals is concerned, flew both bogs back to their intended locations on private charter planes with dedicated handlers.

Death By Airline

It has been widely reported in the world’s media that a United Airlines employee insisted that a dog, travelling in an approved carrier, be stowed in an overhead locker where it subsequently died.

Federal standards for the transportation of animals are set by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a division of the US Department of Agriculture, which are based on the US Animal Welfare Act (7 USC § 2131). Specific regulations exist to cater for species requirements. The US Department of Transportation has required airlines to report losses, injuries and deaths of companion animals in transit both on internal and external flights operated by a US carrier since May 2015 and makes statistic public. In 2017, United Airlines transported 138,178 animals and reported 18 deaths and 13 injuries to animals in its care. Furthermore, Title 14, Section 234.13 of the Code of Federal Regulations
requires the US Department of Transportation to “work with air carriers to improve the training of employees with respect to the air transport of animals and the notification of passengers of the conditions under which the air transport of animals is conducted”. Two notices were issued to carriers at the beginning and end of 2015 to remind them of their obligations.

Between May 2005 and December 2017, 274 dogs, 54 cats, 7 birds, 3 chinchillas, 5 guinea pigs, 3 rabbits, 2 geckos, 1 monkey, 1 rat, 1 ferret, 1 snake, 1 pig and 3 unidentified animals have died when in the care of US airlines. A further 190 dogs and 16 cats were injured and 39 cats, 13 dogs and 2 birds went missing. 3 of the lost dogs and 1 of the lost cats were reported to have been recovered subsequently. 1 of the lost cats and 5 of the injured dogs subsequently died and 1 of the injured dogs was euthanised.

There is considerable variation in the carriers who take animals and in the numbers transported, but Delta Airlines has a similar poor record with 84 deaths, 33 injuries and 15 losses in the same period. American Airlines reported 57 deaths, 11 injuries and 5 losses, Continental Airlines 49 deaths, 16 injuries and 4 losses and Alaska Airlines 43 deaths, 67 injuries and 5 losses. The remaining 16 carriers reported an average of 30 deaths ranging from (none to 16), 30 injuries ranging from (none to 7) and 19 losses ranging from (none to 5).

The USDA has sanctioned various air carriers for violations of the Animal Welfare Act which include:

Allowing animals to suffer from hyperthermia and hypothermia causing injury and death
Accepting inadequate encloses for transportation causing injuries and loss
Causing death by inadequate ventilation
Causing injury and death by inadequate supervision including causing injury and death by dehydration and starvation
Causing death by crushing an enclosure and death by poor loading techniques and improper handling.

In addition:
Staff placed a dog’s enclosure on an elevated baggage claim conveyor belt
32 out of 106 dogs and 2 cats died and 52 other animals were injured when all but one dog were being shipped by dealers due to inadequate ventilation
50 dogs in a shipment of 81 died and 31 were injured due to inadequate ventilation. 6 of the 31 were later euthanised.

There were also frequent violations of the requirement to carry adequate documentation regarding animal care, specifically food and water, and of requirements to check that enclosures were adequate before permitting transportation.

Statistically of course, the number is extremely small, but each one represents an animal for which airline staff had a duty of care and of course, an animal to which a human was strongly attached enough to pay a not inconsiderable sum for its travel expecting that it would be safe.

In the case of the dog that died on the latest United Airlines flight, the airline has accepted responsibility and acknowledged that the flight attendant was not following accepted protocol. It beggars belief however, that the member of staff did not take further advice having realised that this was not a suitable way for a living animal to travel. In addition, all concerned, including the owner, ignored the dog’s distressed cries. Given that it has been reported to have been a French bulldog puppy, it would in all likelihood have had compromised breathing and poor ability to regulate body temperature.

In many ways, this is a direct consequence of designating dogs as “toy” types and “teacup dogs” and treating them no differently to accessories to be bred, bought, sold and handled as if they were handbags and shoes.

Proposed Ban on Puppy Sales

DEFRA are calling for responses to a consultation on banning third party sales of puppies. Click on the link to have your say.

If enacted, it could be possible that the commercial sale of puppies and possibly kittens and other animals would no longer be legal from pet shops. Currently, pet shops can apply to their local authority for a licence to sell puppies and are subject (in theory at least), to regular inspection.

However, even if pet shops are capable of providing suitable conditions from which to house and sell puppies which is extremely doubtful, they can only guarantee a regular supply of puppies from mass breeding. As the BBC TV documentary The Dog Factory proved, some of these outlets are a boon for puppy farmers, including those masquerading and even functioning as regular breeders.

This sounds like an excellent proposition, but the only way to prevent it from being just another statute amongst the 50+ laws that deal with dogs in the UK is for considerable resources to be put into enforcing and policing it. That seems highly unlikely in the current climate of severe local authority cuts.

Read the full response from CReDO here…

Anti-microbial Resistance – Are YOU Making Things Worse?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) regards anti-microbial resistance as being “one of the biggest threats to global health”. The Wellcome Trust commissioned a survey in 2015 to evaluate the perception of antibiotic effectiveness and potential problems in the UK. The worrying conclusions were that

“…resistance’ is either not on the radar or misunderstood – everyone assumes it’s the person that becomes resistant”

“There’s a natural tendency to dismiss the idea – or to purposefully blank it out”

“…everyone assumes that the experts will work it out – they are confident that time and money will be spent to find a ‘cure’ and that it will eventually all be ‘sorted’ and some then struggle with what they personally can really do about it”.

The majority of the population alive in the UK today has grown up in a world where antibiotics and mass vaccination are easily available (and often free or heavily subsidised at the point of use). Many of these people have become complacent and latched onto panics when they fail to assess the actual level of risk posed by the miniscule chance that a reaction will occur. Conversely, they are much more likely to ignore the very real risk that resistance is occurring and that the commercial realities of capitalism mean that big pharma mean has not developed an effective new class of antibiotics since 1987.

Antibiotic resistance is not just a problem for humans directly, but for our companion animals and those in the human food chain. Whilst misuse by human and animal health professionals and the public has contributed to the problem, the increasing popularity of raw food diets fed to companion animals may be providing a new source of resistance.

Escherichia coli (E.coli) is just one of the so-called “superbugs” that is causing worry and is prevalent in commercial raw food diets for companion animals examined recently in the Netherlands. The study found that cats and dogs fed raw meat are much more likely to become infected with such antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals on conventional diets and that shedding of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae was more likely in dogs that ate raw meat.

Campylobacter infection is a serious concern in poultry and, while the FSA has made great strides in working with supermarkets to lower the levels of contamination, the same cannot be said of independent retailers where owners feeding home made raw diets may shop for products such as chicken wings that are not available in supermarkets.

There was “universal agreement” at the recent British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) congress “that homemade raw feeding is dangerous because it is so difficult to get right in terms of nutrients and balance. They also agreed that handling raw meat products is riskier.” Several studies were presented to the congress proving that raw meat diets pose a “serious health risk to the animals concerned, their owners and the wider public”. Mike Davies, a vet who specialises in clinical nutrition stated that veterinary professionals would be “crazy” to recommend raw diets not least because they could be held legally liable and open to prosecution if a person became seriously ill or died as a direct result of them recommending a raw diet. Marge Chandler who practices as a private consultant in small animal medicine and nutrition also concluded that homemade raw diets are too variable, unbalanced and lacking in essential nutrients and that few commercial raw diets have
been properly evaluated in feeding trials. Davies suggested that clients be asked to sign disclaimers if they opt for raw feeding but that would still do nothing to protect staff or the wider public from the effects of pathogens that their animals are shedding. (Veterinary Record 2017 181: 384 doi: 10.1136/vr.j4709)

The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in raw diets poses a serious risk to animal and human health because infections are difficult to treat and because they contribute to a widespread occurrence of the bacteria in the environment.

Don’t contribute to the problem in the false belief that your animal will be healthier – nothing could be further from the truth.

With thanks to Paul Overgaauw for making the full text of his study [Zoonotic bacteria and parasites found in raw meat-based diets for cats and dogs, Veterinary Record, V182(2)] available as well as published articles discussing the results.