In spite of plenty of peer-reviewed studies and veterinary advice to the contrary, owners are still being conned by the “feed raw” myth.
Well unsurprisingly, another peer-reviewed study has concluded that raw food is often riddled with parasites and bacteria:
- Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 (infection can lead to haemorrhagic diarrhoea and kidney failure) – present in 23% of products
- Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases-producing E coli (can cause urinary tract infections that can also progress to sepsis and which are resistant to many penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics and other types of antibiotic) – present in 80% of products
- Listeria monocytogenes (one of the most virulent food-borne pathogens responsible for an estimated 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths in the USA annually, with 20% to 30% of infections in high-risk individuals proving fatal) – present in 54& of products
- Other Listeria species were present in 43% of products
- Salmonella species the second most common food-borne pathogen in Europe) – present in 20% of products.
- Sarcocystis cruzi (causes acute fever, myalgia, bronchospasm, pruritic rashes, lymphadenopathy, subcutaneous nodules associated with eosinophilia, elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate and elevated creatinine kinase levels. Symptoms may last for five years in humans) – present in 11% of products
- S tenella (causes similar effects as Sarcocystis cruzi) – present in 11% of products
- Toxoplasma gondii (can cause changes in human behaviour by altering the effects of dopamine and testosterone causing reduced psychomotor performance) – present in 6% of products.
The study examined 203 products from 21 brands. Alarmingly, the authors noted that warnings and handling instructions on packages were lacking from all but one brand”. Even where that one warning was apparent, it does not mitigate the fact that salmonella in particular are resistant to destruction even when food bowls are cleaned at high temperatures, using detergents in a dishwasher or treated with disinfectant. Salmonellae infection in raw foods varies from 7% to 80% in Canada and 5% to 45% in the USA. A systematic review of case–control studies has shown that direct contact with companion animals plays a major role in human salmonellosis and direct transmission has been reported frequently. Human outbreaks of salmonella infections have been associated with contaminated dried pig ears and contaminated chicken jerky treats as well as raw diets. Animals are exposed directly to foodborne pathogens when they ingest food and humans through direct contact with the food, contact with a contaminated animal by sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands, contact with household surfaces or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food. Cross-contamination may occur after preparing RMBDs or cleaning infected food bowls.
Unlike in companion animals, L monocytogenes can cause serious illness in human beings. Infection of healthy adults usually leads to influenza-like symptoms, but can be life-threatening, especially in neonates and pregnant women where it may cause abortion. Contaminated food products, including raw meat, are common sources of infection and the bacteria replicate easily in food bowls at room temperature. Vacuum cleaner waste from households with RMBD-fed dogs has also been shown to be more
frequently contaminated with salmonella species than waste from other households because animals fed on raw food will be continually shedding pathogens into the environment.
The authors of the study concluded “The results of this study demonstrate the presence of potential zoonotic pathogens in frozen RMBDs that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings. If non-frozen meat is fed, parasitic infections are also possible. Pet owners should therefore be informed about the risks associated with feeding their animals RMBDs”.
Dogs and cats may be asymptomatic even though infected. Humans are more likely to develop illnesses picked up from their animals because pathogens remain for much longer in the digestive tract and have the opportunity to multiply. Young, elderly and immuno-compromised people are much more at risk and can be infected by asymptomatic humans as well as their animals. Pathogens can also harm other animals: bitches have aborted when infected by pathogens from raw meat products and fatal septicaemic salmonellosis has killed cats fed on raw meat diets.
So, apart form not providing a balanced diet including all of the requisite nutritional elements for dogs and cats, feeding raw diets could result in illness and death as pathogens are shed by animals into the environment and spread after being handled by humans.