Don’t feed your pet raw meat foods – it’s dangerous for both pets and humans, experts warn

The Ottawa Humane Society has launched an emergency food bank to keep pets well-fed as some families experience financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic. humonia/Getty Images

Feeding your pet a raw meat-based diet may be putting their health at risk, a new study warns.

According to researchers at Utrecht University, these diets could be contaminated with bacteria and parasites that can harm your pet.

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It’s a trend gaining momentum among some pet owners who feel that such raw meat-based diets are healthier for their dog or cat. The idea is that these foods are considered a more natural dietary option, as opposed to the processed pet foods that contain additives, researchers say.

Despite pet owners’ best efforts, however, feeding cats and dogs raw meat and bones may be increasing the potential for disease, the study says.

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In fact, when researchers tested 35 commercial frozen foods from eight different brands in the Netherlands, eight products (23 per cent) were found to have E. coli present, 15 had Listeria (43 per cent) and seven products had salmonella (20 per cent).

As well, four products (11 per cent) also contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi, while another four was found to have Sarcocystis tenella. Lastly, researchers found two products (six per cent) with Taxoplasma gondii.

This is important, researchers say, because the bacteria and parasitic pathogens found in the food may increase the risk for infection in pets, which has the potential to be harmful to humans due to the possibility of transmission.

“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,” Paul Overgaauw, one of the authors of the study, said to The Independent.

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That’s why it’s important for companies to inform pet owners of the possible risks that come with feeding their pets raw meat-based diets by including warnings on packages and labels.

This isn’t the first time researchers have warned pet owners against raw meat-based diets.

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A 2013 study in Vet Med Today expressed concern over this trend, saying that despite the belief that these diets are considered healthier and more natural by pet owners, they actually have a high incidence of nutritional imbalances.

For example, vitamin A and E concentrations were found to be below the minimum detectable value, and a vitamin D concentration nearly twice the maximum amount recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

The same study also recognized the safety risks surrounding possible pathogens in the uncooked meat. Although the meat is processed, the meat has the potential to be contaminated with hide, feathers or viscera during slaughter, processing and/or packaging, researchers point out.

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