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RAW DIETS: THE GOOD, THE BAD

It’s like the paleo diet, only for pets.

Grain-free, all-meat, and raw-food diets are hugely popular with pet owners who like the idea of feeding their cats and dogs a diet that’s closer to what their ancestor ate in the wilds.

The problem is, there’s no hard, scientific evidence that raw meat–based diets (RMBDs) are any healthier than traditional dry or canned pet foods.

Grain-free foods are one of the fastest growing segments of the pet food market. They’re often marketed as being more natural (read: healthier) for pets than grain-based diets.

Even though they are vastly popular, you must be careful!

Researchers at Utrecht University in The Netherlands tested 35 frozen pet-food products from eight different brands. All the products contained some combination of raw meat, bones, and animal byproducts from beef, duck, chicken, lamb, and horse, plus additional ingredients. The researchers were looking for any trace of zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens—specifically, infectious bacteria and pathogens that could sicken not only pets, but potentially people, too, through contact with contaminated food or feces.

What they found is enough to make you sick. Literally.

They found potentially deadly E. coli bacteria in 28 products, or 80% of all the pet foods tested. More worrisome, they found E. coli 0157:H7 in 8 products, or 23% of the total. 0157:H7 is a particularly virulent strain of E. coli responsible for an infectious outbreak that’s killed two people and hospitalized more than 50 in the United States and Canada over the past seven weeks. In those cases, contaminated romaine lettuce rather than meat is believed to be the culprit.

There’s more.

Listeria monocytogenes was present in 19 products, or 54%, and other listeria species were found in 15, or 43%. Researchers wrote that the results of the study clearly demonstrate the presence of potential zoonotic pathogens in frozen RMBDs that may be a source of bacterial infections in pet animals and, if transmitted, pose a risk for human beings.

Of course, it’s not just handling raw pet food that can make people sick—people should thoroughly wash their hands after handling raw meat, including the meat they buy to feed their families.

The researchers added, “If nonfrozen meat is fed [to pets], parasitic infections are also possible.”

So what is a holistic pet owner supposed to do who wants to feed a raw diet. Wash your hands well, and treat the raw food first before having your pet consume it!

For more information on how to do this, please call our office and schedule a consultation.

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