A dog on a raw meat diet may be a potentially severe health problem for the family that shares a home with them, according to a team of veterinary researches.
Diets like raw meat have become popular over the years with dog owners marketed as Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or its odd acronym, BARF.
BARF has an appeal amongst owners who are accustomed to benefits of reducing processed foods, but vets and microbiologists are not so sure.
Several published studies have raised concern over the potential for raw meat to transfer bacterial and parasitic pathogens, to dogs and their owners.
A study (1) conducted in the Netherlands, published in 2018, analyzed 35 BARF packs from eight different commercial packages. They discovered Escherichia coli in 80% of them, Listeria species in 43%, and Salmonella in 20%.
Researchers have concluded that dogs on a raw meat diet, “may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings.” This year the US Food and Drug Administration investigated three cases (2) of pets becoming ill and using whole genome sequencing of bacteria isolated from the animals traced the source back to raw meat products.
The most recent research, published in the journal VetRecord (3), led by Josefin Hellgren from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in Uppsala, Sweden, analyzed 60 frozen BARF packs from 10 different manufacturers.
In their findings were Enterobacteriaceae bacteria, which includes E.coli present at levels above the European Union safety standard in 31 of the samples. Salmonella and Campylobacter species were found in 7% and 5% of samples, respectively.
Hellgren and colleagues warn of “potential health risks to animals and humans, especially young and immunocompromised individuals.”
Tips were offered by the researchers for pet owners to reduce the chances of fostering pathogenic overloads in raw food. They include ensuring that all meals are kept frozen until use and then thawed in an environment no warmer than 10 degrees Celsius. Dog food and human food should be stored separately and handled using different sets of tools and equipment.
Raw food should not be given to dogs on antimicrobial medication.
They also offer one further piece of advice: don’t lock lips with the pooch.
“A great opportunity for dogs to transfer potential pathogenic and antimicrobial-resistant bacteria to humans is by ‘kissing’ people in the face immediately after they have eaten,” they note.