Raw meat pet foods 'may carry deadly bugs', experts warn

Dutch study finds that raw meat often contains bacteria and parasites. Source: Getty

Experts are warning pet owners against feeding their cats and dogs on raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) because the food may carry deadly bugs – and they could be passed between animals and people.

Raw meat diets are controversial, but in recent years it’s becoming increasingly popular to swap canned food for ‘natural’ raw meat. Some manufacturers say it’s what dogs and cats would eat in the wild, claiming it will give them shinier coats, fresher breath, and higher energy levels. 

But a Dutch study has found that raw meat often contains deadly bugs such as E coil, salmonella and listeria. The study, led by Professor Paul Overgaauw from Utrecht University and published in the Vet Record, has found that raw meats can easily become contaminated with bacteria and parasites. These can then be passed to animals, and even their owners.

Overgaauw set out to determine the presence of four zoonotic bacteria (diseases that can pass between animals and humans) and two parasite species in raw meat diets, which are often found in pet shops and supermarkets. The study looked at brands of raw meat pet foods sold in the Netherlands. 

“Despite the relatively low sample size of frozen products in our study, it is clear that commercial RMBDs may be contaminated with a variety of zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings,” researchers said. 

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The Dutch study, which analysed 35 products, found E coil in eight, listeria species present in 15 products and salmonella in seven. 

Contaminated raw meat, is a risk not only to the animal’s health but also to the pet’s owner, as bacteria and parasites can be passed between animals and humans easily. E coil, found in raw meat, can be deadly in elderly and young people. 

“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.”

Pet owners who are interested in raw meat-based diets should talk to a professional rather than feeding their pets uncooked meat. To avoid contamination, pet owners should also be educated about personal hygiene and proper handling of raw meat-based diets. 

If you’re planning to do the switch, keep in mind, that some pets develop gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhoea, when changing to a raw meat-based diet. 

What do you think? Do you feed your pet raw meat, or do you think it’s too risky?