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

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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.

Eight products contained Sarcocystes parasites and two products (6 percent) contained Toxoplasma gondii parasites.

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.

Researchers in the Netherlands have analysed a range of raw meat-based diet products and concluded that the risks of contamination are super-high, even if the pet owners swear by the virtues of such a diet.

Things are probably better if you only purchase meat intended for human consumption, as the hygiene requirements for producing that are usually stricter than for the giblets, entrails, and other byproducts deemed suitable for raw pet food. The meat carries bacteria that can be unsafe to both animals and humans.

It found that E. coli was present in eight products (23 per cent), Listeria species were found in 15 products (43 per cent) and Salmonella species in seven products (20 per cent). The former is known to be unsafe to farm animals, while the latter has been linked to illnesses in cats and humans (including mental illness in cat owners) in the United States.

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This is important, researchers say, because the bacteria and parasitic pathogens found in the food may possibly be a source of infection in pets, which may also become a risk for humans.

Commercial raw-meat pet foods sold in the United States and Europe contain "all kinds of meat, organs, and bones, sometimes with vegetables or fruits added", says Overgaauw.

"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", he said.

In general, the microbial evidence that the researchers gathered from their samples fell within acceptable limits for commercially produced pet products in the Netherlands. "I think that in the US especially, owners are much more liking the convenience, and buy these products instead of preparing raw food on their own".

By feeding this diet to pets, owners are not only risking the health of the animals but also their own health. RMDB feeding was linked to gastroenteritis and diarrhea in dogs, and to a deadly type ofSalmonella infection in cats, according to the study.

Pet owners who are interested in raw meat-based diets should talk to a professional rather than feeding their pets uncooked meat.

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