Feeding raw meat to pets could be unsafe, say scientists

Giving your pets a raw meat diet isn't a good idea

Moreover, species of listeria were found in more than half of products, while salmonella species were found in 20%, species of sarcocystis in 23% and Toxoplasma gondii in 6%.

Those risks don't just apply to the pets themselves, says Paul Overgaauw, a veterinarian and visiting researcher at Utrecht University.

Daniel Chan, professor of emergency and critical care medicine and clinical nutrition at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, who was not involved in the research, said the new study added to a growing body of evidence on raw meat diets for pets.

They wrote: "The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in RMBDs could therefore pose a serious risk to both animal health and public health - not only because infections with these bacteria are hard to treat, but also because of the potential of it contributing to a more widespread occurence of such bacteria".

Some argue that conventional pet foods lose important nutrients during the heating process, while others say the consumption of unnecessary additives is avoided by feeding pets a raw meat based diet.

The raw meat diet for pets has been criticised by scientists, who say it could potentially be harmful to both animals and humans.

To make things even more appetising, eight products contained a type of Sarcocystis parasite, and two had the mind-altering cat nasty, Toxoplasma gondii.

A survey of frozen, raw meat products sold at pet stores and supermarkets in the Netherlands, where more than half of dog owners buy such items, revealed worrying levels of bacteria and parasites, a Dutch team reported in the journal Vet Record. Most reports of ailments being sent from pets to owners have been more rigorous, says Overgaauw.

"This is in contrast with dry, semi-moist and canned pet food, which is rarely contaminated with pathogens", the research team wrote.

"This can be through direct contact with the food; through contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands; through contact with household surfaces; or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food", he added.

A growing trend has seen pet owners plump for products such as meat, bones and organs which can be bought frozen and then thawed before being fed to dogs and cats.

Past year a charitable scheme which sends dogs into schools to help children read, Burns By Your Side, announced it had banned the use of animals fed on raw meats because of the health risk to children. They should be educated about proper handling of the products and personal hygiene measures, and the products should include warnings and handling instructions, the investigators said.

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