Animal & Veterinary

Avoid the Dangers of Raw Pet Food

raw meat and egg in a pet food dish

  • Compared to other types of pet food, raw pet food is more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.1
  • Salmonella bacteria cause the disease salmonellosis, and L. monocytogenes bacteria cause the disease listeriosis. People and animals can get both diseases by eating food contaminated with the harmful bacteria. That’s why salmonellosis and listeriosis are called “foodborne” illnesses—the bacteria are carried, or “borne” on, contaminated food.
  • People can also get both salmonellosis and listeriosis by handling contaminated food, such as contaminated raw pet food, and accidentally transferring the bacteria from their hands to their mouths.
  • Some animals can carry Salmonella and L. monocytogenes without showing signs of being sick.
  • Some animals, such as turtles, reptiles, and chickens, can have Salmonella on their bodies or in their habitats. After handling a live animal or touching an object in its habitat, people can get salmonellosis by accidentally transferring the bacteria from their hands to their mouths.
  • Food products made from animals, such as raw meat and poultry, can be sources of Salmonella and L. monocytogenes infection.
  • Symptoms of salmonellosis in people include fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Symptoms start 12 hours to three days after a person ingests the bacteria.
  • Most people recover from salmonellosis in four to seven days without treatment, but some groups are at higher risk of developing more severe symptoms. These high-risk groups are:
    • Children under 5
    • The elderly
    • Pregnant women
    • People with weakened immune systems
  • Compared to salmonellosis and other foodborne illnesses, listeriosis is rare but very serious with a high mortality rate of 20 to 30 percent.
  • L. monocytogenes can invade many places in the body, including the brain, membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (called the “meninges”), gastrointestinal tract, and bloodstream. Symptoms vary depending on the body site, or sites, affected.
  • Listeriosis occurs almost exclusively in:
    • Pregnant women and their fetuses
    • Newborns
    • The elderly
    • People with weakened immune systems
  • Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and life-threatening infection of the newborn.
  • Newborns suffer the most serious consequences of listeriosis, including pneumonia, a blood infection, and meningitis.
  • To prevent infection with Salmonella and L. monocytogenes, it’s best if you don’t feed your pet a raw diet.
  • If you choose to feed raw pet food to your pet, here are some tips to prevent infection:
    • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) after handling raw pet food, and after touching surfaces or objects that have come in contact with the raw food.
    • Thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that come in contact with raw pet food. First wash with hot soapy water and then follow with a disinfectant. You can also run items through the dishwasher after each use to clean and disinfect them.
    • Freeze raw meat and poultry products until you are ready to use them, and thaw them in your refrigerator or microwave, not on your countertop or in your sink.
    • Carefully handle raw and frozen meat and poultry products. Don’t rinse raw meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. Bacteria in the raw juices can splash and spread to other food and surfaces.
    • Keep raw food separate from other food.
    • Immediately cover and refrigerate what your pet doesn’t eat, or throw the leftovers out safely.
    • If you’re using raw ingredients to make your own cooked pet food, be sure to cook all food to a proper internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella, L. monocytogenes, and other harmful foodborne bacteria.
    • Don’t kiss your pet around its mouth, and don’t let your pet lick your face. This is especially important after your pet has just finished eating raw food.
    • Thoroughly wash your hands after touching or being licked by your pet. If your pet gives you a “kiss,” be sure to also wash your face.
  • No matter what type of pet food you feed your pet, you should always follow these safe handling instructions.
     

raw meat and eggs

1 Source: Nemser S, Reimschuessel, R. Food Emergency Response Network (FERN)disclaimer icon  Microbiology Cooperative Agreement Program (MCAP), FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Special Project: Pet food testing for selected microbial organisms. Final Report 2010-2012. The study was conducted by FDA CVM’s Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), in collaboration with FERN MCAP laboratories.

Page Last Updated: 07/02/2014
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