Raw diets can contain pathogens, which can harm your pet and you.
TRUE. (Aha! Gotcha)
“Homemade raw food diets are unsafe because retail meats for human consumption can be contaminated with pathogens.”– American Animal Hospital Association
By ‘true’ I meant the ‘retail meats for human consumption can be contaminated with pathogens’ part. That’s entirely true. Meat that you buy from Giant can contain pathogens.
But so does the pet itself. So does your washing basin. So does the hand that you just shook. So does your pet’s poop. So does…well, anything you lay your hands on that isn’t sterile. And that’s why we mostly don’t eat meat raw. Mostly, because there are some people out there who love beef carpaccio. And that’s why some of us fall sick when we eat improperly prepared-sashimi or handle raw meat irreverently.
Possible salmonella on a plate. Mmmm… (Picture source: ABC Tv)
The thing is, our pets’ intestinal tract is equipped to handle a lot of bacteria. The acidity of our pets’ stomachs range from 0.07-2.5 pH. This acidity helps dogs and cats to eat rotting carcasses and survive. Healthy dogs and cats also, are able to neutralise salmonella bacteria in their systems (Note: This conclusion came from a small study)
Also, some toilet bowl cleaners have a pH of 1-3. That means your pet’s stomach is a little bit more acidic than a toilet bowl cleaner. Toilet bowl cleaners are supposed to kill E.coli and other nasty bacteria.
I bet this thing works.
And even if your pet can handle lots of bacteria, are we leaving things to chance? Doesn’t the AVA department in Singapore have a job–namely to make sure that our meats come from a safe source? Aren’t you storing the meat properly and quickly? Aren’t you washing your pets’ meats before you feed them? Aren’t you washing your pet bowls? Aren’t you picking up your pets’ uneaten food and throwing them away–or *gasp* are you re-using leftovers for tomorrow night’s dinner?
If you are that sort of couldn’t-care-less pet owner (because there are!) feeding raw to cut costs, then The Raw Explorer has bad news for you: don’t feed raw. Go commercial, for your pet’s sake. Please. We beg you so hard.
Now let’s look at more of what the other side of the fence says, because it’s always good to know, and I don’t want you to go ahead thinking that feeding raw is all rainbows and prancing ponies. As with everything, there are risks, but the important thing is to be alert and at least know what these risks are.
On 19th of May, 2010, Delta Society, USA’s leading organisation for therapy dogs, banned raw-fed dogs from serving as Pet Partners. The reason they gave was that raw-fed dogs may shed pathogenic bacteria that may harm immune-compromised individuals, such as the young and the old.
A Delta Pet Partner at work. (Source: vets.tufts.edu)
Fair enough, actually. If I were a Delta, I wouldn’t want any of my Pet Partners to accidentally be the catalyst of someone’s illness of death.
BUT then, let us see what anti-raw AAHA says.
“Studies that have been done on both commercially available and homemade raw protein diets have found a high percentage (30–50%) of them contaminated with pathogenic organisms, and up to 30% of the dogs fed such diets [raw & commercial] may shed pathogenic organisms in their stool.”–American Animal Hospital Association
Actually, I have no idea why this is used as evidence against raw diets, because essentially AAHA is telling us that regardless of whether your pet is fed commercial or raw, eh, its poop is dangerous.
Well, okay. I guess touching poop is always bad, whether raw or not. That’s good to know.
The thing is, pets shed pathogens whether they are fed raw or commercial diets. Their saliva contains pathogens as well.
“Salmonella spp. can be isolated from healthy dogs and cats at rates of up to 36 and 18 percent, respectively. Dogs and especially cats can shed Salmonella organisms in both their feces and saliva, meaning that transmission can occur via licking.”–University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine
Does this mean that licking should be banned? By that line of argument, then, probably. Might as well, because anything that licks its own butt is probably going to pose some risks.
But will that stop me from letting my kitty lick me? NO!
Well then, since raw-fed diet dogs are supposed to shed salmonella poop, then what about kibble-fed dogs?
In fact, Delta published their own scientific study of bacteria found in dog poop. (I like the word ‘scientific study’. Also, it shows that I’m most probably Singaporean. Yeah!) For a year in 2008, they studied both raw-fed and dry-food fed dogs.
Here are the results:
Raw Fed Dogs (40)
Dry Food Fed Dogs (156)
|0 for Vanomycin resistant enterococci||1 for Vanomycin resistant enterococci|
|1 for MRSA||8 for MRSA|
|5 for Clostridium difficile||40 for Clostridium difficile|
|19 for Salmonella||12 for Salmonella|
|31 for E. Coli||32 for E. Coli|
As you can see, whatever you feed your dog, honestly, there will be bacteria. Interestingly as well, dogs fed only on dry food have higher bacterial counts. Whee, science!
If pathogens from raw diets are so dangerous, why isn’t Delta also banning kibble-fed dog Pet Partners?
In any case, humans can get salmonella poisoning from a variety of things, and not just pets, which I hope you do understand by now. You can get Salmonella from milk, salads, burgers, and anything. You can get poisoning from using your hand to scoop commercial kibble instead of a spoon, neatly getting it into your systems in a jiffy because you didn’t wash your hand before you ate a cookie. Aha. I have done it. It’s not the proudest moment of my life, but everyone has his/her ugly moments, you know?
SALMONELLA! (Source: Salmonellalitigation.com)
SALMONELLA! (Source: ifood.tv)
The bottom line is that you can get sick from any contact with any animal or if you handle raw meat carelessly. Your pets can also get very sick from improper handling, from the moment of purchase to the moment of feeding–your fault!–of raw meat. Pathogens are everywhere.
As a sort of weird parting gift, The Raw Explorer would like to remind you to wipe your keyboard with disinfectant, because keyboards are one of the dirtiest areas in the house. Yes. Stop digging into the fries with your non-mouse hand. Pathogens, man!
Stay tuned for part 2, and The Raw Explorer team would like to thank a very shy reader–you know who you are!–for this ‘trailer’ tip!
[Edit: PART TWO is up!]
Sources (I love citations!):
American Animal Hospital Association
Canadian Veterinary Journal
Dr. Jean Dodd’s Pet Health Resource Blog
Dr. Lisa Pierson–email exchange
Healthy Pets with Dr. Karen Becker
Healthy Pet Journal
Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, By Subcommittee on Dog and Cat Nutrition, Committee on Animal Nutrition, National Research Council
Raw Fed Vets–email exchange
The Animal Doctor–Dr. Jodie Gruenstern
Whole Dog Journal