Claim #1: The Danger of Pathogens (part 2)

This post is mainly to tackle studies done that seem to prove that raw-fed pets are a danger of falling sick, or a danger to humans because of the possible risk of salmonella poisoning.

The Raw Explorer would like to thank Dr. Bob Ulbrich of Holistic Pet Vet Clinic for typing an unbelievably long reply to our email regarding raw dangers. This is only one of the points he has raised for us, and he has raised many.


Dr. Bob Ulbrich has been advocating raw diets for 18 years and has, in his words, ‘seen nothing but good results’.

Now on to the post.

Study #1:  The risk of salmonellae shedding by dogs fed Salmonella-contaminated commercial raw food diets.

By Rita Finley, Carl Ribble, Jeff Aramini, Meredith Vandermeer, Maria Popa, Marcus Litman, and Richard Reid-Smith.Canadian Veterinary Journal  2007 January; 48(1): 69–75. 

This is one of the more popular studies done that seem to show raw-fed pets are a danger to humans because of salmonella in waste and saliva.

In sum, this study took 28 poor dogs for testing. First up, note the small study group. Small study group results are riskier because the data obtained may be isolated and may not be generalised to the whole population (*I have found some use for my university statistic modules whee!) 16 of these unlucky pooches were exposed to Salmonella-contaminated food and the others exposed to clean food.


7 out of the 16 shed salmonellae within a week of eating the contaminated food. None of the dogs fed a commercial diet shed salmonellae.




1.) If you will feed a dog food that is certified free of pathogens and then monitor it closely like nobody’s business (because these are experiment subjects and everything has to be tightly regulated) OF.COURSE.IT.WILL.NOT.POOP.PATHOGENS.

Really. Trust me. Unless of course they ate a dozen crunchy salmonella-carrying cockroaches without anyone knowing.


Does it make sense?

To make things even clearer, about 50% of the dogs which are knowingly fed poisoned food, DID NOT SHED SALMONELLAE. Now in the previous post we discussed how healthy pets are able to destroy bacteria in their systems because they have ultra-powerful stomachs. That means that EVEN IF your pet eats salmonella-poisoned food, there is a high chance that nothing will happen to it, provided that it is in ship-shape.

Notice also, that NONE OF THE SUBJECTS DIED from salmonella. NONE FELL ILL. The results was that some dogs shed salmonella in their waste, and some did not.

Iron pet stomachs for the win!


The danger is, of course, if YOU were already ill, and you touched your pet’s waste material that contains salmonella. Of course you’d fall sick, because your immune systems were suppressed to begin with. The problem is, as we’ve discussed earlier in Part One of Pathogen Dangers, even pets fed commercial foods shed salmonella.

But going back to this study. I don’t think that this study should be quoted by anyone to support the dangers of salmonella, simply because it wasn’t even meant to prove that. To quote the conclusion from this study:

“The main objective of this study was to determine whether or not dogs consuming Salmonella-contaminated raw food diets would shed salmonellae…” 


Let us all observe a short face-palm moment.


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Study # 2Evaluation of the risks of shedding Salmonellae and other potential pathogens by therapy dogs fed raw diets in Ontario and Alberta. 

By : Lefebvre SL, Reid-Smith R, Boerlin P, Weese JS. Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.

[Note: Dr. Bob Ulrich did not mention this study in his email, but it is a popular citation for the ills of raw-feeding, and I decided to take a look at it.] 

This study examined 200 therapy dogs and recommended that therapy dogs not be fed raw because the incidence of salmonella poop was higher.

20% of the dogs that were found with salmonella poop had been fed with raw at some point of the year, while those not fed raw had significantly less rates of salmonellae poop.

The method used was a little fishy to me, though, because

“Controlling for therapy dog group, the repeated measures, and pig ear consumption and diarrhoea in the 2 months prior to specimen submission, dogs that consumed raw meat were significantly more likely to test positive for Salmonella at least once during the
year than dogs that did not eat raw meat” 

Well, why did they control for pig ear consumption? Why pig ears anyway, instead of just raw food? (Pig ears are a notable source of salmonella contamination)

“Ten dogs were reported to have consumed pig ear treats during the study period… those dogs were 12.2 times more likely to have shed Salmonella than dogs that
had not consumed pig ear treats in the previous… Consumption of pig ear chews continued to be significant when included in a model with the fixed effects of raw
meat consumption and diarrhoea.”


These pig ear treats are dried treats…what does it have to do with raw meat? If they are studying for raw diet risks, then they should not be taking into consideration pig ears treats. They should have asked the participating owners to only feed raw meat and exclude   treats during the one year period of study. Surely raw meat can still be given as rewards?

Therein my question: did the salmonella come from the pig ear treats OR can we totally attribute the salmonella to just the raw diet?

“The positive association between consumption of pig ear treats and Salmonella shedding was expected because these items are prone to contamination with Salmonella…”

Eh…hey, make up your mind! And while we’re at it, can we be sure that the commercial-diet group also ate pig ear treats, just to be sure that the salmonella could be attributed to the raw meat alone?

Anyway….after a while,  I got confused by the study because I wasn’t sure if it was really testing for raw meat, or the dangers of pig ear chews.


(Pic Source:

Okay, well. Let’s assume that the methods are sound, and that I have no beef against the procedures whatsoever, and that 20% of raw-fed dogs really did shed salmonella because of raw meat.  At this point, what I do have against is the conclusion of the study, which indicates that raw is harmful and thus raw-fed therapy dogs should be banned.

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NO THERAPY DOG. BECAUSE PATHOGENS. I can heard the people from Singapore Therapy Dog association screaming already.

(Pic source: [big fat red badly-drawn cross mine])

The study concludes that:

We recommend that dogs fed raw meat should be excluded from AAI programmes, particularly when the programmes involve interaction with humans at high risk of infection or adverse sequelae attributable to infection. Furthermore, although AAI dogs may not be representative of the general population of dogs, we also recommend that feeding of raw meat to dogs is to be avoided in homes where immunocompromised people live. 

WHICH TOTALLY MAKES SENSE–if the loopholes were covered.



If your dog was to be a therapy dog milling around frail elderly, you’d want to reduce the chance of it transmitting salmonella to people. But as of now, there are no studies done of direct dog-to-human salmonella transmissions, presumably because no one wants to be licked by a salmonella-infected dog as part of an experiment.

So while it is true that in this particular study, more dogs have been found to have salmonella poop if they ate raw in this study, we cannot generalise it to say that raw therefore causes more salmonella-induced illnesses in people, and and so are dangerous and should be banned.  And as we have read earlier in the previous post, commercial food can equally result in salmonella poop–or even higher rates.

Again, there is no record of direct transmission, while there are plenty of other studies, such as:  Human salmonellosis associated with animal-derived pet treats–United States and Canada, 2005.

To quote this study’s abstract (abbreviated):

During 2004-2005, contact with Salmonella-contaminated pet treats of beef and seafood origin resulted in nine culture-confirmed human Salmonella Thompson infections in western Canada and the state of Washington. Public health practitioners should consider pet treats a potential source for Salmonella transmission.

As you can see, non-raw diets can equally make people fall sick.

So to be safe, LET’S BAN ALL THERAPY DOGS. Or, let’s not allow the elderly to pet them. Let’s allow therapy dogs, since both commercial AND raw have been found to shed salmonella, to just stand behind a glass pane and wag their tails at the lonely old people, who could just as well get sick from salmonella-contaminated food.


The dangers of pathogens are greater than the benefits provided by animal companionship! 

Yeah, that’ll work, I guess. Let ’em be safely lonely.

In my opinion, I think that banning raw-fed therapy dogs is what Singaporeans call a total ‘cover your ass’ move, so that no therapy dog association can be sued, or even remotely linked with, any salmonella or pathogen-associated illness found in patients.

Which is a pretty smart move, really, but not a good justification for the claim that raw-diets are dangerous.


COVER YOUR ASS! (Picture source:

The fact that there are also dodgy links between therapy-dog associations and commercial food companies just makes the popular suspicions of raw diets even more unfair. But because that’s another huge issue altogether, I will have to devote a separate blogpost for that, do stay tuned!

To end off, here is a quote from Dr. Bob Ulrich to set your pet-lovin’ heart at ease:

“In my 18 years of putting hundreds and hundreds of patients on raw food diets I have never seen a case of salmonella…”  

So folks, I hope that this sets your mind at ease about feeding raw [note that commercial raw such as BARF has its own set of problems because commercial raw may have been on the shelf for some time and we cannot guarantee the safety and freshness of the meat]. But of course…please, handle food with care, and make sure that the home-made/raw diets are balanced.


Dr. Bob Ulbrich–email exchange

Categories: Facts and Myths of Raw Diets, The Dangers of Pathogens

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