Raw meat is risky for pets and their owners, study finds

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

Raw meat-based treats for pets is becoming increasingly popular in Europe but scientists in the Netherlands, where 51% of pet owners - an estimated one million people - have adopted the trend, are warning against the diet.

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". Humans can get sick from bacteria and parasites lurking in raw-meat products, too.

Two potentially harmful parasites-Sarcocystis cruzi and Toxoplasma gondii-were also detected in 11% and 6% of the products. But when we feed our pets raw meat, that bacteria thrives.

The Utrecht study said claims RMBDs yield health benefits had no scientific evidence supporting them, adding: "in nutritional terms, these diets are often deficient in several nutrients and may therefore lead to serious health problems, especially in young animals that are growing".

Salmonella was found in 20% of the products while species of sarcocystis were found in 23%. "But I can imagine that cross-contamination in the kitchen during preparation of the food, and cleaning of the food bowls-as well as direct contact with infected animals-are the highest risks", he says.

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Marketing campaigns assure consumers that they have plenty of positive effects on animals, including facilitating digestion, reducing allergies, improving energy levels or even easing the treatment of diabetes and epilepsy.

"Feeding of freshly prepared, non-frozen raw meat based-diets to companion animals cannot only result in infection and disease in the animals, but also poses a risk to public health and livestock farming through shedding of pathogens into the environment", the researchers conclude. The former is known to be risky 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.

Others argue that it's more natural for a carnivorous species to eat raw meat products.

The team concluded that warnings and handling instructions should be included on product labels and/or packages. Conventional pet food is also heated during processing, which kills all germs. He also believes that pet owners should be educated-by vets, pet stores, and pet-food companies-about the importance of personal hygiene and proper handling of these foods, so they can make the best decision for their pets and for themselves.

The team points out that the relatively small sample size doesn't allow for a calculation of the precise risks involved if you buy your cat or dog raw meat-based products.

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