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Raw food diets and your dog

Many people feed a raw food diet in an attempt to better mimic the natural diet of their pets. There are a number of companies that now manufacture such diets so that the owner does not have to prepare them. Unfortunately, the assumption that a raw food diet is healthier than a regular kibble diet has some flaws.

The Food and Drug Administration is warning of an increase in Salmonella contamination problems with raw food diets. In the early part of February, Nature’s Variety had to recall a large number of raw food packages due to Salmonella contamination. Salmonella is that nasty bug that infects spoiled food, or food that is not cooked long enough. It can cause lethargy, bloody diarrhea, fever, or vomiting in pets. In addition, it can cause many of the same problems in humans. In some cases, Salmonella can be fatal to both dogs and humans.

Much of the contamination to these foods is coming from so-called “downers” or animals that die or are too sick to walk into the slaughter facility. These animals are not supposed to be used in food. Sometimes they are anyway. When that happens, a lot of meat can be contaminated by one sick animal. In 2004, two studies by the FDA found that out of 112 samples of raw meat diets manufactured for greyhounds, 50 had Salmonella and the other study found Salmonella in 70 of 106 samples.

Salmonella isn’t all that lurks in raw diets. Noroviruses such as those that took over cruise ships several years back are also often present. Campylobacter, often found in poultry, is another hazard. Not only are these things hazardous to your dog, they threaten you. If you handle the raw diet, or get kissed by your dog after he eats it, the bacteria, virus, or toxin may end up in your body. People die from these contaminates.

Not surprisingly, the FDA recommends you do not feed raw diets to your dog. Of course, that will not stop those committed to feeding raw. If you must feed a raw diet to your dog, observe safe handling practices. Wash your hands after handling the food, make sure any utensils are washed in hot soapy water, and wash the dog’s bowl in hot soapy water daily. Remember the water bowl, too. Keep children, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system away from the dog during and for a while after feeding.

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