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Raw meat diet ‘risk to dog and owner’, study finds

A study has found that a raw meat diet may pose a risk to dogs and their owners as the offal used in such foods “has not undergone any type of treatment to reduce the microbial content”.

Published by Veterinary Record and conducted by researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the National Veterinary Institute both in Upsalla, Sweden, the study examined 60 samples of raw meat food packs by 10 manufacturers.

They analysed the samples for traces of bacteria belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family, Clostridium perfringens and the presence of Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Enterobacteriaceae were detected in all 60 samples and in 31 samples exceeded a level of 5,000 bacteria per gram, which is the threshold for satisfactory microbial hygiene according to EU regulations. In two samples, the amount of C. perfringens exceeded 5,000 bacteria per gram – the maximum level of anaerobic bacteria permitted by Swedish national guidelines.

Salmonella species were found in four (7%) and Campylobacter species in three (5%) samples.

The researchers said the results showed that it was “critical” to maintain good hygiene when storing, handling and feeding a raw meat diet to dogs in order to limit potential health risks to animals and humans.

The study also said that while most promoters of the raw food diet insist a dog’s gastrointestinal tract is adapted to raw meat, several studies have found pathogenic bacteria isolated from the diet are excreted in faeces of dogs with gastrointestinal symptoms to a greater extent than in faeces from clinically healthy individuals.

The researchers advised for raw meat products to be kept frozen until used, with thawing taking place at a maximum of 10°C. They also advised the thawed product to be separated from human food and handled with separate kitchen equipment, or with the equipment properly washed after use.

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