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

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Researchers found that 23% of raw meat pet food products contained a specific type of E coli that can cause renal failure in humans and 80% had antibiotic-resistant E coli. But even a little meat can be harmful to pets if it's still raw and not heated, Overgaauw says. The food also carries a number of bacteria that could infect dogs and spread to their owners.

According to researchers at Utrecht University, these diets could be contaminated with bacteria and parasites that can harm your pet, which puts both animal and human health at risk.

Those risks don't just apply to the pets themselves, says Paul Overgaauw, a veterinarian and visiting researcher at Utrecht University.

It said the pathogens can be transferred "through direct contact with the food; through contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands; through contact with household surfaces; or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food".

By feeding this diet to pets, owners are not only risking the health of the animals but also their own health. Even more worrisome, E. coli 0157-a particularly risky strain now responsible for a lettuce-based outbreak in North America-was found in 23% of the samples.

These pathogens are not only a risk to pets, people could also be exposed through cross-contamination with human food or contact with animals or feces, and the authors stress that owners should be made aware of these risks and encouraged to use proper hygiene.

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On the contrary, cats and dogs that eat raw meat diets are more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals that are fed typical pet food.

Four of the products analysed contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi and four contained Sarcocystis tenella.

Fifteen products contained species from the nasty Listeria genus, eight products had Escherichia coli, and seven products contained at least one Salmonella species.

Overgaauw said dry, semi-moist and canned pet food is rarely contaminated with pathogens. "I think that in the USA especially, owners are much more liking the convenience, and buy these products instead of preparing raw food on their own".

Previous year a charitable scheme which sends dogs into schools to help children read, Burns By Your Side, announced it had banned the use of animals fed on raw meats because of the health risk to children.

A 2013 study in Vet Med Today expressed concern over this trend, saying that despite the belief that these diets are considered healthier and more natural by pet owners, they actually have a high incidence of nutritional imbalances. "They think they are feeding dogs how they would eat in nature, like a wolf".

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