Raw Pet Diets Often Contaminated with Dangerous Bacteria: Campylobacter

I have written previously about the issue of raw pet food diets, pointing out the lack of any significant evidence to support claims that these diets are beneficial for pets the many risks such diets can pose, such as nutritional inadequacy, and the exposure of both pets and their owners to disease-causing organisms such as Salmonella and E. coli. A new study adds an important potential concern to this list of risks.

Acke, E. Midwinter, J. Collins-Emerson, J. French, N. Campylobacter species and multilocus sequence types from commercial raw meat diets for pets. Abstract, 2011 Congress of the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. J Vet Int Med 2011;25(6):1496.

Campylobacter is a significant cause of foodborne illness in humans, and it is most commonly acquired from undercooked meat and poultry. Pets can be infected with Campylobacter and can be source of infection for people.

The authors tested 50 samples of raw meat pet diets acquired from supermarkets and pet stores in New Zealand for the presence of Campylobacter. Twenty of these diets (42%) tested positive for Campylobacter, and over half of the bacteria identified were the type most commonly associated with illness in humans.

While bacterial contamination is a potential risk for any food with animal ingredients, the risk is considerably higher if these ingredients are not cooked. And while cases of human illness associated with raw pet diet do not appear to be common, such illnesses can be very serious. Given that there are no established benefits to feeding raw meat diets to our pets, it is difficult to justify such risks.

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7 Responses to Raw Pet Diets Often Contaminated with Dangerous Bacteria: Campylobacter

  1. Art says:

    Raw is not cost effective medical care. Clients seem under the delusion it is a good alternative to brushing teeth and deep cleanings.
    Art Malernee dvm

  2. Retrotransposed says:

    total microbiology geek thing: Please, oh please, please italicize for binoimial names. Looks like E. coli and Salmonella spp. got all the italics love, leaving poor Campy. in the dark. Also deserving of italics, is in factCampylobacter spp.! Poor old elephent-poop scented Campy. also deserves some italics love.
    (For anybody wanting a complete explanation of how italics vs. not is decided , see this PDF which breaks it all down, nicely.)

  3. skeptvet says:

    Absolutely correct. Also a bit of pain translating from Word to WordPress, but I will try to be more anal about it.

  4. Murray Webb says:

    The dog’s gastric pH can go below pH1.0 (a similar level to battery acid), where it can stay for five hours (Itoh et al. 1980, Sagawa et al., 2009).

    At this degree of acidity meat/bone is rapidly broken down, typically reduced to a slurry within one hour. Furthermore, this internal environment is extremely hostile to almost all pathogens. This why dogs can chew on old bones, eat carrion and even – dare I say it – lick each others’ butts without getting sick.

    I’ve fed my various cats & dogs a wide variety of raw foods (including beef, whole chickens, lamb, venison, possum, fish, turkey, rabbit, hare and alpaca), including organ meats, and supplemented by (typically pureed) vegetables and fruits. I get blood work done on my animals every 6-12 months, and the results are always fine – despite the advanced ages of the animals concerned.

  5. After our puppy Rigby reacted badly to some big brand foods, we found that grains were really harmful for her. We tried the raw diet for a little while but her coat didn’t look as great as it had before and she seemed slow and sluggish. That’s when we really started shopping around for all natural dog foods. We finally found one that Rigby liked, Acana Grasslands, but there are a lot of others that are still beneficial for puppies. We won’t go with raw food again, though.

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