One of the many things I am particularly passionate about is pet nutrition. To clarify (and because I’ve come to understand that definitions on things can (and do) vary wildly), I’m passionate about feeding dogs and cats balanced diets (prepared with strict quality assurance) that meet their specific and unique needs for optimum health outcomes. This means that I am constantly thinking (and asking people) about food for pets. Sometimes while doing my nutritional assessment and asking pet-owners questions, it’ll come up that the pet in question is consuming a raw meat diet.
These days many veterinary clinics (especially those associated with veterinary teaching hospitals) have infection control programs that include a ‘Raw Food Diet’ Policy. Typically, the intent of a ‘Raw Food Diet’ policy is to: 1) reduce (and ideally eliminate) entry of raw food into veterinary hospitals, and 2) prevent infectious disease transmission of pathogens (bacteria and parasites) from pets eating raw food diets to other hospital patients (i.e. dogs and cats) and hospital staff (i.e. humans) who come into contact with these pets. Yes, the bacteria and parasites often found in raw foods can (and do) cause disease in other pets as well as people (especially those people who are under 5 years of age, greater than 65 years of age, pregnant or immunocompromised).
There are multiple N. American publications that have investigated the presence of bacteria and parasites in animal foods, including raw food diets. Here’s a relatively recent one from the Netherlands (https://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/182/2/50) that analyzed 35 frozen raw meat diets from 8 different brands and found: 1) ‘beaucoup’ bacteria (E.coliO157:H7 (cause of renal failure in humans) in 23% of the food samples, extended spectrum beta-lactamase-producing (ESBL) E.coli(major cause of antimicrobial resistance) in 80%, Listeria monocytogenesin 54%, and Salmonellasp. in 20%), and 2) plentiful parasites (Sarcocytis cruziand/or S. tenellain a total of 22%, and Toxoplasma gondiiin 6%).
Keeping cats and dogs healthy by reducing the amount of infectious disease they are exposed to (intentionally or unintentionally, i.e. being housed next to a dog or cat that is a raw food eater), along with the humans who care for them (e.g. veterinary students, nurses, etc.), is something I feel very accountable for. And while I won’t argue with doing whatever ‘floats ‘yer boat’ for your pet nutritionally (provided the diet is safely prepared, balanced to meet your pet’s specific needs and you’ve taken steps to reduce risks) … the reason to have a Raw Food Diet Protocol in a veterinary clinic is to keep both pets and people safe from bacteria and parasites like those listed above.
July 10, 2018
Michelle Evason, DVM, BSc, DACVIM