Can My Pet Get Sick From Eating Raw Food?
When many people think of raw meats they also think of the many sicknesses that raw meat can cause to humans (ie salmonella, e.coli), but what they fail to realize is that their pet dog and or cats anatomy is completely differently to our own!
Dogs and cats are predominantly carnivorous. Their systems are designed to handle and thrive on raw meat and have evolved over thousands of years doing so.
There’s a couple of reasons why this is.
Why Can Dogs And Cats Safely Eat Raw Meat?
First, the hydrochloric acidity levels in their stomach is about 10 times stronger in concentration than that of any human, meaning anything that goes into their stomach cannot survive (including germs and or bacteria).
Secondly, their gastrointestinal tract is very short in comparison to humans. This means any food that goes in through the mouth passes via stool in a matter of hours rather than days, giving any potential bacteria no chance to get settled in.
Think about what your dog or cat would be eating if for some reason they were stuck in the wild? Mice/rats, rabbits, birds, possums etc. They wouldn’t be waiting for a human to catch and cook it for them either!
Your dog or cat is not special in the sense that they were not born bioloigcally different to their brothers and sisters and suddenly ‘cannot handle raw meat.' Some may have preferences in taste or how WELL they handle it (solely kibble fed pets take a bit longer to adjust), but they are all the same on the inside. So yes, even providing raw meat for cats is biologically appropriate.
Having said all that, salmonella or e.coli can still infect pets, but it is extremely rare, and would usually be brought on by poor hygiene like not washing bowls or dog lick mats properly where bacteria is thriving, or through the dog eating contaminated food behind your back, or eating poop.
What Are The Potential Risks Of Raw Pet Food
It's important to remember, dogs can get sick from a whole range of sources and for many reasons, not just because of something they ate. These sources may include contact with other animals, contaminated soil or water, and even contact with other people.
While we've busted many of the myths around raw feeding here, some of the most common forms of sickness from any form of pet food includes:
As mentioned above, bacteria in dog food is largely due to unsafe food handling. Salmonella and E. coli are two of the most common bacteria and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and fever in dogs. Other bacteria, such as Listeria and Staphylococcus, can cause serious infections in dogs too.
Always store dog food in a sealed container and follow safe refrigeration and handling guidelines outlined in our safe food handling article.
Parasites are a type of microorganism that requires a host in order to survive. Common parasites that can negatively affect with dogs and cats include tapeworms, protozoa such as Toxoplasma, Sarcocystis, Cystoisospora, Neospora and Hammondia, as well as nematodes Toxocara spp. and Trichinell (source). They can live in the intestines of dogs and cats, causing digestive issues and other ailments.
Dogs can contract parasites from a whole range of sources such as from eating contaminated food, eating sick or infected animal parts (like intestines), eating faeces, as well as from contact with other infected animals or from contact with soil containing parasites. These can be passed onto their owners when licking your face, or if you don't handle their faeces or contaminated food with care.
Symptoms of parasitic infection can include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and decreased appetite. If left untreated, parasites can cause severe health problems.
In saying all this, the risk for parasites is very low when you follow safe food handling guidelines.
It is important to take steps to ensure that you never leave raw food sitting in a bowl for prolonged periods of time. Always buy from reputable sources (like Raw & Fresh), buy human-grade meat, and store it properly. Freezing raw pet food for several days will also kill some parasites.
Parasites will often be of no consequence to a healthy host. When a dog or cat has a healthy digestive system, their body is better able to manage any kind of infection.
Your vet may be able recommend certain worming tablets or parasite protocols to deal with an infection if you are concerned.
When evaluating a safe pet food to feed your pet, you must take into account all of the ingredients listed on the packaging. Your pet could be exposed to synthetic ingredients or preservatives which may cause an adverse reaction and result in your pet getting sick.
Some preservatives and synthetic ingredents, like Ethoxyquin, have actually been banned from being used in Australian pet food because they were found to have severe negative health implications.
Other examples of ingredients to be wary of include Bisphenol A (BPA) found in the packaging of cans and plastics, Propylene Glycol (humectant food additive and preservative), Aflatoxins (a mould that can grow on corn, peanuts, wheat and otehr grains), heavy metals, pesticides, artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners, nitrates and nitrites.
Raw & Fresh pet food is free from any of these since we stick to whole food based ingredients only. All ingredients are clearly labelled.
How To Protect Your Pet From Getting Sick
Ensure The Food Is From A Reputable Source
When it comes to buying raw dog food, it is important to make sure you are buying it from a reputable source. The best way to do this is to look for a company that is certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This certification means that the company meets the requirements for manufacturing and distributing raw pet food according to AAFCO standards. Additionally, look for a company that has a good reputation, with reviews from customers that are satisfied with the product and customer service.
Make sure the company is transparent about where and how it sources its meat and isn't buying from questionable sources. Doing research on the company and its ingredients is an important step to ensure your pup is getting the best quality nutrition.
Check The Food For Signs of Contamination
When checking your dog food for any sign of contamination, it is important to look at the ingredients list and the expiration date. Also check the colour and smell of the food, as well as the texture. If there is any change in the appearance or smell of the food, it may be contaminated and should be discarded. Additionally, when purchasing dog food, it is important to look for any sort of recalls or warnings issued by the manufacturer or by the government. If the food has been recalled, it is best to avoid it and find an alternative food source.
Handle The Food Properly
Always follow proper food safety practices, such as thorough hand washing, cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces and equipment that come into contact with the food. Store the food at the proper temperature to prevent the growth of bacteria and other foodborne illnesses.
By following these raw food safety practices, you can help to protect your pet from foodborne illness and contamination, and ensure they receive the proper nutrition they need.