As the name suggests, the diet involves feeding pets raw meat, bones and animal organs alongside vegetables. It has become increasingly popular over as many believe it is healthier than giving animals processed pet food.
However a team of Netherlands-based researchers have argued against feeding pets this kind of diet. They warn that the foods can be contaminated with bacteria and parasites, which could pose a risk to both animals and their owners.
The team of researchers, led by Paul Overgaauw at Utrecht University, set out to determine the presence of four zoonotic bacteria and two parasite species in commercial raw-meat foods, available in most pet shops and supermarkets.
They analysed 35 commercial frozen foods from eight different brands, widely available in The Netherlands.
E. coli was found in eight products (23%), Listeria species were present in 15 products (43%) and Salmonella species in seven products (20%). Both E coli and Salmonella infections in humans have been linked with serious illnesses.
Four products (11%) contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi and another four contained Sarcocystis tenella. Meanwhile, in two products (6%), Toxoplasma gondii was found.
Researchers said the bacteria and parasitic pathogens found in the foods “may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and, if transmitted, pose a risk for human beings”.
They added: “Cats and dogs that eat raw meat diets are also more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals on conventional diets, which could pose a serious risk to both animal health and public health.”
The researchers said pet owners and other household members can encounter bacteria from raw foods in several ways, such as through direct contact with the food or with an infected pet; through contact with contaminated household surfaces; or by eating cross-contaminated human food.
They concluded that warnings and handling instructions should be included on product labels and/or packages.
In response to the study’s findings, British Veterinary Association (BVA) Senior Vice President, vet Gudrun Ravetz, told HuffPost UK: “As this latest research shows, a raw meat-based diet is associated with potentially serious animal health and public health risks. It’s crucial that pet owners who choose to feed raw meat-based diets to their pets are aware of these concerns.”
“A raw food diet is not something that we’d recommend making at home, particularly without veterinary guidance, due to the potential for nutritional deficiencies and possible health risks,” Ravetz added.
“We’d advise any owner wanting to try a different diet for their pet to first consult their local vet, to ensure they are meeting their pet’s dietary needs.”