New data shows feeding your pets raw meat may not be as good for them as many pet owners think. A recent study published in the BMJ’s Vet Record found that up to 86% of commercial raw dog and cat foods contain dangerous bacteria.
According to Time, researchers tested up to 35 commercial raw pet foods available in the Netherlands that are similar to those available in the United States. Paul Overgaauw, a veterinarian and researcher at Utrecht University, and his colleagues found that up to 40% of these products contained E. coli bacteria above the threshold of human consumption.
Additional bacterial findings included E. coli 0157 in 23% of the product samples, listeria in 43%, and salmonella in 20%. What’s more, 11% of the products contained Sarcocystis cruzi and 6% contained Toxoplasma gondii, two dangerous parasites.
Toxoplasma gondii, in particular, is especially distressing to the 38,900,000 households who own cats. This parasite has been known to cause illness in both cats and their owners and has even been linked to mental illness.
Pet owners may come into contact with these parasites, bacteria, and pathogens may making direct contact with the animal’s food or their infected pet. Pets may not always show signs of infection and may be carriers of their illnesses. When owners allow their cat or dog to lick their face and hands and then fail to clean themselves afterward, they risk infection.
Unfortunately, these scientific findings aren’t new for U.S. pet foods. Other analyses of American raw pet food also found levels of bacterial contamination.
“As an evidence-based working veterinarian, I don’t support these products,” said Overgaauw of the commercial raw pet foods. Overgaauw says many of these commercial products claim to offer health benefits that aren’t backed by scientific evidence. Additionally, not all of the products offer balanced nutrients for pets.
“Every owner may decide what to feed [their] pet,” said Overgaauw. However, he said, warning labels should be added to these raw commercial products and pet owners should try to educate themselves on what’s truly best for their pets.