What is pet meat?In Australia, raw meat pet foods, or pet meat, is defined as “meat in a raw state that is intended as food for pets”. This differentiates it from human-grade meat. Human-grade meat is tightly regulated. For example, it is often subject to bacterial contamination testing to ensure the product is safe for human consumption. Essentially, human-grade meat products are swabbed for E. coli and Salmonella just as they leave the abattoir. These swabs indicate the cleanliness of the meat processing and if there has been any faecal contamination. Pet meat isn’t legally required to undergo bacterial testing in Australia, so it is unknown if pet meat here is contaminated like the samples in this Swedish study. There are laws on how pet meat is manufactured and handled. But these laws are mainly concerned with protecting human safety from contamination and exposure to the pet meat, rather than ensuring it’s safe and wholesome for pets. Laws for pet meat in Australia differ between states, which has been identified as an issue. The regulation of pet food (including pet meat) in Australia might soon be changing.
The risk to humansThe danger of raw pet meat contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria isn’t restricted to dogs eating the food as part of their diet. Handling raw pet meat in your kitchen can also present a very real risk. The liquids from the meat can easily contaminate kitchen surfaces. Your dog’s mouth can also harbour these bacteria and spread them to you via licks and kisses. That’s why anyone whose immune system may be compromised should not be exposed to raw pet meat. It’s also for this reason, as well as the risks to the dogs themselves, that the US Food and Drug Administration does not support feeding dogs raw food.
Dogs can eat raw meatWe know that dogs have evolved to be able to eat raw meat. Dogs have stomachs and intestinal tracts that are slightly different from ours, which allows them to eat food that humans can’t eat. But dogs can still get sick from bacteria in their food. We also know that dogs with gastrointestinal illness shed bacteria species, like those mentioned in the Swedish study, in their faeces to a much greater extent than healthy dogs. Dogs can also get gastro from pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella just like us. Stressful environments such as kennels and veterinary hospitals can dampen the immune system. Dogs on medications like steroids or chemotherapy will also have reduced immunity to bacteria, including those in their diet.
How to keep yourself safeThe authors of this new study offer some great practical tips on how to keep yourself safe when handling raw pet meat.
- keep raw pet meat frozen until use
- handle raw pet meat separately from all other human food, and either use dedicated pet meat utensils or wash equipment thoroughly after use
- avoid kisses and licks from dogs that have just eaten raw pet meat
- do not feed raw pet meat in households with immunocompromised people.
This article was written by: