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A number of reports, recalls, and warnings have been issued over the course of 2019 regarding feeding pets raw food. Recently, a couple of raw dog food warnings have been issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) targeting specific companies and their raw food products warning consumers of the presence of harmful bacteria.
The reason for the warning as test results revealing the presence of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes — two extremely harmful forms of bacteria that can cause sickness and even death in both animals and humans. A number of products from each company were tested with the samples used resulting in the presence of these bacteria.
While some companies and their customers have pushed back on the FDA’s findings (and in some cases, even refusing to issue a recall for the product in question), it brings some important considerations to light. First is the reason why people feed dogs raw food in the first place.
Why Do People Feed Dogs Raw Dog Food?
The general thinking behind raw dog food is that it’s more closely aligned with what our pets historically ate prior to domestication and the mass production of pet food. Advocates for raw food argue that it is easier for our pets to break down during digestion because animals hundreds of years ago did not consume cooked and processed foods.
The contents of commercially produced food have also been called into question, particularly as certain additives and ingredients may be toxic for the sake of adding flavor and preserving the food. Other advocates for raw dog food cite the fact that common pet foods today include a number of unwanted elements, such as fillers, chicken byproducts, rancid oils and fats, and more that aren’t considered suitable for human food products.
Additionally, raw dog food advocates argue that regular pet food simply doesn’t contain enough nutrients that a dog would need. While there are significant arguments on both sides (those for raw dog food and those who believe it’s just fine), there are some straightforward facts that should be addressed.
The Raw Dog Food Warnings Were Issued for a Reason
Whether you agree with the methodology behind the recent raw dog food warnings, it’s important to understand that certain forms of bacteria — and not just any bacteria, but truly harmful bacteria — were found in certain lots of tested raw dog food products. Their existence in a few lots means those same bacteria could exist in other lots, too. The FDA urged consumers to reconsider their purchases and warned those that had already purchased the products in question to dispose of them and sanitize any surfaces with which they had come into contact.
When feeding your dog raw food products, it’s important to understand that because it’s raw, there is no way to truly guarantee that it won’t get your pet sick. The same goes for processed dog foods. But as the recent raw dog food warnings indicate, it’s something that dog owners must consider carefully. Some people believe that raw dog food — despite the increased risk for the presence of potentially harmful bacteria — is acceptable because dogs, cats, and other animals have thrived for thousands of years hunting and eating their prey raw and that their bodies are more aptly suited to those diets.
On the other hand, those against raw dog food argue that today’s commercially produced foods are actually better for dogs because they contain a more complete balance of nutrition. And while a dog owner feeding a dog raw food would have to wing it to find the right balance over time, commercially produced food is ready to go and can provide your dog with a balanced amount of nutrition.
Pet Food Protects More Than Pets
One thing worth noting is that the way dog food is produced is intended to protect dog owners just as much as the dogs themselves. In the recent raw dog food warnings, lots of product were tested for the presence of harmful bacteria. Remember that as a pet owner, you’ll handle this food yourself as you prepare it for your pet. Depending on the product, this could happen multiple times per day.
Whether that’s dry, off-the-shelf food or wet, refrigerated food, your hands will eventually come into contact with it. Certain forms of bacteria thrive in different types of food. Some forms of bacteria can even grow in environments devoid of oxygen (such as the inside of a can). This is why you may occasionally see a canned food product bulging from the side or on top. Do not purchase these products.
If you have already purchased a canned pet food product and notice it bulging sometime later, dispose of it immediately and sanitize the surrounding area. Also sanitize your pet’s bedding and any surfaces the pet may have come into contact with, as any other canned products you purchased and may have fed to your pet may have been from the same lot. If your pet starts to display the symptoms of the bacteria mentioned, make an appointment with a veterinarian immediately.
If feeding your dog a raw food product is something you’ve been doing for some time, or if you’ve been considering switching from processed food to raw food, discuss the recent raw dog food warnings with your veterinarian first.
And if your dog has recently exhibited symptoms of Salmonella, it’s important that you take action immediately. Some of the most common symptoms of Salmonella include fever, lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting, sudden weight loss, dehydration, and unusual stools. Get your dog to the vet right away, and be sure to thoroughly cleanse any surfaces, toys, food bowls, and areas where the raw dog food was stored.