The potential for bacteria in all types of pet food has become an increasingly hot topic. With all the pet food recalls that have occurred in the last several months, people are wondering where they can turn to for a safe and healthy option. What is the risk in feeding food that may contain bacteria?
One of the most common bacterial infections obtained through food is salmonellosis which is caused by Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella is a bacterium present in food sources for both pets and humans. While chicken is the most common protein source where it can be found, it can also be found in young cattle, horses, pigs, and other livestock.
How Does Salmonella Infect Meat?
Animals become infected mainly when they are fed low-grade meats or milk, are given polluted water to drink, or if they ingest the feces of another animal. Since salmonella thrives in moist environments, these are all ideal breeding grounds for the bacteria. Salmonella is quite resistant to environmental factors and can remain alive for months and even years making it an easy bacterium to be infected with.
What Makes A Dog Susceptible to Salmonellosis?
While it is rare for a dog to become infected with Salmonella, it can happen, and often results in digestive upset. Dogs become infected from Salmonella bacteria mostly from eating food that has been exposed to high levels of the bacterium. However, dogs, which are on a raw meat diet, are less likely to become infected with Salmonella bacteria than dogs eating dry pet food. It sounds strange since most experts contribute the cause of salmonellosis to eating uncooked or undercooked meats.
But the reason is quite simple: a healthy dog’s digestive system is able to produce the enzymes necessary to eliminate Salmonella bacteria. Added protection is also given to dogs by nature. A dog’s stomach acids are stronger than a human’s. That point, paired with the fact that a raw diet has a shorter digestion time (4 to 6 hours) than a heat-processed, dry or canned food diet (which takes 8 to 12 hours to digest), all attributes to a dog’s ability to handle raw foods while not being infected by salmonella.
A Dog’s Natural Defense Against Salmonella
In the same way our dog’s ancestor, the wolf, has existed on a raw meat diet for hundreds of thousands of years, your domestic dog is biologically designed to digest raw meat. Healthy dogs have natural means to fight with bacteria, and the disease only occurs if the dog has an immunocompromised system – or other problems – which can lead to salmonellosis.
The Most Common Cause of Salmonellosis
Raw pet food is not usually the reason for infection from Salmonella. If you examine the recent history of pet food recalls, you’ll notice a commonality: dry pet food. Dry kibble diets are more likely to become the cause of Salmonellosis infection from food due to the fact that it is digested for much longer time than raw food. Dry kibble diets not only irritate the lining of the bowels, but they also provide the perfect wet, warm environment (with a great deal of undigested sugars and starches), which is a smorgasbord for Salmonella bacteria.
Contrarily, raw meaty bones produce a very hostile environment for bacteria. This along with the fact that raw meaty bones are easily digested by your pet and do not contain starches, carbohydrates, or sugars to feed Salmonella bacteria make a perfect solution to salmonellosis prevention.
Why All The Fuss About Salmonella?
Since humans do not have the same defense mechanisms required to dispose of salmonella, we need to be much more careful about preventing infection in us and our family.
Here are some simple rules, which every owner should follow to avoid salmonella infection:
- Use plastic bags or gloves to protect hands from Salmonella bacteria when handling feces, and dispose of them where nobody can touch them.
- Wash hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water after handling feces, even after using protective gloves.
- Make sure to wash all utensils and preparation surfaces in warm, soapy water after serving a meal made with raw meat for your family or your pet.
- If raw meat looks discolored or smells odorous, exercise caution and throw it away.
By following these simple handling rules, you and your pet should enjoy a long, happy (and salmonella-free) life together!
Al Skender is a Raw Diet Educator for BARF World Inc. He’s a self-proclaimed expert on the German Shepherd breed, owning several of them throughout his life. He enjoys being outdoors and prefers it to being stuck in front of the television, unless The Office or CSI is on. For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for The Intelligent Pet monthly e-zine at barfworld.com/ezine