If you've thought about feeding your dog or cat a raw diet, you're not alone — raw meat-based diets have grown in popularity in recent years. But new research says feeding your pet raw meat can actually put you in danger. According to the study, raw pet food has been linked to E. Coli in humans, along with salmonella. According to WebMD, raw meat diets usually consist of muscle meat, bones, organs like livers and kidneys, raw eggs, vegetables and fruit. Researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands studied 35 products from eight brands and found traces of E. Coli in 80 percent of products. Other bacteria present included listeria, salmonella and parasites. Per Live Science, the researchers tested chicken, beef, lamb, duck, rabbit, horse and turkey.
But how does this affect humans? If your pet eats raw meat or meat byproducts that contain unsafe levels of bacteria, you could become sick if your pet licks you, sleeps in your bed or is in contact with surfaces around your home — basically, all of the things that most animals do. "Since these diets may be contaminated with bacteria and parasites, they may pose a risk to both animal and human health," the study says.
Raw diet advocates say it can improve energy, reduce allergies, whiten teeth and make an animal's coats shinier. But according to The Telegraph, this study says there aren't proven health benefits to a raw food-based diet, and it can actually make animals sick. “In nutritional terms, these diets are often deficient in several nutrients and may therefore lead to serious health problems, especially in young animals that are growing,” the Telegraph reports. The American Veterinary Medical Association has also spoken out strongly against raw meat on its website. They say:
There are many anecdotal reports of benefits associated with feeding raw food — including easier weight management; reduced dental disease; healthier coat and skin; elimination of allergies; improved overall health and immunity; and more — but there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. Raw food advocates also contend that the diet more closely resembles what dogs’ and cats’ ancestors ate, but this does not account for the evolutionary, biological and dietary changes that have accompanied domestication to produce the pet dogs and cats that currently share our lives. According to the Pet Food Institute raw pet foods comprise approximately less than 1% of the pet food market.
Commercially processed canned or kibble foods are formulated to meet dogs’ and cats’ nutritional needs for proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They are convenient, cost less than raw or homemade diets, and are readily available in most grocery stores, pet stores and “big box” stores. These pet foods comprise the majority of the pet food market. Commercial foods are nutritionally balanced and they undergo a process of quality control/ inspection that is meant to catch any contaminants or pathogens before they affect pets or people.
The Food & Drug Administration also doesn't recommend it — their advice is to cook anything you feed to a pet. "FDA does not believe feeding raw pet foods to animals is consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks," the official site says. This newest study is just the latest scientific evidence that a raw food diet brings more harm than good, and it could cause you to develop food poisoning or an even more serious condition in the process. It's totally understandable to want the best for your beloved pet, but you should make sure you aren't putting yourself or the people around you at risk thanks to a raw meat diet.