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‘Feeding raw meats to pets is reckless, irresponsible and ethically questionable.’
That is the opinion of Mike Davies, an RCVS-recognised specialist in veterinary nutrition. He stated that view during a discussion forum on raw feeding at the British Veterinary Nursing Association congress last week.
The well-attended session heard arguments both for and against the practice, which has been growing in popularity among pet owners in recent years.
Building a case against raw feeding, Davies emphasised the public health risks: ‘When we give an animal a raw food that contains an infectious agent, that animal sheds it into the environment. If you give Salmonella in meat, a dog will shed that Salmonella within 24 hours whether or not the dog is showing any clinical signs. Animals can be asymptomatic but they still represent a risk to people who handle them.’
Any dog could shed Salmonella, but the risk is increased by feeding raw meat, he said.
Other zoonotic pathogens associated with raw meat includes Campylobacter, Listeria, clostridia, norovirus, avian influenza virus and hepatitis E virus.
Seven hundred people each year in the UK die from foodborne infections, he said. Campylobacter causes 280,000 infections annually, and 100 deaths, while Salmonella accounts for 200 deaths each year. The main culprit is poultry meat.
‘These organisms can be transmitted between pets and their owners and can lead to potentially harmful, even fatal consequences’, says Davies.
As a result, he pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration in the USA had issued formal public health warnings about the feeding of raw diets to pets, advising owners against it.
He warned there were possible consequences for veterinary professionals who …
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