Tag Archives: raw food

House­holds feed­ing their dogs and cats with raw food do not con­sider the diet a sig­ni­fic­ant source of in­fec­tions

Raw food research

Raw food denotes any meat, internal organs, bones and cartilage fed to pets uncooked Photo credit: Johanna Anturaniemi

An extensive international survey conducted at the University of Helsinki indicates that pet owners do not consider raw food to considerably increase infection risk in their household. In the survey, targeted at pet owners, raw food was reliably determined to be a contaminant only in three households.

The safety of feeding raw food to pets has become a topic of debate on a range of forums, but so far, no outbreaks of contamination among humans caused by raw pet food have been reported. Raw food denotes any meat, internal organs, bones and cartilage fed to pets uncooked.

Now, a survey conducted at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine investigated perceptions on food-transmitted pathogens among pet owners who feed their pets raw food.

A total of 16,475 households from 81 countries responded to the survey. Out of these, only 39 households (0.24%) reported having been contaminated by pet food, and were also able to name the pathogen. The most common pathogens reported were Campylobacteria followed by Salmonella, in addition to which there were occurrences of Escherichia coliClostridiumToxoplasmaand a single Yersinia infection.

However, the meat fed to pets had been analysed in only three households (0.02%), identifying the same pathogen as found in the samples taken from the infected individuals. As well as the 39 households above, 24 households (0.15%) reported a contamination from pet food without being able to name the pathogen causing the symptoms.

In total, 99.6% of households feeding their pets raw food did not report any pathogens being transmitted from the raw food to humans. The time the responding households had been feeding raw food to their pets ranged from several weeks to 65 years, with 5.5 years as the mean value. The reported cases of illness covered whole time frame that raw food was consumed in the household.

The median age among the infected individuals was 40.1 years. From among the 39 households with infections, in four the infected individuals were children between two and six years of age, while in two households the infected were immunocompromised individuals (cancer and Crohn’s disease). However, a quarter of these households had children between two and six years of age, while 15% had immunocompromised individuals.

“It was surprising to find that statistical analyses identified fewer infections in the households with more than 50% of the pet diet consisting of raw food. Furthermore, feeding pets raw salmon or turkey was associated with a smaller number of infections,” says researcher Johanna Anturaniemi from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

A positive correlation with infection was only found in relation to children between two and six years of age living in the household, even though most of the infected individuals (90%) were adults.

“This raises the question of whether the pathogens could have been transmitted by children from outdoors, daycare centres or other public spaces, even if pet food had been assumed to be the source of infection,” Anturaniemi says.

According to the researchers, the role of other factors in infections cannot be assessed in more detail within the confines of this study; rather, further research is needed. In contrast, reports of outbreaks of pathogens linked to pet treats and dry food can be found from around the world. In fact, the Dogrisk research group is planning to conduct a comparative follow-up study where infections transmitted from pet food are to be investigated in households that use both raw food and dry food.

The survey was translated into five languages and made available to all dog and cat owners across the globe feeding their cats and dogs raw food.

Ori­ginal art­icle:

Anturaniemi J, Barrouin-Melo SM, Zaldivar-López S, Sinkko H, Hielm-Björkman A. Owners’ perception of acquiring infections through raw pet food: a comprehensive internet-based survey. Vet Rec. 2019 Aug 19. pii: vetrec-2018-105122. doi: 10.1111/vr.105122.

Source:  University of Helsinki Life Science News

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Fresh and raw diets for dogs may have health benefits

Many dog owners think of their furry companions as part of the family, and now products are available to feed them that way, too. Some owners are moving away from traditional extruded kibble products, instead choosing ultra-premium fresh and raw diets found in the refrigerated aisle. The foods may look more similar to what we’d feed a member of the family, but many of the newer diets haven’t been rigorously tested for performance in dogs.

Beagle feeding study

“A lot of companies test for complete and balanced nutrition, but don’t go beyond that,” says Kelly Swanson, corresponding author on a new study published in the Journal of Animal Science and Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois. “The company we worked with – Freshpet – wanted to see how some of their unique diets would perform. Would dogs like them? Were they digestible? Would they increase activity?”

The researchers tested the palatability and digestibility of three commercially marketed fresh and raw diets for dogs, as well as a traditional extruded kibble diet. The diets included a lightly cooked roasted-refrigerated diet; a lightly cooked grain-free roasted-refrigerated diet; and a raw diet. The lightly cooked roasted diets were pasteurized, and the raw diet was treated with an acidifying bacteria that makes the food inhospitable to harmful microbes.

“The roasted diets come in a meatball form, and the raw diet was more like a big sausage roll that you cut up and feed to the dog. All diets were chicken-based, but some had added beef, salmon, or chicken liver. Each diet also contained a vitamin and mineral mix, and a dry mix of plant products like sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, cranberries, and carrots,” Swanson says. “People are familiar with those ingredients so they like to see them included in their pets’ diets. Although specific ingredients are not needed in the diet of dogs and cats, as many options can result in an acceptable nutrient profile, those ingredients are of high quality and are nutrient dense.”

Eight beagles were successively fed each diet for one month. After a 14-day transition period onto each new diet, they were monitored for voluntary physical activity, and then urine, stool, and blood samples were collected and analyzed.

The roasted diets turned out to be more digestible than the kibble, and both the grain-free roasted diet and the raw diet resulted in lower blood triglyceride levels than the kibble diet, even though they were higher in fat. Swanson isn’t able to pinpoint the cause of the surprising result, but points to it as a potential benefit of the non-traditional diets. Voluntary activity didn’t differ across the diets.

The researchers also found major shifts in the microbiota – the suite of microbes inhabiting the gut – in the roasted and raw diets, compared with kibble. Swanson says the changes in the microbiota were neither good nor bad, just different. He suggests that the results showcase the flexibility of gut microbiota, and how little scientists know about the effects of diet on host-microbe relationships as a whole.

It is important to point out that all dogs were healthy throughout the study period, and that all diets were palatable, highly digestible, and resulted in good stool quality. Even though some of the diets were statistically more digestible or led to lower triglycerides, those metrics were within the normal range for all dogs on all diets. Therefore, Swanson emphasizes, all the diet formats tested in the study, including kibble, would be healthy choices.

“As far as diet format and market segment is concerned, it ultimately comes down to consumer preference and philosophy. As long as a diet is shown to be safe and meets the nutritional needs of the pet in question, it is an acceptable option to me. If an owner is willing to pay more for premium ingredients and/or an improved processing method, I am fully supportive. To me, the most important thing is testing these new diet formats and products before they are commercially available,” Swanson says.

The article, “Apparent total-tract macronutrient digestibility, serum chemistry, urinalysis, and fecal characteristics, metabolites and microbiota of adult dogs fed extruded, mildly cooked, and raw diets,” is published in the Journal of Animal Science [DOI: 10.1093/jas/sky235]. Authors include Kiley Algya, Tzu-Wen Cross, Kristen Leuck, Megan Kastner, Toshiro Baba, Lynn Lye, Maria de Godoy, and Kelly Swanson. Lynn Lye is from Freshpet, and all other authors are from U of I. The research was funded by Freshpet.

Source:  University of Illinois press release

US FDA issues warning about raw pet foods

Feeding raw (or not) has to be one of the most controversial topics in dog ownership today.  Consequently, the US Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) recent warning to owners feeding raw is likely to generate some controversy.

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) screened over 1,000 samples of pet food for bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. (The illnesses are called “foodborne” because the bacteria are carried, or “borne,” in or on contaminated food.) The study showed that, compared to other types of pet food tested, raw pet food was more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria.

Raw pet foods were included in the second year of a two-year study and the samples were from commercially available raw pet foods which were purchased online and sent to six different testing laboratories.

The participating laboratories analyzed the raw pet food for harmful bacteria, including Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

Of the 196 raw pet food samples analyzed, 15 were positive for Salmonella and 32 were positive for L. monocytogenes (see Table 1).

Table 1: Number and type of pet food samples that tested positive for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes (Years 1 & 2)
Type of Pet Food Sample No. samples tested No. positive for Salmonella No. positive for L. monocytogenes
 Raw pet food  196  15  32
 Dry exotic pet fooda  190  0  0
 Jerky-type treatsb  190  0  0
 Semi-moist dog foodc  120  0  0
 Semi-moist cat foodc  120  0  0
 Dry dog foodd  120  0  0
 Dry cat foodd  120  1  0
a Non-cat and non-dog food, such as dry pellets for hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, amphibians, and birds.
b Included chicken jerky and pig ear-type products.
c Typically packaged in pouches for retail sale, such as (1) pouched dog and cat food; and
(2) food treats shaped like bacon, fish, pork chops, and burgers.
d Included pellet- or kibble-type food typically packaged in bags for retail sale.Note: CVM did not collect or test canned and wet pet food samples in this study.

The FDA has gone as far as warning owners against raw feeding, but in an acknowledgement that this type of diet is the preference for many owners, they also provided these tips to prevent Salmonella and Listeria infections:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) after handling raw pet food, and after touching surfaces or objects that have come in contact with the raw food. Potential contaminated surfaces include countertops and the inside of refrigerators and microwaves. Potential contaminated objects include kitchen utensils, feeding bowls, and cutting boards.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that come in contact with raw pet food. First wash with hot soapy water and then follow with a disinfectant. A solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 quart (4 cups) water is an effective disinfectant. For a larger supply of the disinfectant solution, add ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) water. You can also run items through the dishwasher after each use to clean and disinfect them.
  • Freeze raw meat and poultry products until you are ready to use them, and thaw them in your refrigerator or microwave, not on your countertop or in your sink.
  • Carefully handle raw and frozen meat and poultry products. Don’t rinse raw meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. Bacteria in the raw juices can splash and spread to other food and surfaces.
  • Keep raw food separate from other food.
  • Immediately cover and refrigerate what your pet doesn’t eat, or throw the leftovers out safely.
  • If you’re using raw ingredients to make your own cooked pet food, be sure to cook all food to a proper internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella, L. monocytogenes, and other harmful foodborne bacteria.
  • Don’t kiss your pet around its mouth, and don’t let your pet lick your face. This is especially important after your pet has just finished eating raw food.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands after touching or being licked by your pet. If your pet gives you a “kiss,” be sure to also wash your face.

In my practice, I have clients that feed all types of diet (commercial, raw, homemade).  I have seen raw food diets implemented successfully with some dogs, and others who fail to thrive on them for a variety of reasons.  That’s why I am a proponent of the food therapy approach, which can successfully be implemented with all types of diet.

For my clients here in New Zealand, I’d like to emphasize that the food hygiene suggestions by the FDA do make sense.  According to our Ministry of Primary Industries, Salmonella is the second most common bacterial cause of foodborne disease in this country (campylobacter is the first).  Incidents of Listeria are rare, but some people like pregnant woman are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source:  US Food & Drug Administration

What’s cooking? It smells great!

A courier came to the door this morning to deliver several parcels.  She said, “What’s cooking – it smells great!”  And I replied, “I’m cooking a casserole for my dog in the slow cooker.”

This particular casserole is made with fresh broccoli, lamb heart, lean beef schnitzel, and fresh ginger.

This particular casserole is made with fresh broccoli, lamb heart, lean beef schnitzel, and fresh ginger.

After a brief pause, she smiled and said, “Lucky dog.”

I feed a combination of raw, homemade and commercial foods. It’s important to feed a nutritionally complete diet and so homemade diets will most likely need supplementation.

I consult with dog owners who want feeding advice and I incorporate Traditional Chinese Medicine assessment techniques for food matching.  I am not affiliated with any dog food manufacturer and so my advice is completely independent.

Need to know more?  Get in touch with me via my company website.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Pukka’s Promise

Pukka's Promise coverIf I had to choose a byline for this book review, it would be ‘Ted Does It Again.”

Author Ted Kerasote has delivered another great dog book following the success of Merle’s Door which I have previously reviewed.

This book, inspired in part by the large volume of correspondence Ted received after releasing Merle’s story, documents Ted’s extensive research into the health of dogs and the factors that may determine longevity.   So many ‘dog people’ contacted Kerasote asking variations of the same question  – ‘why don’t our dogs live longer?’  And since Ted felt the same way, he did what any professional journalist would do – he asked lots of questions.

In Pukka’s Promise -The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, Ted tackles subjects including nutrition, the politics behind the pet food industry, and what diet is right for dogs.  Ted lays out the facts about raw food and commercial diets, the concerns about grains  and whether they are appropriate for dogs and a favourite topic of mine – variety in the diet.

Because Kerasote observes his dog so well, he realises that there are times when Pukka (pronounced PUCK-ah) rejects the food that is laid before him.  Pukka lets Ted know that he prefers something else one day when he follows him into the pantry.  Having rejected raw lamb, Pukka readily accepts some dried elk chips.  Ted then listens more often to what Pukka would like for his meals noting, “Today I do not want sardines, I want chicken.  Yes, I do love elk, but this evening I prefer dried elk.”

And just as he did in Merle’s Door, this communication between Kerasote and Pukka is not contrived nor do these moments come across as a story book type of anthropomorphism.  Kerasote is a keen observer and dog aficionado.  When he listens or hears Pukka, it’s because he understands what his dog is trying to tell him and translates it into words.  Few authors could achieve this in such a natural way.

An example of the communication between Ted and Pukka comes when Ted is frustrated by Pukka’s excessive barking.  Dog trainers should be prepared that Ted’s solution doesn’t come from clicker training or positive reinforcement, although Ted tries these things.  Ted’s solution is a direct result of understanding dog behaviour and putting that knowledge to good use.  It helps that Ted can communicate in dog.   Enough said; you’ll have to read the book for the ending of this tale.

Kerasote covers a range of health topics including vaccinations, the history of the ‘annual vaccination’ recommendation, and the latest research on why over-vaccinating is a concern.  A good message to take away from reading the book is to enquire with your vet about having your dog ‘titered’ to determine the amount of immunity they still have from previous vaccinations.

Still other issues that are tackled in a thorough way are the effects of neutering and alternatives to the traditional spay/neuter operation that may help our dogs retain the health-preserving effects of their natural sex hormones.  Kerasote also questions the spay/neuter philosophy in a constructive way and whether you agree with his conclusions or not, he does lay out the facts very well.

Another topic that I hold dear is the issue of cancer and the simple message – if you find a lump on your dog, don’t let anyone (including your vet) tell you to ‘wait and see.’  Some lumps, if caught early and tested, can be removed before the disease takes over the comparatively small body of a dog.  Take heed!

As a backdrop to the book’s hard facts, we also get to enjoy a wonderful story about Ted’s search for another dog and his choice of Pukka.  Once Pukka’s is on the scene, we share some of their adventures.

My only criticism of this book is its lack of photos.  Other than the cover photo of Pukka, we don’t get to enjoy any photos of Pukka, Ted, or their other dog friends (A.J., Burley and Goo) nor any of the great scenery from Ted’s camping and hunting trips with Pukka.  I don’t think photos would have detracted from the contents and scope of the book, but I guess that’s the publisher’s decision.

With 49 pages of references, this is a thoroughly researched book that took five years to complete.  Add it to your book collection and refer back to it as the basis for a conversation with your vet (your dog will love you for it).

Well done, Ted!  What are you cooking up for us next?

I love you to bits: kibbles and bits and bits and bits…

I was thinking today about how dog nutrition has changed over the years.  Today, there are more dog foods than ever before.  There are organic products and even products that aim to attain the values of the raw food diet – but offering a more prepared formulation for busy dog owners.

So now I’m going to show my age and also the power of a good jingle.  I still remember this commercial from the 1980s for Kibbles and Bits.  This was one of the first commercial dog foods to offer a hard kibble combined with softer texture pieces.  But it’s the jingle I remember and I’ve found it for you here on YouTube.  Enjoy it.

And now my friends will understand when I tell Daisy that I love her to bits…kibbles and bits and bits and bits!