Tag Archives: raw meaty bones

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

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The cost of veterinary care

Last night on consumer television programme Fair Go, there was an item about the high cost of veterinary care in New Zealand.

The makers of the programme compared costs for common veterinary procedures in cats and dogs – thinks like dental cleanings and microchipping.  And for those of us working in the companion animal field, it came as no surprise that there can be a huge variability in costs.

I remember when I was studying pet nutrition, our first assignment included a question about the cost of the first year of a dog’s care.    We had to itemise all costs for  everything from food to flea treatments to veterinary care.  And like so many other living costs in New Zealand, our prices were higher.  That’s what happens when you live on comparatively small islands in the middle of the Pacific!  In fact, my tutor said that our costs were the highest of all others in the class from around the world.

However, the Fair Go programme basically advised viewers that the way to control their costs was to shop around.  While I agree with this point – to a point, there’s a lot more that you can do to keep the costs of your veterinary care –  and your dog’s overall care – reasonable.

And I’m also a big supporter of the adage – YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.  In every aspect of my dog’s care, I aim to purchase quality products and services. They may not be the cheapest – but I’m satisfied that they are the best.

In my opinion, you should:

  • Adopt a preventive healthcare approach first

As soon as your dog comes into your life, vow that you will do the best you can for them.  This means choosing high quality, nutritious foods (‘you are what you eat’) and giving your dog the right amount of exercise.  Ensure your dog doesn’t become overweight and clean their teeth.

For teeth cleaning, there’s the old-fashioned approach which includes giving dogs raw meaty bones.  There are also good dental chews on the market and toys like rope chews act as dental floss.  There’s also some very good toothbrushes and toothpaste you can buy because not all dogs get enough cleaning from the items that they chew.

  • Build a relationship with a vet

If you go all over town chasing the best price, no single veterinary practice will have a full picture of your dog’s health history.  Shop around and then try to stick with the same vet.  Be honest about your ability to pay and if the practice knows you, they will be in a better position to offer you a payment plan or a reduction in price. You probably won’t have that as an option if the veterinary practice has never seen you before!

If you are unhappy with any service that a veterinarian provides you (including cost) you should raise your concerns with the practice first to see what solutions are available.  Then, if you’re still not happy, go out and find yourself another vet that you can work with.

  • Complementary therapies for longevity and quality of life

Complementary therapies like my massage, acupressure and laser therapy practice have a role in keeping your dog healthy (and the vet bills down).   I  offer advice on rehabilitation and exercise programmes that can help reduce your dog’s dependence on pain medication, for example.  I’m an advocate for therapies such as hydrotherapy and acupuncture, both of which I use for my own, aging dog.

  • Shop online

There are many outlets where you can find pet products at a more reasonable price than a traditional pet store or veterinary practice.  These include sites like Trade Me, but also online pet pharmacy My VetI also source and sell products online through my company – Canine Catering and, because I’m a smaller operation with lower overheads, you will pay a lower price.

(In general, retail costs are higher because there are more costs for doing business.  They have shop assistants to pay, rent, and bills for heating, maintenance and electricity. )

I hope these tips give you a broader perspective on the costs of caring for your dog.  If we save money, we have more money to spend on our families which includes our pets!