Many raw-meat dog foods contain high levels of bacteria that pose a risk to animals and humans, experts warn.
Owners are at particular risk if they let their pet lick them after it has eaten raw bone, meat or offal, they say in Vet Record.
The diets are becoming increasingly popular, touted by some as offering pets a health boost and a glossy coat.
The researchers studied 60 raw samples from 10 manufacturers from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and England.
Give a dog a bone?
Unlike commercial feeds, raw-meat products are not heat-treated or freeze-dried to pasteurise their content and eliminate bacteria.
All 60 samples contained Enterobacteriaceae species, which are indicators of faecal contamination.
Levels varied widely among the different manufacturers and, in some cases, among the different products from the same manufacturer.
But 31 (52%) of the samples contained levels that exceeded the maximum threshold set by European Union regulations, of 5,000 bacteria per gram.
Most of the species found are not known to cause infection, apart from E. coli, which was seen in about a third of the samples.
Salmonella bacteria, banned under the EU regulations, were found in four samples. Campylobacter was found in three. Both are capable of passing from animals to people and causing infections.
Daniella Dos Santos, from the British Veterinary Association, said: “Pet owners who choose to feed a raw food diet should be aware of the potential health risks and take full precautions while storing and handling the food.
“BVA would also not recommend making a raw food diet at home without veterinary guidance due to the potential for nutritional deficiencies in homemade diets.
“We would advise any owner wanting to try a raw meat-based diet for their pet to first consult a veterinary surgeon.”
- Raw meat should be kept frozen until used
- Thaw at a maximum of 10C
- Handle separately from human food, with separate kitchen equipment (or the same equipment washed thoroughly after use)
- Remember that bacteria in raw juices can splash and spread to other foods and surfaces
- Don’t let your dog lick you after it has just eaten raw meat
- Dogs in families with infants, elderly people or immunocompromised individuals should not be fed raw meat