New research has found that raw meat-based dog food contains ‘unexpectedly high’ levels of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant variants. Experts warn that the issue is an international public health risk.
Researchers tested for Enterococci in dog food from supermarkets and pet shops. The dog food samples were all from Portugal, however, most of the brands ship worldwide.
Enterococci is usually present in the gut and bowels. But if the bacteria spreads to other areas in the body, it could lead to serious infections, including abdominal, oral, wound, and urinary tract infections.
The researchers studied 55 samples of dog food from 25 brands. The samples included 22 wet, 14 raw-frozen, eight dry, seven treats, and four semi-wet varieties.
More than half (54 percent) of samples contained Enterococci. Further, more than 40 percent of the bacteria was resistant to the following antibiotics: erythromycin, tetracycline, quinupristin-dalfopristin, streptomycin, gentamicin, chloramphenicol, ampicillin, or ciprofloxacin.
All of the raw dog food samples contained multi-drug-resistant Enterococci.
The researchers said that the bacteria found in the dog food could potentially spread to humans.
Public health risk
Dr Ana R. Freitas, who was a researcher in the study, said: “The close contact of humans with dogs and the commercialisation of the studied brands in different countries poses an international public health risk.
“European authorities must raise awareness about the potential health risks when feeding raw diets to pets and the manufacture of dog food, including ingredient selection and hygiene practices, must be reviewed.”
She added that dog owners should wash their hands with soap and water after touching pet food and after picking up faeces.
Meat-free dog food
Concerns over food safety has led to the launch of many vegan dog food brands.
Plant-based dog food company, V-Dog, pointed to data from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. Its database of pet food recalls shows that in February 2018 alone, 38 meat-based products were recalled for contamination.
Wild Earth produces vegan dog kibble out of Koji-based cultured protein. The company highlights that meat-based dog food is also at risk of containing drugs used to euthanize livestock.
Wild Earth’s Chief Executive and Co-Founder told The Wall Street Journal that most major dog food brands ‘have meat scraps from the 4D animals – dead, dying, diseased, or disabled – so there could really be anything in there’.