For most of us, our pets are an extension of our family. Some even treat their pets better than actual people. There are always concerns when it comes to passing on food-borne illnesses to yourself and your family while feeding your pet. When feeding pets raw food, you’re at a much greater risk of contracting a food-borne illness.
This has nothing to do with feeding pets raw food, but…
When I was a kid I remember my Uncle Barry would eat the family poodles MilkBones. I don’t know if he was just trying to skeeve me out or if he liked them, but that’s one memory that will be burned in my memory forever.
When I was a kid, I ate my hamster’s food. They looked like cheese puffs, and they probably were, but regardless, I was hungry so I ate them.
When I was a kid my brother Michael and I were playing dare with our neighbor Evan. We put some chocolate frosting on top of a liver snap dog treat and watched him eat it.
Okay, so this may seem harmless and maybe you or your brothers and sisters were a tad gross, and maybe even your kid has done this. When it happens we laugh it off and tell hem it’s gross but the honest truth is, we don’t know if the commercial pet food or snacks we’re feeding our pets are harboring E-Coli or Salmonella.
Pet food is not for human consumption, but eating it isn’t going to kill you unless you eat raw pet food, or there were unsanitary practices at the packaging plant which results in a pet food recall due to E-Coli or Salmonella. By then you’re probably doubled over in agony at the emergency department at your local hospital.
Don’t worry, they won’t judge you if you told them you ate Fido’s Alpo. Believe me, they’ve seen and heard worse.
Raw foods come in both canned and dry formulas. As a sign of caution; stay away from it.
Time for a little scientific hoop-la.
I promise this part will be short.
What exactly are Salmonella and Listeria?
Salmonella is a nasty bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella is found in the intestinal tract of both humans and animals and it loves to take a free ride on poop. Most humans will contract salmonella through contaminated food or water.
Okay, so how are you going to get that from your pet’s food? By just touching an item that is contaminated such as utensils (how exactly do you get the dog or cat food out of the can)? The bacteria can be transferred from the utensil to your hand, to your mouth.
Listeria is another truly nasty little varment. These creatures live in water, soil, dust and you got it, your pet’s poop. Listeria has been found in improperly processed deli meats (stop giving your pet meat from the deli) or unpasteurized milk products.
While Salmonella and Listeria are both pretty nasty, Listeria spreads to the nervous system and can actually be fatal in 20% of the children or elderly people who contract this.
Raw Pet Food
According to the CDC, they don’t recommend you feeding your pets a “raw food” diet, even the ones found in the grocery store. If you do feed your dog or cat commercially processed raw food, there is a high possibility you and your family can get sick by handling the food or by just taking care of your pet. Salmonella and Listeria have been known to be present in raw pet food.
Raw pet food versus table scraps
When I mention raw pet food, I’m not talking about feeding your dog or cat table scraps, because after all that has already been cooked.
Can I give my dog or cat raw pet food?
If you have your heart set on feeding your pet raw food, you MUST follow these precautions to ensure you and your family are safe from contracting a food-borne illness.
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Don’t let them lick your hands, face or mouth after they ate. If I was you, I’d go to buy them some dog or cat mouthwash. I truly don’t know how effective they are at killing germs since I couldn’t find anything during my research, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
How to properly store raw pet food.
Keep the raw pet food away from any other food in your refrigerator or freezer. I know it’s going to be hard, but you can store it in one of those plastic bags you bring the groceries home with – unless you’re to eco-friendly to bag your items in them. If that’s the case, go out and buy yourself a mini-refrigerator and store the food in there. You can get a pretty decent one from Amazon for under $40.
Keep the food in the freezer until you’re ready to use it. Do NOT thaw it on the counter, or in the sink. For a quick thaw, put it in a Ziploc bag and soak it in a basin or bucket of cool water. If you don’t have either of those, go to Walmart or the Dollar Store and get yourself a big plastic bowl. Make sure you write on it, it’s for defrosting Fido’s food.
I know this is going to make you laugh, but, don’t refreeze or reuse the food they didn’t finish. Yeah, I know. I’ve never known a dog who’s never finished what you put in front of them, but cats typically won’t eat it all, as they’re mostly grazers.
Do you have a reptile or amphibian?
This should be a no-brainer. Always wash your hand with soap and water after touching frozen or live feeder mice.
If they’re frozen, thaw them out in a Ziploc bag in a separate bowl, basin or container out of the kitchen. (If you could only see what my face looks like now as I write this…gross).
Although reptiles and amphibians eat wild rodents..once again, gross…DO NOT feed them the ones you catch outside, or the ones the exterminator caught. Although reptiles and amphibians can technically eat wild rodents, you should NEVER, EVER, EVER and I mean NEVER bring a wild rodent into your home to feed your pet. They are swarming with all sorts of diseases. Do yourself a favor, go to Petsmart and buy a few feeder mice.
Should children help feed family pets?
Before we got our dog, Buster, my boys would always say, “Mom if you get us a dog, we promise to feed it and walk it”. Famous last words. Thinking back, they always seemed to grow deaf when I told them they had to feed the dog. And where were they when I was shoving an antibiotic down his throat? Humm, that story is for another time.
Children under the age of 5 should never touch or eat pet food, pet treats (I was 10 when I ate the hamster cheese puffs), heartworm or any other pet supplements. The reason for this is, children are at a higher risk for illness due to their immune systems are not fully developed, plus a lot of them still put their fingers and just about anything else they can grab in their mouths.
Now, I’m not here to tell you feeding pets raw food is a bad thing. That would be like me telling you vegetarianism is bad. It’s totally up to you; however, if the CDC doesn’t endorse feeing your pet a raw food diet, why would you even want to go that route?
If you’re one who believes feeding pets raw food is the way to go, I’d love to know what made you decide to do so. I’d also love to know if you were aware of the possibilities of contracting a foodborne illness during the handling or the cleaning process?
Until we meet again,