Raw dog food is an international public health risk, according to research presented online at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID).
Scientists recently tested 55 dog foods for antibiotic resistant bacteria and came back with shocking results. The foods examined for the study included wet, dry, semi wet, raw frozen food, and treats.
Alarmingly, 54 percent of the samples contained enterococci, a bacteria that generally lives harmlessly in the human gut but can cause dangerous infections when it spreads to other body parts.
Of the enterococci bacteria, 40 percent were resistant to several antibiotics, 23 percent were resistant to linezolid, a last resort antibiotic that is critically important when other antibiotics fail.
Most of the antibiotic resistant enterococci were found in raw dog food. In fact, all of the raw dog food samples contained resistant bacteria, while only three of the non-raw samples contained the multi-antibiotic resistant enterococci.
Genetic sequencing showed that much of the bacteria found in raw dog food is identical to bacteria found in European hospital patients, wastewater, and farm animals.
The researchers showed experimentally that the genes for resistance can spread from the bacteria in dog food to other bacteria. This suggests that dog food could be a dangerous spreader of antibiotic resistance in enterococci.
Approximately 700,000 people are killed annually by antibiotic resistant bacteria. The WHO estimates that this could rise to 10 million deaths by 2050 if nothing is done to change the trend. This classifies antibiotic resistant bacteria as one of the greatest public health threats world wide.
Scientists recommend basic hygiene as a way to slow the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, suggesting pet owners wash their hands with soap after handling pet food or waste.
“The close contact of humans with dogs and the commercialization of the studied brands in different countries poses an international public health risk,” said Dr Ana R. Freitas of the University of Porto.
“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.”
“Dog owners should always wash their hands with soap and water right after handling pet food and after picking up feces.”
The research will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID).