Pets at risk of illness as vets warn owners rarely feed dogs safely – new study

Dangerous dogs: Expert on 'irresponsible owners' in 2020

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The study, conducted in the US, found most people do not know the official guidelines for safely handling their pet’s food, as set by the Food and Drug Administration in the US. The guidelines include advice for pet owners on how meals should be stored and served, how to clean and maintain food bowls, and how to report problems with food and treats.

The study found that these guidelines were largely overlooked, putting pet owners at risk of falling ill or their pet getting sick.

The authors of the study wrote: “Exposure to contaminated dog food can have implications for canine and human health.

“For example, there have been multiple outbreaks of both humans and dogs becoming ill after exposure to dog food contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.

“These risks may be amplified in households with children and/or immunocompromised individuals, which were over a third of respondents’ households.

“The preponderance of pet food recalls has heightened the awareness of the risk of illness.”

However, the researchers noted it isn’t all the pet owners’ fault, adding that Government agencies need to prioritise publicising their tips.

The team from North Carolina State University writes: “Pet feeding involves interplay between the pet, the owner, and the food.

“This interaction creates the opportunity for mutual exchange of microbial contaminants from food or water, dishes, and the food storage or preparation environment, which can cause health consequences for both humans and pets.”

For the study, the researchers surveyed 417 dog owners and collected swabs on 68 dog food dishes.

They found less than five percent of dog owners knew there were guidelines to follow.

Eight percent of surveyed owners knew where to find pet advice.

Despite this lack of widespread knowledge, a few guidelines were widely followed by the respondents.

Eighty six percent of dog owners reported regularly checking their dog food for visible damage, and 91 percent knew not to use the dog bowl as a scooping utensil.

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Nearly all (97 percent) of the dog owners told scientists they didn’t feed their pooches raw food.

On the downside, only about 12 percent of dog owners reported washing their pets’ bowls every day, and only 22 percent said they wash their hands with soap and hot water before handling pet food.

Based on the disparity between what the dog owners claimed and what the scientists found using swabs, they highlighted people are generally far less hygienic than they believe to be.

Researchers warn pet food dishes are commonly contaminated with dangerous pathogens, including the drug-resistant E Coli bacteria.

In the UK, advice on how to care for your pet can be found on the RSPCA website.

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