It's possible that the way you feed your pets will make them and you sick.
Food safety behaviors, such as washing our hands before cooking a meal and rinsing our plates before putting them in the dishwasher, are second nature to most of us. Would it surprise you to learn that the same guidelines should be followed when feeding and cleaning up after your pet?
According to a new study published in the journal PLoS One on April 6, the majority of dog owners in the United States are unaware of and do not follow FDA rules for safe pet food and dish management. What you don't know can hurt you in this scenario. According to the authors, contaminated pet food has been the source of several outbreaks of bacterial infection in dogs and humans.
In a statement, lead author Emily Luisana, DVM, veterinarian at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C., said, Pet owners should know that pet food bowls can store bacteria and that recommendations exist for lowering that risk.
According to the FDA, pet food and treats, like many other foods, can be contaminated with hazardous germs that cause foodborne illnesses like salmonellosis and listeriosis.
Safety Recommendations aren't well-known even among veterinarians.
The study was inspired by watercooler" chats among veterinary nutritionists, according to Dr. Luisana. "We noticed that we all had various pet food storage and hygiene habits when it comes to our own pets, she explained. Even among veterinary specialists, the requirements for pet food and storage safety were relatively unknown, she observed.
Once we looked into what we should be doing, Luisana explained, we noticed the FDA guidelines for these habits were quite scant in compared to human standards, and the outcome of these recommendations had not been studied.
FDA Guidelines are only known by only 5% of dog owners.
Investigators polled 417 dog owners to find out what the average pet owner knew about pet food safety. They discovered that only around 5% of the owners were aware of the standards, and that many of the suggestions were ignored.
The following are some guidelines for handling pet food and dishes:
- Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds before handling.
- Using a bowl as a scooping device is not recommended.
- After each use, wash the dish and scoop with hot water for at least 20 seconds.
- After handling food, wash your hands for 20 seconds.
The researchers analyzed 68 household dog food plates for bacterial contamination to better understand the effectiveness of the FDA recommendations. They divided the proprietors into three groups after the initial testing and gave them various instructions for applying food handling guidelines.
One group followed FDA recommendations for pet food and dishes, another group followed those guidelines in conjunction with FDA's human food handling policy, and a third group functioned as a control - they were informed of the guidelines but had the option of changing their behavior.
After a week, investigators retested the dishes and found that dishes from owners who followed the FDA's pet food handling guidelines, either alone or in combination with the FDA's human food handling protocol, were significantly less contaminated than dishes from owners who were not asked to follow either set of recommendations.
Many dog owners are hesitant to follow safety guidelines even after learning them.
I was shocked that our control group did not show a reduction in bacterial counts despite being informed of FDA recommendations and that the bowl will be analyzed again, Luisana added. This demonstrates that raising awareness of current recommendations is insufficient to cause behavioural change, she noted.
Only 20% of dog owners in the "guideline-following" groups stated they were likely to follow the directions long-term, and only 8% said they were likely to follow all of the supplied instructions after the week-long intervention. The authors point out that this discovery emphasizes the necessity for recommendations that are both practicable and useful.
According to Luisana, pet owners should be aware that pet food bowls can store bacteria and that there are tips for reducing this risk. "Although more research is needed to determine the consequences of our findings," she says, I hope veterinarians will investigate the potential influence of feeding hygiene in situations of zoonotic disease or in immunocompromised patients.
Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can be transmitted from animals to humans.