Pet Points: A pet's diet demands attention
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Other than an infectious disease scare, nothing brings a flurry of panicked calls to our office like a pet food (or treat) recall.
It seems almost weekly there is a problem in the human or animal food supply. We are all terrified of feeding our kids and pets products that can make them sick.
Recently, when Diamond Pet Foods had a recall for possible salmonella contamination, even veterinarians were surprised at how many products come from a single manufacturing plant. Another problem is that the source of all of the ingredients may be hard to track. Foods made in the U.S. may still contain ingredients from China that have been linked to kidney failure. You might have to read and re-read the ingredient list and even contact the company to be sure what is in the product.
Consumers should try to purchase foods from name-brand companies that have quality control, and list the scientific formulation of their product. This is difficult, as even top-of-the-line products have had quality-control issues and subsequent recalls of both food and prescription products. This is distressing to both veterinarians and consumers who struggle to find substitutes.
We have to give credit to the Ohio and Michigan agriculture departments for finding salmonella as the source of the food poisoning from dry dog food manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods. Several pets have been reported ill and 16 people have illness traced to the contaminated food. We were surprised to see that dry dog food was responsible, as it is heated during preparation and should be an unlikely culprit for salmonella contamination.
No owner wants to see a pet get sick from its food, and there is no excuse for contamination. The issue is magnified by pet owners who, in trying to avoid quality concerns of commercial pet food, make a homemade diet using raw meat. An alarming number of clients are choosing a raw meat diet, but many are unaware of the serious risks and dangers that the raw meat diet poses to human health.
Diseases such as E. coli, salmonella, listeria and toxoplasmosis can be carried in raw meat, milk, eggs or produce. Pets can often tolerate some contamination in foods, but people can get very ill. Humans can become sick by contact with the raw food either directly or indirectly by contact with food bowls, counters, fur, saliva or feces. Particular attention has to be given when children and the elderly are exposed to a pet eating a raw meat diet. We have heard other veterinarians discuss the value of raw diets but never heard a pediatrician, infectious disease physician or public health official advocate a raw meat diet for pets.
There are hundreds of different foods available to feed pets, but not all are scientifically formulated. They vary in price and quality. Many of the benefits people see in feeding a raw meat homemade diet could also be accomplished by feeding a better or different commercial diet, or by adding supplements or probiotics. Animals do have sensitivities and allergies to foods, and limited antigen diets can be successful to treat their problems. Trial and error is often needed to find a good diet for a specific problem or pet
The use of commercial diets is a better choice than homemade pet food, in our opinion. With the options available, a quality diet with proper clinical trials and quality control is a better choice.
So, what can we as owners and veterinarians do to ensure the safety of our pets and families? Check the FDA website regularly for information. Read labels, make sure the company is reputable, and that scientists and veterinarians are involved in the formulation of the diet you feed your pet. Quality control by the manufacturer and quality ingredients give you the best chance of avoiding contaminated or toxic ingredients.
First Published May 19, 2012 12:00 am