- Researchers had a look at more than 800 dogs across two studies
- They found that dogs on the raw diet were more likely to excrete resistant E. coli
- Researchers recommend not feeding raw food to pets
Putting dogs on a raw diet may have consequences pet parents aren’t aware of. Researchers found evidence associating dogs’ raw diet and the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
A raw diet for dogs consists of foods like raw eggs, bone, muscle meat and organ meats, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). Some pet parents opt to put their pets on this diet, claiming benefits such as better dental health, healthier skin and increased energy.
In two new studies, however, a team of researchers from the University of Bristol found an association between a raw diet and the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with dogs on the diet being more likely to carry antibiotic-resistant E. coli bacteria in their feces, the University of Bristol noted in a news release.
The researchers had a look at a total of 823 dogs across two studies. The first study, published in One Health, covered 223 16-week-old puppies, while the second study, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, involved 600 adult dogs. The results of both studies show that having a raw diet may excrete resistant bacteria “regardless of their age” or how long the dogs have been on the diet, the university noted.
“(W)e conclude that raw feeding is associated with carriage of ABR (antibacterial-resistant) E. coli in dogs even at 16 weeks of age and that bacteria carried by puppies are shared with humans,” the researchers wrote in the first study.
Dogs’ environments may also play a part in their risk factors for excreting resistant bacteria, according to the university, with a raw diet being a “strong” factor among countryside dogs but a bit more complicated in city dogs. This could be because of city dogs’ more diverse lifestyles and exposures.
“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are everywhere, but some antibiotics are considered critically important for use in humans,” one of the study authors, Matthew Avison of the University of Bristol, said, as per the news release. “We have shown that dogs fed raw meat are more likely to carry bacteria resistant to these important medicines. This doesn’t mean that the animal, or the owner, will become sick.”
The researchers noted that E. coli is “the most clinically important opportunistic human bacterial pathogen,” with resistant E. coli being particularly hard to treat. And resistance to antibiotics has various negative effects, from high treatment costs to increased mortality. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even described antibiotic resistance as “one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.”
As such, the researchers recommend not feeding raw food to pets. Those who do should practice strict hygiene practices, even if the raw food they’re feeding their pets has been commercially sold as pet food. Even disposing of dog feces should be done with care so as not to contaminate the environment and risk affecting the general public.
“We know humans and animals share bacteria with one another, so what we find in your pet may well also be in you. Pet owners should be encouraged to practice good hygiene and not feeding raw food to your dog can be part of this,” one of the study authors, Kristen Reyher of the University of Bristol, said in the news release.
Some veterinarians have also advised that the raw diet may not be the right one for dogs in households with young kids or immunocompromised people, according to the AKC. It may also be better for puppies and dogs with conditions such as cancer or pancreatitis to consume cooked food.
“We can all do our part to decrease antibiotic resistance and its terrible effects on both human and animal health,” Reyher said.
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