petfoodMost of us are familiar with the ins and outs of food-borne illness in humans. E.coli and Salmonella are increasingly common in our society and we have learned the precautions to take, at least at home, to avoid them. But did you know that pets can be affected by food-borne illness too?

Raw or undercooked fish, poultry, and eggs can make us sick. And the same is true for our pets. The same goes for “infected” greens or meats.

What’s worse is that just as we can contract these illnesses from store-bought foods or restaurants, so can our pets. Sadly, it is becoming more and more common for pet foods to be recalled due to food-borne illness concerns (or your leftovers).

And while much of this is out of our control, you can bone up on the facts in an effort to protect your pets.

Here’s what to know:

What happens to infected animals?

Typically pets suffer similar symptoms to people, including lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. Typically, with supportive care, these animals do fine.

However, some animals may also become what is termed “asymptomatic carriers” meaning they are infected and shedding the bacteria, but suffer no symptoms.

If you, or other pets in your household are infected, you should have pets who are seemingly uninfected tested and treated as well to be sure this isn’t the case.

 Can people be affected?

Sure. People who are immune-compromised and young children are of particular concern.

Anyone who is handling contaminated pet food without good hygiene, or that is around pets who are asymptomatic carriers, can also become infected.

 Feeding my pet a non-commercial diet is safer, right?

Not necessarily.

Many of the foods we handle and prepare for our pets can contain contaminants. It is also very difficult to construct a balanced and thorough diet for your pet without the aid of a nutritionist.

Keep in mind, too, that popular raw pet food diets can contain bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Clostridium as well. Even when using human grade meats, these bacteria are often present and can cause illness or an asymptomatic carrier state.

 What is being done to make things safer?

The FDA is concerned about this problem, especially due to the human risk. New rules on pet food manufacturing are being proposed as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

What should I do if I think my pet may be affected by a food-borne illness?

Contact your veterinarian right away. You can also report any concerns to the FDA. It is good practice to take a picture of package codes and expiration dates on your pet’s food just in case. Be sure to wash your pet’s dishes daily with hot, soapy water and use good hygiene after feeding your animals.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding food-borne illness and your pets, or if you suspect that your pet has become infected, please contact us.