Ever feel sick or queasy after a questionable meal and immediately think, must be food poisoning? Food poisoning is never a fun experience for anyone and it isn’t just limited to humans, our dogs can get food poisoning as well. The culprit behind food poisoning is usually contamination of food by bacteria and other microbial species. This is why the storage of semi-moist foods like fresh and raw pet foods is so important.
There are several species of bacteria that can cause fido to feel unwell:
- Salmonella (most common)
- E. Coli
- Clostridium Botulism
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Clostridium perfringens
Ingestion of contaminated food usually results in a dog that is lethargic with vomiting and/or diarrhea. In minor cases, dogs will pass the bacteria so keeping them comfortable and hydrated is the best mode of care. In more severe cases, veterinary care may be required.
Improper storage, production and handling of pet food either by owners or producers is how pet food becomes contaminated with bacteria. As pet owners, ensuring that you are properly storing your pet’s food is the best way to ensure that they will not get food poisoning.
Heat destroys bacteria. This is why dry kibble, canned and fresh foods are less likely to be contaminated than raw dog food. In the last 5 years, there were more raw food recalls by the FDA for bacterial contamination than all other types of pet food combined. This is because raw food is not cooked to destroy harmful microbes like other types of food.
Even after cooking or heating, bacteria can still be introduced into food. Moisture is another risk factor for microbial contamination. If a dog food is classified as moist or semi-moist, such as fresh or raw food, it can be a breeding ground for bacteria if not stored properly. This is because many bacteria use water as a growth medium.
To limit the possibility of contamination in semi-moist foods, ensure that the meals are immediately frozen upon purchase/shipping. Only defrost meals the night before serving and limit storage in the fridge to 1 day for raw and 2-3 days for fresh food. For raw diets, store and defrost food away from your own cooked and ready to eat foods in order to reduce microbial contamination of human foods as well. Furthermore, it is not recommended to defrost food at room temperature or on the counter and instead defrost meals overnight in the fridge. Lastly, never keep or feed food past its expiration date.
A study by researchers at the examined microbial growth of pathogens on raw food at various temperatures. The scientists found that there was a notable rise in the species and number of bacteria in food stored at 2°C versus 7°C, with greater contamination as temperature increased.
Overall, in order to keep pets safe from food poisoning, ensure that you are practicing hygienic handling and storage of semi-moist foods. Keep meals frozen until ready for use and defrost meals in the refrigerator. If you suspect that your dog may have food poisoning, contact your veterinarian. Stay safe!