Pets need safe food too

Foodborne illness can affect pets and humans alike.

Pets need safe food too

Since Jan. 1, 2015, there have been 10 recalls on pet food products. In 2014 there were more than 50 pet food recalls. Many of them were for discrepancies in vitamin and mineral content which aren’t a threat to food safety, but several were recalled for potential Listeria and Salmonella contamination, which are both serious pathogens.

When we think of foodborne illness we mostly think of human welfare, but our animal friends can get sick from many of the same pathogens that make us sick. Dogs and cats are most often affected by contaminated food, but horse, chicken and ferret feed has also been implicated. How do you know if your pet has a foodborne illness? Animals can’t tell you how they’re feeling, but many of the symptoms are similar to that of humans: diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and dehydration. Only a veterinarian can run the tests needed to verify a foodborne pathogen is at fault.

Unfortunately, pathogens in pet food can make humans sick too. Handling contaminated food or coming in contact with infected animals can transfer germs from pet to human. Some pets may be infected but not show symptoms, and germs can still be passed to humans. Michigan State University Extension recommends checking for pet food recalls regularly. The American Veterinary Medical Association frequently updates recall listings. If you find that the food you are feeding your pet is part of a recall that may lead to foodborne illness, stop using that food and return the remaining food to the store in which it was purchased, and note that it is implicated in a recall.

MSU Extension does not suggest throwing the food in the trash or dumping it, as other animals may eat it and spread disease. If your pet becomes sick and you think it might be a foodborne illness, contact your local veterinary. Always wash your hands before and after handling pets and their food.

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