Food contamination is one of the major problems faced by pets and so it becomes the duty of pet owners to ensure that the pet’s food and water bowls are cleaned properly with hot soapy water and drying them before refilling them everyday. It is often advised to keep raw meat separate from fresh food, wash your hands after handling the pet food and many other precautions to minimise the chances of illness in pets.
But have you ever thought that the contamination that you are worried about is actually hiding in the dog or cat’s food? Pet food is one of the major reasons for the contamination. Hence, it is extremely important that you take care of yourself and your furry companion from potential contamination.
Let us now look at different types of contamination:
This bacteria is responsible for food-borne illnesses. There are different types of bacteria that can cause food poisoning in people as well as pets. Young children, infants, elderly and people with suppressed immune systems are more prone to Salmonella.
Some of the symptoms of this disease in people include:
Symptoms of Salmonella in pets include:
- Constant diarrhoea
- Drinking water excessively
- Lethargy (sluggishness or lack of energy)
- Loss of appetite
Listeria monocytogenes is another type of bacteria in contaminated food that causes infection. It puts pregnant women at significant risk, as there is a huge probability of miscarriage or transfer of infection to the foetus. Newborns, elderly and people with suppressed immune systems are at risk.
Symptoms of this disease in humans include:
- Complications in the intestinal tract
- Muscle aches
Symptoms of Listeria in dogs include:
- Sudden death.
- Uterine infections
Mould & Fungus
This contamination does not require the contact of the pet with the food. Pets can suffer from pneumonia due to fungi in the environment. It is not always the result of bacteria.
- Difficulty in breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Skin and respiratory infections
If you have any type of mould in your house and your pet is having a veterinary procedure performed, inform your veterinarian that your pet might have been exposed to mould. This is extremely crucial if your pet will be given anaesthesia.
How Contamination Spreads Between Humans & Pets?
Contamination can be spread between humans & pets through:
- Other areas of discharge
- Surfaces that have come in contact with an infected pet or person
- Touching faeces
Pet food that has been contaminated is most likely to incept from an infected worker, an additive applied after the cooking process in the manufacturing the dog food or equipment used to package the product. Even wet dog food bag can be a place where mould and fungi can be found. The problem is that most testing of the suspected contaminated materials happens in the laboratory and can take a maximum of 24 hours to complete. There are other forms of tests that are being investigated like an application that employs light to detect the signature pattern by bacteria in the food and be completed in half an hour.
If you see contaminated food in your household follow these steps:
- First of all check whether anyone in the household is showing symptoms of illness. If so, take the person to the doctor or the pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Seal the food in an airtight container and isolate it. Take a small sample if needed later for identification or further testing. Take the photograph of the packaging and UPC code before disposing it off.
- Empty all pet dishes and wash them properly with hot soapy water.
- Clean all items, kitchen surfaces and floor with hot soapy water.
- Inform other members in the household about the contaminated item and tell them to take care when handling pet’s items, food or toys. Wash your hands properly before and after using the restroom or handling food.
- If you want to return the food to the store for refund seal the food by cutting the identifying label and place it on the outside of the package. Cover it up properly with a tape and wash your hands properly.
- Monitor people and other pets for illness.