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Hidden dangers of raw pet food diets

Q: My friend recommends a raw diet for my dog, which I gather is something of a fad, but my veterinarian is against it. What do you think?

A: I’m with your vet. I’m repelled by the idea of feeding my dogs the BARF (bones and raw food) diet or any other raw meat diet.

Raw diets are risky for pets and their people. In a study published in January, Campylobacter bacteria in raw chicken were found to cause canine acute polyradiculoneuritis, a paralyzing neurologic disease similar to human Guillain-Barre syndrome.

In another study published in January, 35 commercial frozen raw meat-based diets were tested. Eighty percent were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant E. coli bacteria, 54 percent with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, 43 percent with other Listeria species, 23 percent with toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, and 20 percent with Salmonella bacteria.

Moreover, 11 percent contained Sarcocystis cruzi protozoal parasites, 11 percent carried Sarcocystis tenella, and 6 percent were contaminated with Toxoplasma gondii parasites.

These bacteria and parasites cause significant disease and sometimes death. They contaminate kitchen counters and utensils, where they spread to humans. Infected animals transmit the pathogens, sometimes just by licking people.

Scientists state that raw diets offer no advantage over standard pet foods, and many are actually deficient in nutrients. So take your veterinarian’s advice about pet food to keep you and your dog healthy.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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