BACTERIA IS EVERYWHERE!
75 years ago the pet food industry made it's debut. Whether this is a good thing or not is up for debate. Regardless it is important to fully understand the industry to recognize why Prey Model Raw feeding is so important.
Bacteria is EVERYWHERE. A lot of it is good while some of it is bad and can cause disease. It has only become too common that several pet food companies have had to recall their food or treats due to listeria and salmonella contamination. Not only is that a topic in it's own, besides the fact humans can actively help in reducing illness and disease from bacteria, our cats, dogs and ferrets are designed to handle bacterial loads.
One of the biggest misconceptions about raw feeding is that it is covered in bacteria and not only will make your companion sick, but will make your family sick as well. The truth of the matter actually is kibble or dry pet food is loaded with more bacteria than properly sourced and served raw ever will.
As of August 2017, 17 commercial pet food and treat recalls occurred (at almost 3 per month) 3 included salmonella contamination and 1 due to listeria (dogfoodadvisor.com) If you were curious the others were a combination of pentobarbital (the euthanasia drug), metal contamination, elevated thyroid hormones and chemical contamination.
While raw food diets became a more viable option, owners have concerns about possible bacteria contaminations from raw diets. Unfortunately, this train of thought is fostered by such agencies as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Often they claim raw food is the sole cause of bacteria contaminations. They however, leave out information pertaining to dry foods, the largest market of pet foods. The presented data includes very misleading numbers. For example, in the last five years alone just for Salmonella contamination, based on reports released to the press by the FDA, there have been 23 dry food recalls, 14 commercial raw food recalls, and 26 treat recalls but if one looks at the statistics and information provided by the FDA, recalls can include all Lot Codes, all UPC’s, all package sizes and all expiration dates prior to a certain date. Furthermore, one company can own multiple brands such as Mars who doesn’t just make candy bars but also owns California Naturals, Cesars, EVO, Eukanuba, Greenies, Iams, Innova, Nutro, Pedigree, Royal Canin, Sheba, The Goodlife Recipe, Whiskas and Temptations meaning hundreds of products can be affected. This is all under one recall claim!
According to the enforcement reports available through the FDA, consumers can view under the Product Distributed Quantity, how much or how many pounds of food was distributed and needs to be removed from the shelves. The market for raw pet food is much less than that of it’s dry food counter part and does not include home prepared diets therefore the reality of the report numbers for dry pet food is extremely low, while those of the raw are fairly accurate. Based off of the Product Distribution Quantity in the span of the five years mentioned above 19,407,827 pounds of dry food was recalled and only 17,685 pounds of commercial raw. In short this actually means that although the FDA is not demanding salmonella testing for dry pet food, dry pet food actually has more recalls and salmonella contamination than raw commercial pet foods (again these figures do not include home prepared raw diets).
Although there is little we can do to ensure pet food companies are using sanitary and safety practices, there is a lot we can do at home to prevent the spread of bacteria that could endanger our family members.
When preparing your own pet foods it is essential to clean all surfaces, cutting materials and preparation items such as pots, pans and bowls with hot water and soap. It is also a good idea to keep cleaning sprays (which can include natural disinfectants like lemon or apple cider vinegar) and disinfecting wipes on hand. This also includes keeping your hands clean after touching meat and other raw food items.
In a study of 110 pet owners, participants were asked what they did as safety precautions when making or preparing food regardless of food type. 17.4% said they wash their hands and 7.5% said they wash preparation surfaces.
Even if you are not preparing a raw diet cleanliness and sanitation is still important. For example, cleaning your pet’s food and water bowls on a daily basis. Plastic bowls can easily harbor and quickly grow bacteria in scratches and crevices. Furthermore, standing water is the perfect environment for bacteria to gather. You may notice that some bowls will develop a film or colors. This can indicate contamination. Also keep in mind that our companions often will eat their food and go directly to their water for a drink. Small particles can be dropped in the water that can grow mold from the moisture or release bacteria that already was sitting on the food. 23.7% in the above mentioned survey said they clean their companion(s) bowls.
It is also important to properly store your companion’s food. Dry pet and freeze dried foods should be kept in either re-sealable bags or air tight containers. Canned foods after opening should have can toppers on them and refrigerated like raw and cooked foods you may prepare. Just like human food if left out or exposed to the air bacteria can easily inhabit these foods that when consumed can cause illness. 23.4% in the survey said they store food in an air tight container, 13.5% use bag clips or can tops and 12.3% freeze or refrigerate their companion’s food after opening. A majority of these participants used multiple cleaning methods while 2.1% of these participants used no method of cleaning and sanitation.
Don’t forget about after care! Cat and ferret litter boxes should be at least sifted through daily and completely replaced once a week. Just imagine walking through your own waste multiple times a day Eww! Dog waste should be picked up daily, if not as soon as they eliminate. Many bacteria and parasites actually like your pet’s waste which means tons of bacteria could be infesting your lawn. Just imagine every time you walk into your house from outside, you could be tracking those creatures in with you! In a survey of 110 participants 27.8% of participants remove waste each time their pet goes to eliminate, 38% remove waste daily, 16.7% remove it weekly, 2.8% remove it monthly, 0.9% use a waste disposal service, 3.7% never clean it up and 10.2% use other methods.
As a final and probably most important note, cats, dogs and ferrets are carnivores. They are designed anatomically and physiologically to eat raw meat, organs and bones. Cats, dogs and ferrets actually have bacteria destroying saliva in their mouths that begin the process of neutralization and destruction of bacteria. Bacteria that survive the mouth, enters the stomach where the acid in the stomach is a pH of 1-2. This high enough to destroy any bacteria that enters. Why can a dog, cat or ferret not handle bacteria that may be on kibble if their stomach is this acidic? Kibble and most commercial diets are loaded with carbohydrates like fruits, veggies and grains. Carbohydrates unlike meat, alkalize the stomach acid reducing its acidity to 4-5 pH which is not efficient at destroying bacteria. This is also why it is not recommended to mix raw and kibble.
Finally compared to the 30 foot digestive tract of a human, the digestive tract of a cat, dog or ferret is incredibly short to quickly process and eliminate waste. Any bacteria that may survive is quickly processed out. This is also another reason not to mix raw and kibble. Raw and kibble digest at two different rates. Kibble is slower and can slow the process of eliminating raw waste from the body. While carnivores (on a raw diet) process food in 3-6 hours, omnivores/herbivores (on amore plant based diet) process food in over 24-72 hours which means food material is left to gather bacteria in the gut and potentially cause bacterial contamination.
Aside the fact that mountain lions take a week to eat a whole deer or that a wolf buries their food and digs it up a week later, most pet owners will be feeding human grade meats which are fit for human consumption and stored in temperatures conducive to avoid bacteria growth. Although our companion can handle the bacteria load with the afore mentioned sanitation practices there really should be no problem.
Although it can be hard to control what the pet food industry is saying and doing in their production facilities, you as a pet owner can make a difference in your own home when it comes to preventing illness and contamination. Regardless of what you feed your companions cleanliness and sanitation is important. Just imagine how you would feel eating off of dirty plates, drinking from water that sat around for days and walking in your own waste. It isn’t a pleasant notion. So do your companion a favor and keep their environment clean and your family safe from bacteria and other food contaminants.