Many of us love our pets. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2018 Pet Ownership & Demographic survey, about 57 percent of households in the United States include at least one pet. And in Wisconsin, 59 percent of households own a pet: 33.6 percent of households own a dog, and 32.4 percent own a cat. Data trends from the American Kennel Club also show the number of pet owners has increased in recent years – as well as the amount of money pet owners are willing to pay for high quality pet care, food, insurance, and safety. At the same time, there has also been higher usage of pet food pantries by low income residents of Wisconsin in recent years, which allows those experiencing economic hardships to keep feeding their beloved companions.
Pet owners are also now preparing fresh foods for their pets from brands such as The Farmer’s Dog, Spot & Tango, and Ollie to name a few. Unfortunately, many pet owners are unaware of the proper way to handle fresh pet food. A survey study found that many participants do not follow hygiene guidelines when it comes to preparing and handling pet food, which can carry bacteria, like E.coli and salmonella. So it is important to properly handle pet food to avoid the spread of bacteria that can be harmful to both humans, especially those who are immunocompromised, and to our pets.
To properly handle pet food, both researchers and health experts suggest owners store and prepare pet food in a safe and secure area separate from where food for human consumption is stored and prepared. They emphasize the importance of pet owners thoroughly washing their hands before and after handling pet food and to clean their pet’s bowls after every feeding to decrease the spread of bacteria. It is also important before handling food to check the packaging for visible signs of damage, such as dents, tears, and discolorations. They also offer guidance for those pet owners who decide to follow raw food diets for their pets.
The CDC, FDA, and many veterinarians do not recommend owners give their pets a raw food diet as it can pose a threat to the overall health of the pet from nutritional imbalances and increased risk of harmful bacteria spreading within a household. However, for owners who want to pursue these diets, the advice these sources give are to wash hands with soap and water right after handling any raw pet food, clean and disinfect any and all surfaces that had raw food on it, freeze raw pet food away from other food until ready for use, do not thaw on a countertop or in a sink, and throw away any food the pet does not eat.
Improving how we research, purchase, and handle our pet’s food will ensure that we are protecting our furry friends from harmful bacteria and diseases. Pets are precious members of our families and we want to ensure they are happy, healthy, and well taken care of.