Salmonella in Pets 101
One of the main issues for pet owners who are considering switching their cat or dog from a commercial food diet to a raw one is the risk of salmonella. It is common knowledge that raw meat carries salmonella, but what does this mean for your pet?
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacterial organism that causes the foodborne illness salmonellosis. It has been known to cause illness for over 130 years and there are a number of different ways this bacteria can be spread among humans.
One way is by eating contaminated food which includes: raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs and egg products, raw or unpasteurized milk and dairy products, and raw fruits and vegetables.
Another way is by handling contaminated food or touching contaminated surfaces. If people do not wash their hands after this contact and then touch their mouths, they are unknowingly transferring the bacteria and will fall ill. As well as this, touching animals that carry salmonella and any of their belongings can also spread the bacteria.
Salmonella in Animals
Many animals can naturally carry salmonella without showing any signs of infection. Amphibians and reptiles like turtles, lizards and snakes carry it in their gastrointestinal tract, as well as cattle, chicken and rodents. The salmonella bacteria is then shed in their stool which is where contamination is further spread.
It can contaminate their skin and their habitats, including objects that surround them. Even though they may seem healthy and clean, you should always wash your hands after handling them to prevent salmonellosis.
Salmonella in Pet Cats & Dogs
As common as salmonella is in some animals, it is a lot less common in cats and dogs. It only occurs when a large enough number of the bacteria organisms are ingested and has the ability to overcome stomach acidity in order to become ingrained among the normal intestinal bacteria.
Young animals with underdeveloped immune systems and older animals with weak or compromised immune systems are most at risk of salmonellosis. If pets are receiving antibiotic therapy, they are also at risk due to the imbalance of the healthy bacteria that lines their digestive tract.
Clinical signs of salmonellosis in your pets is normally limited to acute diarrhoea. Sometimes, other signs will be vomiting, loss of appetite, low energy levels, fever and bloody diarrhoea.
Treatment of Salmonella in Dogs
If your dog shows any of the clinical signs above, you should see your vet as soon as possible. For uncomplicated cases of salmonellosis, outpatient treatment is usually possible and care normally includes rehydration; sometimes cases will resolve on their own, but it is still safe to visit your vet too.
In more severe cases, inpatient care will be necessary with fluids and antibiotic medication being administered. If your dog has other illnesses in addition to salmonellosis, this may cause further problems, so it is better that they are hospitalised.
Is a Raw Diet Safe for Pets?
When you feed your pet a raw diet, the portion sizes mean that the amount of salmonella bacteria is not so overwhelming to cause any illness. Your pets’ natural digestive enzymes and stomach acidity is stronger than a humans, so the bacteria does not stay in their body for long and will not cause any harm.
The only risk it poses is human contamination when handling the raw food. To make sure you do not spread the salmonella bacteria, follow our hygiene guidelines for raw feeding and embrace the benefits a raw diet can bring to your pet.