The raw meat you toss to your dog may be a hit, but it may also lead to dangerous antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, a new study suggests.
An analysis of data from more than 200 4-month-old puppies reveals that even at that young age, dogs were more likely to carry antibiotic resistant strains of E. coli if they had been fed raw meat, British researchers reported in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
“When farmed animals are killed for meat, bacteria they carry in their intestines often contaminate the meat,” said study coauthor Matthew Avison, a professor of molecular bacteriology at the University of Bristol School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.
“If a dog eats that meat uncooked, the bacteria on that meat can end up colonizing — setting up home in — the dog’s intestines,” Avison said in an email. “This can cause disease at some time in the future, or get passed on to other individuals, for example, the dog’s owner.”
The new research shows that antibiotic resistant bacteria from meat can end up colonizing dogs,” Avison said. “This is bad because those antibiotic resistant bacteria can then cause antibiotic resistant infections in the dog or, more likely, people who pick up the bacteria and these infections would be difficult to treat” or even fatal.
So where’s the antibiotic resistant bacteria coming from?
“Farm animals carry antibiotic resistant bacteria for all sorts of reasons — including but not only the use of antibiotics to treat farm animal — and we should definitely be trying to reduce the amount of antibiotic resistant bacteria being carried by farm animals, but that is going to take some years. if it’s possible at all,” Avison said. “What we are doing here is suggesting how to block one possible way that these bacteria can get into the home and so into humans.”
The bottom line: “don’t feed your dog raw — uncooked — meat,” Avison said.
The new study adds to the accumulating evidence that feeding raw meat to dogs can lead to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, said Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, a professor of clinical nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Similar research prompted one of the larger dog therapy groups to ban the feeding of raw meat in therapy animals, Wakshlag said.
This issue is why vets say they prefer dog owners not to feed raw meat, Wakshlag said. Raw meat gets a lot of promotion on social media, with some proponents suggesting that feeding meat raw can lead to a better coat, more pleasant breath and improved digestion, he added.
In general “if you cook meat it doesn’t lose much in terms of nutrients,” Wakshlag said. Balance that against the fact that raw meat can be a source of listeria and E. coli, he added.