Feeding Your Dog Raw Food Could Contribute To Antibiotic Resistance

Raw dog food has been a trend that has been growing in popularity in recent years, with doggy parents feeding their beloved furbabies raw foods like bones, fruit, vegetables, and meats. Now, researchers are warning that there may be dangers lurking in this diet.

Scientists delved into the poop samples of over 600 healthy pet dogs and surveyed the owners on the dogs’ diet, walking routes, and whether they had ever been treated with antibiotics. The scientists mainly looked at fluoroquinolone resistance (FQ-R) in the bacteria species Escherichia coli. The findings reveal that there is a high association between feeding dogs uncooked meat and them having FQ-R E. coli 

E.coli has long been a problematic key opportunistic human pathogen, found in the foods, environments, and intestines of both humans and animals. Some strains can make people ill and can cause issues like urinary tract infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, respiratory illness, and many others.

One of the treatments for E. coli infection is fluoroquinolone antibiotics. This group includes ofloxacin, delafloxacin, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, and moxifloxacin, and has been classed by the World Health Organization as a critically important antimicrobial. These drugs have been used in both human and veterinary medicine to treat farmed animals and companion animals.

Due to them having such a broad spectrum of uses against bacterial pathogens, the FQ-R E. coli rates have increased, and as such, the use of these antibiotics has decreased. There is also an added concern that FQ-R E. coli can be transferred from dogs to humans.

In a new study, the researchers looked at the doggy poop samples and found that the excretion of FQ-R E. coli was heavily associated with feeding raw meat, especially the FQ-R E. coli that is normally found in cattle. There have been other studies that have found this link in the past.

“Our aim was not to focus on raw dog food, but to investigate what might make a dog more likely to excrete resistant E. coli in its faeces. Our study found a very strong association between excreting ciprofloxacin-resistant E. coli and feeding dogs a raw food diet,” said study author Dr Jordan Sealey, Research Associate in the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM), in a statement.

“Raw meat – whether intended for human consumption after cooking or sold as raw dog food – is likely to be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant E. coli. Cooking kills the bacteria and good hand hygiene reduces the immediate risk of these bacteria being swallowed and getting into a person’s intestines,” explained study author and Professor of Molecular Bacteriology in CMM, Matthew Avison, lead author.

“Choosing to feed a dog raw meat means a person almost certainly has to handle the raw meat, and our research is clear that raw feeding also means pet owners are likely to be interacting with a pet that is excreting resistant E. coli.”

“Individual measures to reduce the risk of resistant bacteria being excreted by dogs include changing to a non-raw food diet or sourcing good quality raw meat that can be cooked, and then cooking it. Most raw food sold for consumption by dogs is not of a quality that can be cooked, and can cause a serious health hazard to dogs if cooked.” Sealey added.

“Choosing to feed a dog meat from animals raised on farms in the UK, or other countries with very low usage of critically important antibiotics in farming, may also decrease the risk of them eating resistant bacteria with their dinner.”

To tackle the rise of antibiotic resistance, the authors recommend that raw dog food companies should be testing meats for antibiotic resistance and source products from farms with appropriate antibiotic usage policies.

This paper is published in the journal One Health.

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