DEAR READERS: I strongly advise against feeding dogs, cats and ferrets any raw meats because of bacterial contamination from inhumanely raised factory farmed animals. Raw meat is likely to carry drug-resistant E. coli. This is an animal and public health risk that can sicken, or even kill, family members.
Salmonella is another common contaminant of pork, beef and poultry. While high-temperature cooking kills such harmful organisms (but does not remove residual endotoxins), it also denatures proteins, lowers the nutrient value and produces carcinogens. Irradiation kills these bacteria, but results in radiolytic breakdown products, which have killed cats fed irradiated canned cat food. In addition, animal parts condemned for human consumption, along with animal remains from roadkill, are rendered and included in livestock feed and many pet foods. (For details, see Susan Thixton’s post, “What are rendered ingredients?” at truthaboutpetfood.com/almost-everything-about-rendered-pet-food-ingredients.)
The safest option is to purchase pet foods made with meats from certified humanely raised farm animals. The foods should be slowly air-dried to retain nutrients, as with Wisdom’s dog foods and the Honest Kitchen’s cat and dog foods, all made with human-grade food ingredients.
All meat and meat-byproduct ingredients should be tested and declared safe by mainstream pet food manufacturers. This includes venison, which could be contaminated with the prion that caused the epidemic of chronic wasting disease in deer across the U.S. Like the prion that caused mad cow disease in the U.K., this deer prion could also jump to other species and cause disease.
Poultry ingredients should be tested and declared free of avian H5N1 influenza virus, which is responsible for the inhumane extermination of millions of factory farmed chickens and turkeys to control the spread of the disease. Fox cubs have died in Michigan, in Minnesota and in Ontario, Canada, following consumption of infected birds. Dogs and cats could also be at risk, which is another reason to keep cats indoors and dogs away from dead birds.
Safer alternatives are on the horizon of the now $37 billion U.S. cat and dog food industry, in the form of plant-based complete protein and fat substitutes. Some are already arriving on the market.
DEAR DR. FOX: My partner and I have both been ill with COVID-19. Can our 18-month-old goldendoodle catch it from us? And if so, what symptoms should we be aware of? -- S.M., Trenton, New Jersey
DEAR S.M.: I hope you and your partner are in recovery and have no long-term consequences from this viral infection. It can indeed be passed on to dogs, cats, ferrets and hamsters by infected humans in the same home.
It is most notably infective of farmed mink, and mink have in turn infected humans. But there is no evidence to date that in-home pets can serve as reservoirs and infect humans. Many animals in zoos have become infected, including great apes, lions and other big cats. In the wild, white-tailed deer have been infected in several states.
Usually, the symptoms are mild in dogs, who may show respiratory problems and fever -- similar to the symptoms seen in dogs infected with a strain of the influenza virus this year, which can also infect cats.
People who test positive for COVID-19 should take every precaution in handling in-home animals by wearing a mask, washing hands before and after handling, and ideally isolating themselves and having others take care of their animals.
MORE HEALTH BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN WITH DOGS
The health benefits that dogs provide for children include a reduction in the incidence of allergies and a decreased need for antibiotics for ear infections. Now, a study presented at Digestive Disease Week 2022 reports that children who have close contact with dogs early in life may be less likely to develop Crohn’s disease. These findings support the belief that exposure to microbes early in life supports healthy immune function. Cat ownership at a young age was not similarly associated with a lower Crohn’s disease risk, said study leader Williams Turpin. (Full story: Healio, May 23)
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)