Contamination, or at least the potential for contamination, with Salmonella is a frequent cause for concern with both pet foods and human food products. Several recent pet food recalls have occurred due to the threat of contamination with Salmonella. Historically, these types of recalls are not uncommon.
Recently, a study published in Pediactrics magazine (September 2010, “Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Contaminated Dry Dog and Cat Food, 2006-2008”) reported “the first documented outbreak of human Salmonella infections linked to the use of multiple brands of dry dog and cat food.” According to the study, 79 patients were identified with almost one-half of those involved (48%) being children less than two years of age.
This study has been the source of worry for many parents and seems to indicate that very young children may become infected with Salmonella from infected pets or contaminated pet foods more readily than other individuals.
Pets and Salmonella Poisoning
The most common symptoms seen with Salmonella poisoning in dog and cats are:
- diarrhea that may or may not be bloody in nature
- lack of appetite
Pets may be infected with Salmonella without showing signs of disease as well. Dogs and cats receiving raw meat diets have been reported to have an increased incidence of Salmonella infection.
Salmonellosis in People
Salmonellosis, or Salmonella poisoning in people is usually accompanied by symptoms such as:
- nausea and/or vomiting
- diarrhea, possibly bloody
- abdominal cramps
Much less often, salmonellosis can cause more serious disease in people, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms.
Salmonellosis is more likely to affect very young children and seniors. Immunosuppressed individuals are also at higher risk.
Protecting Your Family from the Treat of Salmonella Poisoning
There are several precautions that can be taken to protect your family from infection with Salmonella.
- Make sure that all family members wash their hands thoroughly and often. Hand washing is especially important after handling pet foods or pet feces.
- Avoid allowing young children to handle pet foods or pick up pet feces. If unavoidable, have them wear gloves when doing so and wash their hands thoroughly after they have discarded the gloves.
- Do not prepare pet foods in the same area that you prepare your family’s food.
- When preparing your pet’s food or feeding your pet, do not use the same utensils and dishes that you use for preparing and serving your family’s food.
- Do not allow pets to play or “counter surf” in areas where your family’s food is prepared.
- Keep pets out of the kitchen when you are preparing food for your family.
- If your pets show signs of illness consistent with salmonellosis, have them examined by your veterinarian immediately.
- Family members with symptoms consistent with salmonellosis should be examined by a physician.
Though salmonellosis can be a threat to both pets and people, taking some simple precautions can help protect your family in the event that your pet does become infected.