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Your Pet’s Food Bowl Is a Big Risk for Infection, Experts Warn – Consumer Health News

WEDNESDAY, April 6, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Do you wash your dog’s food bowl every day?

Do you wash your hands before and after filling it?

Do you prepare Fido’s food in a different place than where you prepare your own?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you may be putting your health and the health of your pet at risk, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

For their new study, they surveyed more than 400 dog owners about their animal feeding habits and sampled bacteria from pet food dishes.

To put it bluntly, as the researchers wrote on April 6 in PLUS ONEThe findings suggest a need to educate pet owners on pet food handling and hygiene “to minimize bacterial contamination of dishes, especially for high-risk populations.”

Fewer than 5% of dog owners surveyed were aware of the US Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines on pet and human food safety, and many did not follow them at all.

Only a third of pet owners said they wash their hands after feeding their dog. About 22% said they wash their pet’s bowl once a week and 12% said they wash it every day. But 18% said they didn’t wash their dishes more often than every three months, and some never.

(The FDA recommends lathering up before and after feeding your pet and washing spoons and bowls with hot, soapy water after each use.)

“Just the fact that so many people didn’t even know about this is unfortunate,” said study co-author Dr. Korinn Saker, a professor of clinical nutrition at NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, who said the food containers for pets should carry information on safe feeding to raise awareness.

“I feel like pet companies should step up,” he said. “They have a lot of information on their label.”

Pets and pet food can carry pathogens, including E. coli and SalmonellaSaker said, which could cause severe illness in an immunocompromised person and a severe case of diarrhea in a pet.

For the study, the researchers also sampled 68 dog bowls belonging to 50 pet owners for bacteria. They didn’t isolate or identify specific bacteria, they just noted their presence, Saker said.

The owners were divided into three groups. Group A was asked to follow FDA pet food handling guidelines. Group B followed FDA guidelines for both pets and people. Group C did not follow any guidelines.

The team then tested the dog dishes a week later. Compared to Group C bowls, bacteria levels were significantly decreased in Group A and B bowls. Washing the bowls with hot water proved to be more effective than using cold or lukewarm water.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside, N.Y., said the key to avoiding any problems for the people in your pet’s life is the same advice your mother gave you: Wash your hands. hands after handling pets, their food and dishes.

Most healthy people won’t experience problems even if they come into contact with these bacteria, said Glatt, who was not involved in the study. But those who are immunocompromised need to be more cautious.

“Any time an immunosuppressed person is surrounded by bacteria and is not careful about hygiene, they are going to run into problems,” he said. “I could substitute for this pet bowls, toilets, sinks, bathrooms, touching subway rails, doorknobs.”

The best way to wash your hands is to use soap and water and wash vigorously for about 20 to 30 seconds, advice that many Americans have heard since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Clean under your nails, especially if yours are longer.

“I think it’s important to do studies like this, but I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that if you come into contact with potentially contaminated things, and who wouldn’t have thought that a dog bowl is a? potentially contaminated? Then wash your hands and don’t leave them near your food. You wouldn’t cook next to your bathroom,” Glatt said.

Health experts have long known that people live in a world full of germs, said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Wherever there is an element of moisture, protein or plant matter, there is a microbial population and, he said, that includes in the mouths of all mammals, from humans to dogs to penguins.

“If you then go and culture the dog bowls, we shouldn’t be surprised or very surprised that we find bacteria,” said Schaffner, who was not part of the study.

Still, he warned against worrying too much about catching diseases this way.

Like Glatt, she reiterated the importance of good hand hygiene, whether you’re handling a dog bowl or preparing your own dinner.

While all study groups A and B learned the guidelines for safe feeding of pets, only 8% said they were likely to adhere to cleaning protocols long-term.

“I thought it was unfortunate to get that kind of response,” said researcher Saker.

“We may need to do a follow-up study that actually identifies the concentration of pathogenic bacteria in these bowls based on how they are washed or not washed and cleaned to change people’s minds,” he noted. “But people are people, I guess. If it didn’t affect them, it’s not something that’s going to change their behavior.”

More information

The US Food and Drug Administration has more on handling pet food safely.

SOURCES: Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, professor, clinical nutrition, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh; Aaron Glatt, MD, president, medicine and chief, infectious diseases, Mount Sinai South Nassau, Oceanside, NY; William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine, Department of Health Policy and professor of medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn.; PLUS ONEApril 6, 2022

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