Pets can get food poisoning just like humans can. They are susceptible to some of the same food-borne illnesses as people, and they can suffer from the same miserable symptoms. Salmonella, for example, can contaminate your pet’s food and make him or her sick, and it can also be spread from pet food to human food. For that reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) outlines some precautions pet owners can take to help protect their pets—and themselves—from food poisoning. Developing healthy habits around handling pet foods can reduce the risk of post-purchase contamination and keep the entire household safer.
Formulated Pet Foods vs. Raw Food Diets
While acknowledging that some people choose to feed their pets raw foods, the FDA strongly advises against feeding pets raw meats of any kind. Instead, it recommends buying commercial products designed specifically for animals. Because contaminants can get inside even the sturdiest commercial packaging, always check containers for rips, tears or dents before making a purchase as these can indicate improper handling somewhere along the supply chain. Buy only products that are in good condition with no signs of damage.
Safely Prepare Pet Food
Preparing pet food often requires little more than putting kibble in a dish. While it seems straightforward, there are a few extra steps required for safety. Pet food is usually served in dishes reserved for pets only. However, these dishes are often washed far less frequently than dishes used by humans. The practice of using dirty serving bowls puts pets at risk. Serving dishes for animals should be washed after each use. The same is true for serving utensils. Handwashing is another important part of the feeding process. Hands need to be thoroughly washed before and after handling pet food.
Safely Store Pet Food
Pet foods need to be stored in a way that preserves freshness and prevents contamination. Dry foods need to be stored in a cool, dry location, and wet foods need to be refrigerated after opening. If the temperature gets above 80ºF, it’s too hot to safely store pet food. Ideally, the original package should be put inside a plastic container that seals with a stay-tight lid. This prevents contamination and keeps the food from going stale quickly. Wet foods need to be thrown away or refrigerated promptly at 40º F. When discarding foods, be sure pets can’t access the garbage.
Signs of Food Poisoning in Pets
Pets who are suffering from salmonella-related food poisoning will usually display symptoms within 6 to 72 hours. Symptoms include a high fever, vomiting and diarrhea. They may show a lack of interest in food and low energy levels. If a pet is displaying any of these food poisoning symptoms, a vet should be consulted to determine the correct diagnosis and the best treatment. Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed to combat salmonella food poisoning. In addition, IV fluid therapy may be necessary to combat the associated dehydration.
Pet food needs to be handled with the same amount of care as human food. Proper hand washing, dish cleaning, food preparation and proper storage can help prevent food-borne illnesses in pets. Keep pets away from trash cans to prevent them from eating contaminated food scraps that can cause food poisoning. Following these tips can help keep pet, along with their owners, safe from food poisoning.