Feeding raw meat diets to high-performance dogs such as racing Greyhounds and sled dogs has been a common practice for some time. In recent years, many companion-animal owners have also begun feeding pets a raw meat diet. Proponents of BARF diets claim that such diets support a state of ‘supreme wellness’ in dogs.1 Feeding dogs a BARF diet purportedly increases energy and lean body mass, may resolve certain health problems (eg, dental, skin, anal sac, arthritis, and ear problems), and increases resistance to internal and external parasites.1 Claims regarding the health advantages associated with feeding raw meat have not been objectively supported with scientifically valid data.2-6
A number of public and animal health concerns may be raised in association with feeding raw meat to pets. Although proponents of BARF diets maintain that bacterial contamination of raw meat is of no consequence for > 99% of dogs,1 disease outbreaks resulting in morbidity and death in companion animals fed raw meat have been reported.5-10 All raw meat products, whether intended for consumption by humans or pets, may potentially be contaminated with Salmonella spp, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter spp, Yersinia spp, Giardia spp, Toxoplasma spp, Neospora spp, Cryptosporidium spp, Echinococcus spp, Clostridium spp, Staphylococcus aureus, and others.2,5,11 Not only does feeding these diets pose a risk to the animals consuming them, but there is also risk to humans from preparation and handling of the raw meat and from contact with pathogens if the companion animal becomes infected, clinically or subclinically, with a pathogen from the diet. In 1 study,4 30% of fecal samples from dogs fed a homemade BARF diet contained Salmonella serovars. Salmonellosis in humans may result from direct contact with infected animals.12 The purpose of the study reported here was to evaluate commercially available raw meat and processed canine diets for contamination with NTSEC, Salmonella spp, and Campylobacter spp via bacterial culture and with Neospora spp, Toxoplasma spp, and Cryptosporidium spp via PCR assay for DNA.
Biologically appropriate raw food
Non–type-specific Escherichia coli
American Type Culture Collection
Minimum inhibitory concentration
BBL, Sparks, Md.
Indole reagent, Anaerobe Systems, Morgan Hill, Calif.
Difco, Sparks, Md.
Hardy Diagnostics, Santa Maria, Calif.
Campylobacter thioglycollate medium with 5 antimicrobials, BD Biosciences, Sparks, Md.
CampyGen atmosphere generation system, Oxoid Ltd, Hampshire, England.
Merlin, Bornheim Herschel, Germany.
DNeasy tissue kit, # 69504, QIAGEN, Valencia, Calif.
Model 4800 thermocycler, Perkin-Elmer, Foster City, Calif.
GenBank genetic sequence database, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Bethesda, Md. Available at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Genbank/index.html. Accessed May 12, 2004.
Billinghurst I. Give your dog a bone. The practical common-sense way to feed dogs. Alexandria, Australia: Bridge Printery, 1993.
Weese JS, Rousseau J, Arroyo L. Bacteriological evaluation of commercial canine and feline raw diets. Can Vet J 2005; 46: 513–516.
Joffe DJ, Schlesinger DP. Preliminary assessment of the risk of Salmonella infection in dogs fed raw chicken diets. Can Vet J 2002; 43: 441–442.
Stiver SL, Frazier KS, Mauel MJ, et al. Septicemic salmonellosis in two cats fed a raw-meat diet. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2003; 39: 538–542.
Lucas SRR, Hagiwara MK, Loureiro VS, et al. Toxoplasma gondii infection in Brazilian domestic outpatient cats. Rev Inst Med Trop Sao Paulo 1999; 41: 221–224.
Fredriksson-Ahomaa M, Korte T, Korkeala H. Transmission of Yersinia enterocolitica 4/0:3 to pets via contaminated pork. Lett Appl Microbiol 2001; 32: 375–378.
Chengappa MM, Staats J, Oberst RD, et al. Prevalence of Salmonella in raw meat used in diets of racing greyhounds. J Vet Diagn Invest 1993; 5: 372–377.
Stone GG, Chengappa MM, Oberst RD, et al. Application of polymerase chain reaction for the correlation of Salmonella serovars recovered from Greyhound feces with their diet. J Vet Diagn Invest 1993; 5: 378–385.
LeJeune JT, Hancock DD. Public health concerns associated with feeding raw meat diets to dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001; 219: 1222–1225.
Outbreaks of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Typhimurium associated with veterinary facilities—Idaho, Minnesota and Washington, 1999. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2001; 50: 701–704.
Yamage M, Flechtner O, Gottstein B. Neospora caninum: specific oligonucleotide primers for the detection of brain “cyst” DNA of experimentally infected nude mice by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). J Parasitol 1996; 82: 272–279.
Hill DE, Liddell S, Jenkins MC, et al. Specific detection of Neospora caninum oocysts in fecal samples from experimentally-infected dogs using the polymerase chain reaction. J Parasitol 2001; 87: 395–398.
Homan WL, Vercammen M, De Braekeleer J, et al. Identification of a 200- to 300-fold repetitive 529 bp DNA fragment in Toxoplama gondii, and its use for diagnostic and quantitative PCR.
FDA, Center for Veterinary Medicine. Manufacture and labeling of raw meat foods for companion and captive noncompanion carnivores and omnivores. Guidance for industry #122. Available at: www.fda.gov/cvm/Guidance/Guide122.pdf. Accessed Aug 9, 2005.
Altekruse SF, Stern NJ, Fields PI, et al. Campylobacter jejuni-an emerging foodborne pathogen. Emerg Infect Dis 1999; 5: 28–35.
CDC. Campylobacter infections—general information. Available at: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/campylobacter_g.htm. Accessed May 12, 2004.
Scorza AV, Brewer MM, Lappin MR. Polymerase chain reaction for the detection of Cryptosporidium in cat feces. J Parasitol 2003; 89: 423–426.