Peanut Butter has grabbed the spotlight in the latest Salmonella recall and some of those peanut butter treats can also affect our pets. Besides making your pet sick, pets infected with Salmonella can pass the bacteria back to humans and humans can pass it back to our pets. So, what exactly is Salmonella?
Salmonella are a type of bacteria that are common throughout the world. The classification is gram negative, anaerobic bacteria similar to E.Coli and other bacteria found in fecal material. Humans and animal become infected with the bacteria through ingestion of contaminated food or water, or through contact with an infected host. Exotic animals such as turtles, lizards and other animals, can also harbor Salmonella as well as the water the turtle lives in. Salmonella is considered a Zoonotic disease because it can pass from humans to animals and animals to humans.
All species of domestic animals are susceptible to Salmonella, although dogs and cats seldom develop disease. In pets, Salmonella can cause acute diarrhea, dehydration, and vomiting. In younger or debilitated pets, the symptoms may be more severe, and some pets can harbor the bacteria for months without becoming ill. Salmonella has been know to cause conjunctivitis (an eye infection) in cats, but this is rare.
Salmonella bacteria are susceptible to many disinfectants, including dilute bleach and other household cleaning agents. Heat also kills Salmonella, so most processed dog food that is heat treated, kills the bacteria. Raw dog food diets have been shown to also harbor the bacteria. In these cases, the dog on a raw food diet may not show any signs of illness, but in fact may be harboring the bacteria and then pass it back to humans. Raw eggs also can harbor Salmonella. I, and many veterinarians, do not recommend feeding raw food, including eggs, to your pets for this reason.
Most humans and pets recover from a Salmonella infection without treatment after a short 4-7 day illness classically characterized by diarrhea. In rare cases, the diarrhea can become severe enough to result in dehydration and hospitalization. The very young, the elderly and the immune compromised are the most susceptible.
What can your do to avoid Salmonellosis?
- Cook poultry, ground beef and eggs thoroughly. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw milk. This also includes feeding raw foods to your pet.
- If you are served undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs at a restaurant, don’t be shy, ask your server to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking. Also, you may ask for a fresh jar of dipping salsa at your favorite bar or Mexican cantina.
- Wash your hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry. Do not use the same cutting board to cut meat, and then cut the vegetables for your salad without first bleaching or disinfecting. Bacteria can also hide in the cuts of your cutting board and then contaminate your food.
- Be especially diligent when preparing food for infants, the elderly or the immune compromised.
- Wash hands after handling, turtles, reptiles, birds, baby chicks or after contact with pet feces.
- Don’t work with raw meat or poultry and an infant at the same time ( feeding or changing a diaper)
- Wash hands after handling dog or cat treats, especially teach children to wash hands after feeding their pet or playing with their pet.
- Carry a hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes in your purse or car for those times when there is no running water.
- You don’t have to be a “Monk” or OCD about cleaning, but a due course of diligence is warranted when handling raw or undercooked meats and foods or playing with pets.
For further information, I have included a list of Resources:
Complete Peanut Butter Recall List http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm#PetFood
CDC Salmonella Report http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/dfbmd/disease_listing/salmonellosis_gi.html
Download Salmonella pdf report