Consumer Reports: Is raw pet food right for your dog?

There's a growing and controversial trend in pet care: the raw food diet.

It's not just cutting up raw meat - sales of commercially prepared raw pet food have soared - more than tripling in the last seven years.

Proponents claim better health and more energy in their pets. But Consumer Reports said raw food can be dangerous for both the animal and their families.

Kaibab is a 6-year-old mixed-breed who loves to run free in the mountains and woods. Owner Gregory Kanter attributes the dog's health and energy to a diet of raw supermarket chicken.

"Her coat is shiny. Very healthy looking teeth," Kanter said.

However, Consumer Reports said an exclusive diet of raw meat may not contain everything your pet needs, whether it's from the meat aisle or is a commercial formulation found in the pet section.

There are also safety concerns. Public health agencies and many veterinarians, including Dr. Daniela Goldman, said raw food can contain bacteria like Salmonella, E.coli and Listeria.

"Even raw pet food that you buy commercially, prepared in a pet store, is still potentially dangerous because it can still contain harmful bacteria," said Julia Calderone, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

The symptoms in animals?

"Certainly seen vomiting and diarrhea come in with raw food diets," Goldman said.

"The harmful bacteria in raw pet food is not only potentially dangerous for your pet, but it could be harmful for anyone in the home too," Calderone said.

That's because the bad bacteria can be transferred to whatever the raw food touches.

If you do choose to feed your pet raw food, Consumer Reports said to take these important precautions:

-Use hot soapy water to clean everything the raw food has touched.

-Then disinfect either with a commercial product or a solution of one tablespoon bleach and four cups of water.
-Wash your hands vigorously for 20 seconds with warm water and soap after handling raw food, playing with your pet or cleaning up after her.
-Kisses from your pet can also transmit bacteria. Avoid that as well.

Consumer Reports said before making any big changes to your pet's diet, consult with your veterinarian to ensure your pet will be getting all the nutrition it needs and to discuss any safety issues.

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