Salmonellosis outbreak linked to raw animal food
An outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonella is currently under investigation. Infection frequently occurs when people come in contact with a dog that has eaten raw meat. Those affected by salmonella are primarily children aged two or younger. Puppies in litters fed raw meat have also become infected and died.
Raw feeding is not suitable for all animals, particularly pets in families with young children or other vulnerable members.
Feeding your pet a raw meat diet carries a certain amount of risk of disease for both you and your pet, who may become sick due to bacteria like salmonella and other microorganisms, which are normally eliminated in the cooking process.
Make sure that your pet’s food meets its nutritional needs and that you follow all relevant storage and handling rules.
Higher contamination risk for raw food
Raw pet food can include food, treats and chew toys.
Commercial raw food is not without risk for animals and the humans around them. Raw meat often contains parasites and disease-causing bacteria.
Dry food like kibble and canned wet food like pâté are subject to heat treatment, which is safer than the treatment used on raw meat. Cooking reduces the infection risk for animals and humans who handle their food.
The main methods for raw meat treatment (dehydration, drying, freeze‑drying, freezing) do not remove all disease-causing microorganisms. Cooking is still the best way to reduce this risk.
Raw food products should be handled with care. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Risks to pets
There is a chance that pets who eat raw meat may contract an infection. Young or very old animals, or animals with weakened immune systems, are most at risk for infection or disease.
Some animals who contract an infection may be asymptomatic or only have moderate symptoms.
Keep a careful eye out for more serious symptoms. The infection may be getting worse if you notice any of the following:
- Loss of appetite
Risks to people
Animals who contract an infection from eating raw food can usually only pass it on to humans orally. People who touch an animal’s food, food bowl or surfaces that have come into contact with the animal or its food are also at risk of infection.
Both healthy and sick animals can spread infection through contaminated saliva and excrement. The infectious microorganisms can sometimes be found in stool several weeks later.
Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to infection. Young children are the most at risk, as they frequently stick objects and their fingers in their mouth.
The best way to lower the risk of infection is not to feed your pet raw meat. Animals who are in contact with people vulnerable to infection should not be fed raw meat.
Storing raw food
Properly store raw food to reduce the risk of contamination.
Food to keep refrigerated or frozen
Some raw and cooked food should be kept in the fridge or freezer, including:
- Raw meat and all raw food containing meat
- Cooked meat and all cooked food containing meat that isn’t commercially sterile
Some examples include meat-based meals and patties made of a raw meat mixture with or without fruits, vegetables and other ingredients.
Food to keep at room temperature
Some treated foods can be kept at room temperature. These include foods made with raw meat that has been processed so it can be preserved without temperature control (this may or may not have involved heat treatment).
Some examples include freeze-dried treats, dehydrated liver treats or dried pig ears.
There are a number of handling recommendations that will limit the risks to your pet and the people who come into contact with it. Follow these guidelines when handling your pet’s food, especially raw meat.
When you buy the food, check the packaging and label for any important information, such as the ingredients and expiry date. Follow all relevant storage and handling instructions. Any meat or other food you serve your pet must be edible.
Thaw in the refrigerator only as much of the food as you need. Place it in a container on the bottom shelf so that the juices do not run off and contaminate any of the items in your fridge. Do not let your pet’s food touch any other food.
Keep your pet’s food or food bowl out of the reach of children.
Once you serve your pet, you have 30 minutes until you must throw out any uneaten raw meat.
Cleaning and sanitizing
Clean and sanitize the bowl, along with any surfaces or equipment that touched the raw meat. Don’t forget to clean the kitchen sink.
After cleaning surfaces and equipment with soap and water, sanitize them with a disinfectant solution of 5 millilitres of bleach (sodium hypochlorite) diluted in one litre of water. You must prepare a new solution every day.
Bowls and other smaller items can be washed in a dishwasher with a Sanitize cycle (Sanicycle in French), which will clean and then sanitize these items.
Wash your hands with soap and water after touching your pet, its saliva or excrement or its food or food container.
It’s important to know where the pet food you buy has come from. Contact the manufacturer directly for more information about a product’s ingredients, quality and safety.
Commercial pet food products made in Québec are marked with a “PG‑000” number that indicates the rendering plant in Québec where they were prepared.
Products made in Québec are subject to certain requirements and inspections. Producers must hold an Atelier d’équarrissage permit (category: Préparation générale) from the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors products produced outside of Québec or Canada.
Last update: November 24, 2023