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Poor pet-feeding hygiene can put owners’ health at risk, researchers say

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How often do you wash your dog’s food bowl and food scoop? If you’re not doing it daily, and not washing your hands before and after feeding pets, you could be putting your health – and your furry friend’s – at risk, researchers are cautioning.

For their study, the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine researchers surveyed more than 400 dog owners about their pet feeding and food dish hygiene habits.

The interaction between owners, pets and their food “creates the opportunity for mutual exchange of microbial contaminants from food or water, dishes, and the food storage or preparation environment,” the researchers write in the study. “There have been multiple outbreaks of both humans and dogs becoming ill after exposure to dog food contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.”

Children and immunocompromised individuals can be at even greater risk, they add.

Results of the survey show that fewer than 5% of the dog owners were aware that the Food and Drug Administration offers pet food handling and storage guidelines to help reduce the spread of bacteria. Recommendations include washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water before and after handling dog food, washing food dishes and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after each use, and using the scooping utensil only for pet food.

 

Only 12% of the owners said they wash their dog’s bowl at least once a day, while 18% said they wash it only once every three months or not at all. Meanwhile, 87% don’t follow the FDA’s recommendation to wash a food scoop/utensil with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds after each use.

Other findings:

  • 22% of the owners say they wash their hands before handling dog food; 38% do it afterward.
  • 32% prepare their dog’s food on the same surface they prepare their family meals.
  • 44% store their dog food less than 5 feet from human food.

The researchers say their findings show a need for increased awareness and education about safe pet food handling, especially for high-risk populations.

The study was published online in the journal PLOS One.

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