London : Feeding your pooch with raw meat could pose potential health risks as they contain high levels of bacteria, researchers have warned.
A study by researchers from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Sweden showed that many raw meat products contain enterobacteriaceae species, which are indicators of faecal contamination and hygiene standards.
Such food products can also cause health risks to people, particularly infants, elderly and those with poor immunity, the study said.
A raw meat-based diet has become increasingly popular with dogs in recent years because it is seen as a "healthier natural alternative" to the widely available commercial products.
But unlike commercial feeds, raw meat products are not heat treated or freeze dried to pasteurise, the research team added.
For the study, published in the journal Vet Record, researchers took samples from 60 packs of raw meat samples that were analysed for bacteria, including enterobacteriaceae species -- clostridium perfringens, salmonella and campylobacter.
Nearly 31 samples (52 per cent) contained bacteria levels that exceeded the 5,000 bacteria per gram maximum threshold set by the European Union regulations, said the study.
Escherichia coli was found in about a third of the samples. Clostridium perfringens, another marker of faecal contamination and hygiene standards, was found in 18 samples (30 per cent).
In addition, salmonella species were found in four (seven per cent) of the 60 samples, while campylobacter species were found in three samples from three different manufacturers.
Dogs should not be fed raw meat products while being treated with antibiotics as this could increase the risk of antibiotic resistance, the researchers noted.
"Bacteria such as escherichia coli and salmonella can cause significant gastrointestinal disease in animals," said Daniella Dos Santos, Junior Vice-President at the British Veterinary Association.
"We would advise any pet owner wanting to try a raw meat-based diet to first consult a veterinary surgeon," Santos said.