How often you wash your dog’s bowl can affect your health

(ORDO NEWS) — The way we feed our pets, store their food and clean their dishes can have negative health consequences if not done properly – for both humans and animals.

Numerous human outbreaks have occurred following contact with E. coli and Salmonella contaminated dog food, which was more likely with commercial and homemade raw food diets. Such diets typically involve cooking for pets in the kitchen, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

However, guidelines for the safe handling of pet food and utensils by owners are limited and their effectiveness is unclear, so the authors of the new study examined the feeding habits of dog owners and analyzed the impact of FDA hygiene protocols on soiling dog utensils.

During casual conversations between veterinary nutritionists, “we realized that when it comes to our own pets, we all store food and maintain hygiene differently,” says Emily Luisana, study co-author and small animal veterinary nutritionist.

“When we realized that the (FDA) guidelines were relatively unknown even among professionals, we wanted to see what other pet owners were doing.”

Luisana is on the Veterinary Advisory Board of Tailored, a dog food company. Caitlin Getty, another co-author of the study, is a scientific veterinarian for NomNomNow Inc., a pet intestinal health and nutrition company.

No company funded this study, and the authors did not report any competing interests. The focus of the study is on how owners handle any dog ​​food, not the food brands themselves.

The researchers found that 4.7% of the 417 dog owners surveyed were aware of the FDA’s recommendations for pet food handling and dish hygiene – 43% of participants stored dog food within 5 feet (1.5 meters) of human food. 34% washed their hands after feeding and 33% prepared dog food on surfaces intended for humans.

Fifty owners (68 dogs in total) took part in an eight-day bowl-contamination experiment. The authors took bowl swabs for bacteria, known as aerobic bacteria counts, and then divided the owners into three groups: bowls and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after use, discarding uneaten food in the proper manner and storing dry food in the original bag.

Group B had to follow the FDA guidelines for handling food for pets and humans, which also required washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water; scraping food off dishes before washing; washing dishes with soap and water hotter than 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 C) for at least 30 seconds, drying thoroughly with a clean towel, or using a National Sanitation Foundation certified dishwasher washer and dryer.

Group C was not given any instructions, but was told when the second swab would take place.

The practice followed by Groups A and B resulted in a significant reduction in dish soiling compared to Group C, the study found. Dishes washed in hot water or in the dishwasher decreased by 1.5 points on the soil scale compared to dishes washed in cold or warm water.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations “for cleaning and disinfecting human utensils are based on achieving a 5 log reduction in bacteria,” the authors write. A decrease of 1.5 logs is equivalent to a decrease in the number of microorganisms by 90%-99%; a 5 log decrease means that 99.999% of the microorganisms were killed.

Contamination of bowls in group C increased between swabs. None of the dog owners in group C washed the bowls for eight or so days after the authors collected the first bacterial sample, “although they were informed that FDA guidelines existed and the bowls would be reanalyzed” – Luisana said.
“This shows that publicizing existing recommendations is not enough by itself,” she added.

According to the authors, such training is especially important for vulnerable populations such as immunocompromised people.

According to studies published over the past 15 years, pet food utensils rank high among the most contaminated household items, sometimes even having a bacterial load close to that of toilets.

However, 20% of people in groups A and B in the current study said they were most likely to follow hygiene instructions for a long time, and even fewer – 8% – said they were most likely to follow all given recommendations. .

“Our research shows that pet owners turn to their veterinarian, pet food store, and pet food manufacturers for food storage information and hygiene advice,” Luisana said. Pet food companies study their products both in the lab and at home, and then make storage and handling recommendations on labels or websites, she said.

Further research on the implications is needed, but Luisana expressed her hope that pet owners and veterinarians use the results of this study to consider the impact of food hygiene on the health and happiness of pets, immunocompromised people, and zoonotic diseases that spread between animals and humans.

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