"We see that more and more people are feeding [cats and dogs] this kind of product and we know that meat is infected with bacteria and parasites", said Paul Overgaauw, co-author of the new research from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
After thawing the meat, the scientists looked for the presence of salmonella, listeria, E coli and antibiotic-resistant E coli as well as two types of parasites: species of Sarcocystis and Toxoplasma gondii - a parasite that, among its risks can cause problems in babies.
"Despite the relatively low sample size of frozen products in our study, it is clear that commercial RMBDs may be contaminated with a variety of zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings", the researchers warned.
Researchers say that there are cases where cats have died after eating raw meat.
By feeding this diet to pets, owners are not only risking the health of the animals but also their own health.
"This can be through direct contact with the food; through contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands; through contact with household surfaces; or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food", he added.
Experts are warning dog and cat owners to be aware of the risks associated with feeding their pets raw meat-based diets (RMBDs), instead of the more conventional dry or canned pet foods. In an email, the study authors said that raw-meat pet foods for sale in the United States are "without a doubt similar" to those tested in the study. The foods contained raw meat, bones, and animal by-products from beef, duck, chicken, lamb, and horse, along with additional ingredients.
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On the contrary, cats and dogs that eat raw meat diets are more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals that are fed typical pet food.
Others argue that it's more natural for a carnivorous species to eat raw meat products.
Warnings and handling instructions should also be included on product labels and/or packages, they advise.
He also believes that pet owners should be educated-by vets, pet stores, and pet-food companies-about the importance of personal hygiene and proper handling of these foods, so they can make the best decision for their pets and for themselves.
"As an evidence-based working veterinarian, I don't support these products", he says-not only because of the risk of infection, but because not all of them offer complete and balanced nutrients that dogs and cats need to grow and stay healthy.