Should you handle pet food in the kitchen?
Should you handle pet food in the kitchen?

Do you feed your cats and dogs in the kitchen? Do you wash their food bowls and water bowls in the kitchen sink?

A report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association warns that you are putting your family and the family dog at risk of salmonella infection.

Many reports of salmonella outbreaks tied to pet foods and treats have been reported in recent years. Is the pesky bacteria increasingly prevalent, or is everyone becoming more vigilant?

"That's a hard question to answer. We do have better reporting mechanisms," said Christine Hoang, a veterinarian in the US who also has a master's degree in public health. She's the assistant director for scientific activities at AVMA, and educating the public is part of her job.

She said people should not panic about any of this because no one was at huge risk, although "salmonella is everywhere".

The good news is, there are many tips to prevent the spread of salmonella.

Pet water bowls, food bowls and the scoops used to fill them should be washed "routinely with hot soapy water in a sink other than in the kitchen or bathroom", according to the report written by veterinarian Kate S. KuKanich.

Here are more tips from the JAVMA article:

- Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling pet food and treats.

- Discourage young children, the elderly and the immuno-suppressed from handling pet food and treats.

- Pig ears should be purchased in sealed packages rather than from open bulk bins.

- Avoid raw-food diets for pets.

- Make sure the packaging of all pet-food products is in good condition when you buy the items. Return to the store products that appear tainted, discoloured or have a bad odour.

- Follow label instructions for food storage. Dry foods and treats should be stored in a cool, dry place.

- Many people transfer food from bags and boxes to "better" storage containers. That's fine, but hang on to the original packaging, especially the date and product codes, so that if there's a product recall for salmonella, you'll know whether your pet's food was affected.

If your infection-control safeguards have failed, salmonella symptoms can range from mild to severe in people and in animals. Look for gastrointestinal symptoms, Hoang said.

In animals, it's usually diarrhoea. In people, it can be diarrhoea and vomiting. Bloody diarrhoea is never a good sign, and should prompt a call to the doctor or vet.

The West Australian

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