Vets warn that kids can get sick from pet foods


by KING 5 HealthLink

Posted on October 12, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Randy Neppl's 18-month-old son, Haught, is at the age when he's crawling all over the house, including in the kitchen, where the family's yellow lab, Buttercup, also has his meals.

"To be honest, when he started crawling, his favorite toy was the dog bowl and he would throw it everywhere," she said.

What Randy didn't realize was that she was putting her son at risk of getting sick from dangerous bacteria like salmonella that could be lurking in some pet foods.

Veterinarian Ashley Hughes says many people don't realize the risks, but they should.

"You're dealing with an animal product. Most of the food is cooked and that will destroy salmonella, but if anything is added after the cooking process, like a flavoring, then that can increase the chance of a salmonella contamination," she said.

Since 2006, the Food and Drug Administration has issued 13 pet food recalls due to salmonella contamination. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found that from January 2006 through October 2008, 79 people developed salmonella poisoning after coming in contact with tainted pet food. Thirty-two of those cases were in children age two or younger.

"If the foods were contaminated and you were to touch it and not wash your hands and get it into your system, then yeah, you could contract it," said Dr. Hughes.

It's not just salmonella, E.coli and other toxins have been the source of past pet food recalls.

Getting sick from your pet food is uncommon, but when it happens, it can be severe, causing stomach pain, diarrhea, fever, even death. Fortunately, it's easy to avoid. Dr Hughes says a key safety practice is keeping pet food away from the kitchen.

"There was a recent study that came out that found that people who fed their dogs or cats in their kitchen were four times more likely to contract a bacterial infection from their food," said Dr. Hughes.

That means feeding your pets in another room and using specific utensils just for pet food.

Dr. Hughes also says to make sure you wash your hands after you handle pet food. And keep kids under five years old away from pet food, treats, and feeding areas.