What is the risk of a dog contracting salmonella from being fed raw chicken? Upon being told that I feed a raw diet, one vet politely said that she would be concerned at the risk of salmonella - and another (who is a close friend) told me I was absolutely crazy to feed raw chicken. The latter believes that all chicken is contaminated by the time it leaves the processing plant. Needless to say I am horrified that I may have been unnecessarily putting my dogs' health at risk - and my family's too. I can't recall coming across any mention of salmonella in the books and articles I have read on feeding a raw diet. Incidentally I transport chicken home from the supermarket in a coolbag and then freeze it.
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Richard Allport, alternative vet, advises:
Well, let’s start with how you or your family could pick up Salmonella bacteria: poultry, eggs, melons, lettuce, sprouts, salad mixes, tomatoes and peanut butter can all be contaminated with Salmonella.
Your dog could pick up Salmonella from poultry and other meats and also from dried dog food. There is an assumption that processed pet food is ‘sterile’ – it isn’t, and there have been several cases of dogs contracting Salmonellosis from eating kibble type dog foods.
However, it is true that it is statistically more likely that dogs will pick up Salmonella from raw chicken than from processed food. Keeping chicken cool during transportation then freezing it will certainly help, it doesn’t kill the bacteria but it does stop it multiplying, so there will be fewer bacteria present.
However, picking up Salmonella doesn’t mean picking up Salmonellosis. Confused? OK – tests have shown that some dogs fed on raw chicken passed Salmonella in their faeces. But these dogs were perfectly healthy, with no digestive upsets. They had the bacteria but no symptoms. Salmonellosis, as a disease, means that the bacteria multiply rapidly and cause food poisoning symptoms. This rarely happens in raw fed dogs, possibly because as they are raw fed they have good immune systems and don’t succumb to the condition.
So even if your raw chicken contained Salmonella and your dog picked up the bacteria, it is most likely that your dog would remain perfectly healthy and (this bit is very important) as long as you follow normal hygiene precautions about handling raw meat, you and your family will not be at risk.
I have been feeding raw chicken to my dogs for years, as have many of my friends and colleagues. I have never yet met anybody or heard of anybody feeding raw food who has had a case of Salmonellosis in their dogs or themselves.
Nothing in life is risk free, but the risk of Salmonellosis to you, your family and your dog by feeding raw chicken is absolutely tiny, if you are sensible about hygiene (don’t forget that dogs can pick up Salmonella from processed dog food too). The health benefits to your dog from a raw food diet are huge and far outweigh any minute risk from Salmonella.