Salmonella and Our Pets -With the recent Peanut Butter Recall, Salmonella once more has become headline news. Salmonella is a bacterium that can affect both humans and animals and can be passed from human to animal and animal to humans (reverse zoonotic disease). Most infections occur through ingestion of contaminated food or water or through close contact with an infected host. In the Peanut Butter recall, contaminated peanuts were used as a flavoring or an additive in products including pet food and treats. Luckily, most dogs and cats infrequently develop disease, but handling the infected treats and then handling food or not washing your hands after handling infected products can transmit the bacteria to humans.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. Not all pets or humans show any signs of illness, but can harbor the bacteria for months, passing the infection to those that are more susceptible; infants, the elderly or the immune suppressed. Severe illness or death can occur in the most susceptible, babies, the elderly or the immune suppressed. Salmonella is most often found in raw meat, poultry, eggs and sometimes vegetables
Cooking products to the proper temperature kills the bacteria. Most often, infections occur with cross contamination, such as cutting raw meat on a cutting board and then cutting vegetables for the salad on the same cutting board or handling a contaminated product then eating or handling food without washing hands. Most disinfectants and dilute bleach will kill the bacteria. Feeding raw meat, poultry or eggs to pets can result with Salmonella infection in our pets. Since some pets may not develop symptoms but harbor the bacteria, they may pass Salmonella in their feces for months and may cause infections in humans.
What can you do to reduce your exposure to Salmonella?
- Always cook food thoroughly. Do not ingest drinks or foods containing raw eggs (This includes licking the beaters when making cake mixes, a bad habit I am most guilty of)
- Wash hands after handling raw meats, poultry, and pets: especially turtles, baby chicks, reptiles and pet feces.
- Wash your hands before eating. (Mothers are always right)
- Wash utensils, cutting boards and plates after handling raw meat and poultry. (When grilling, always use a different plate when taking the cooked meat off the grill.)
- Do not feed pets raw meat, poultry or eggs.
- Wash hands after handling pet treats (pig ears, rawhides, peanut butter treats) or after playing with pets, especially turtles, birds, baby chicks and reptiles.
- When changing diapers, wash hands before handling raw foods. To prevent cross contamination, do not feed babies or the elderly while preparing raw foods.
- If you are served undercooked meats at a restarurant, do not hesitate to send it back for further cooking. Also, you may want to ask for fresh salsa if it looks like it may have been left out too long. Salsa dips have been a source of Salmonella infections in the past.
- Carry a hand sanitizer in your purse or car as extra protection when there is no running water.