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Salmonella In Raw Cat Food? It’s Less Likely Than You Think

Vets warn of the risk, but most recent pet food recalls over Salmonella have involved kibble.

 |  Apr 21st 2014  |   11 Contributions


I don’t know what grinds my gears more: Veterinarians who pooh-pooh raw diets because they seem to think cats can’t possibly get sufficient nutrition from any food that’s not fabricated at a massive factory where “research” and “science” has supposedly created a food better than a cat’s natural prey, or those who try to scare cat caretakers away from raw food with fears of Salmonella or other horrific infections.

This dismissal of raw diets as dangerous for people and cats is particularly loathsome given the sheer number of commercial pet foods and pet treats recalled due to potential Salmonella contamination.

In the last year alone, there were five recalls of major brands of cat kibble, including a couple of "high-end" brands, for that very reason:

If vets really were scared that their patients or clients could be contaminated with Salmonella from the stuff they feed their cats, they would be begging people not to buy kibble.

Poor kitty! Are you scared you're going to get Salmonella from your kibble? Photo CC-BY John Hritz

What galls me here is not that people feed their cats kibble; it's the hypocrisy of the veterinary establishment. Vets know more than anyone else just how many commercial kibble products are recalled for Salmonella and other reasons because the AVMA sends out regular bulletins with the latest recalls, yet they advise clients against feeding raw based on something that’s more of a problem in the commercial pet food industry than anywhere else.

And because veterinarians still regularly trot out the bogeyman of OMG GERMS with raw food, the largest therapy animal organizations continue to refuse to certify raw-fed dogs and cats as therapy pets. Judging from the sheer scope of the kibble and treat recalls, patients with weak immune systems are more at risk from cats who eat “regular” food and dogs who chew on pig ears and bully sticks than they are from raw-fed pets.

To be fair, there were two raw food recalls due to potential Salmonella contamination in the last year as well: Bravo issued a voluntary recall of three of its raw frozen food formulas and BARF World recalled two of its raw dog formulas. But again, the scope of the kibble recalls dwarfs those of the raw food recalls.

Instead of terrifying clients with the specter of Salmonella contamination from feeding a species-appropriate diet, veterinarians would be better served to get more knowledgeable about nutrition and do some serious research about the benefits and potential pitfalls of a raw diet. Of course, you know as well as I do that no major commercial pet food company is going to fund those studies.

What do you think? Is the fear of raw food founded, or do you agree with me that it’s overstated? Have you or your cats ever gotten Salmonella from kibble or from raw food? I’d love to hear your stories -- please share them in the comments.

Read stories of interest on Catster:

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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