When making cookies, the best part for me was eating the raw cookie dough. However, my brother was never a fan of it. He would always tell me that he did not want to risk getting sick. I, on the other hand, did not mind taking a risk to enjoy the raw dough. Recently, I realized an important risk for getting sick from raw dough was contracting a disease called salmonellosis, from the Salmonella bacteria. In fact, there are many ways that animals and humans can get this type of infection.
Salmonellosis is the name for the disease that develops after getting infected with Salmonella bacteria. The bacteria typically live in the intestines of animals and are shed through feces. Animals can become infected with the bacteria by consuming contaminated feed and water, living in contaminated pens, or contacting infected animals. Salmonella can also pass from livestock mothers to their offspring during birth or while nursing.
Animals including reptiles, amphibians, poultry, rodents, small mammals, farm animals and house pets are considered “carriers” of the bacteria. Typically, carrier animals appear asymptomatic, presenting with no clinical signs of illness. However, these species can also have clinical infections with diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting and high fevers. Salmonellosis is a zoonotic disease, which means humans can become infected from animals. In humans, symptoms include diarrhea, high fever, stomach cramps and vomiting (The Center for Food and Security and Public Health, 2006). If clinical signs appear, they usually occur within five to seven days after exposure.
Salmonella-contaminated pet products such as raw foods, pig ears and other treats, and even dry dog foods are also potential sources of infection. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) cautioned owners about feeding their pets Performance Dog frozen food dated after July 22, 2019, because a sample tested positive for Salmonella (U.S. FDA, 2019). Humans can become infected from ingesting raw or undercooked foods such as meat, eggs, or unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
If any clinical signs of salmonellosis are present in livestock, a veterinarian should be consulted. Depending on the animal species, the type of Salmonella bacteria and the state in which a farm is located, a local veterinarian may report the infection to the state veterinarian. Salmonellosis can be treated with supportive care and fluids. In serious cases, antibiotics or IV fluids might be required. It is important to keep in mind that in some cases animals that are infected can be asymptomatic and appear healthy. Testing animals regularly can identify carriers.
Biosecurity precautions are very useful in limiting the spread of Salmonella bacteria from carriers or clinically affected animals. The following livestock biosecurity measures can reduce the risk of infection:
- Isolate any animals that are showing signs of illness.
- Clean up animal feces and dispose of it properly.
- Disinfect animal living quarters regularly.
- Vaccinate animals against Salmonella.
- Regularly sample populations to check for Salmonella.
Humans can avoid contracting salmonellosis by:
- Washing hands with soap and water right after:
- Contact with animals, their environment, and feces.
- Contact with pet food and products.
- Using the restroom.
- Cleaning any surfaces or environments animals may have come into contact with.
- Never eating or drinking around high-risk carriers (turtles, frogs, chicks).
- Cooking all food thoroughly before eating.
Salmonellosis is a contagious disease of animals and humans that has many sources. Routinely practicing biosecurity will limit the risk of infection from these sources. These measures will also reduce the risk of infection from a multitude of other disease-causing agents.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015, September). Healthy Pets, Healthy People – Salmonella Infection. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/salmonella.html
The Center for Food and Security and Public Health (2006). Salmonellosis [PDF File]. Retrieved from: http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/FastFacts/pdfs/nontyphoidal_salmonellosis_F.pdf
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019, September). FDA Cautions Pet Owners Not to Feed Performance Dog Raw Pet Food Due to Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-cautions-pet-owners-not-feed-performance-dog-raw-pet-food-due-salmonella-listeria-monocytogenes
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