A study has concluded that feeding dogs a raw meat diet could increase their risk of excreting antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli (E. coli).
The results highlight that the E. coli being excreted is resistant to the commonly used antibiotic ciprofloxacin, which could have One Health implications.
The research involved scientists from the University of Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM) looking for ciprofloxacin-resistant E. coli from the intestines of 600 healthy pet dogs. They also asked the dogs’ owners to answer a survey which provided information about their dog, the dog’s diet, where they had been walked, and if they had been treated with antibiotics.
This allowed the team to use the microbiology data alongside the survey results to conduct statistical analysis, which revealed that the most significant factor with the excretion of E. coli was a raw meat diet.
These latest results support other published studies which associate feeding uncooked meat to dogs, and those dogs excreting antibiotic-resistant E. coli. When dogs excrete this resistant bacteria into the environment or at home, there is an increased risk of it spreading to humans.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria is considered a major One Health concern in both the human medicine and veterinary industries. The publishing of this study coincides with World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week, which aims to inform the public of the dangers of improper antibiotic use.
Antimicrobial resistance can be the result of antibiotics being used unnecessarily, or being disposed of incorrectly, which causes those antibiotics to be less effective at treating some conditions.
GPs in the UK have already reduced their use of ciprofloxacin, which has contributed to a decrease in ciprofloxacin-resistant E. coli from human infections. There has also been a near total cessation of fluoroquinolone use in treating UK farm animals. However, resistance remains very high around the world.
The researchers suggest that changing a dog’s diet to a non-raw diet, or cooking good quality raw meat for pets, could prevent the spread of ciprofloxacin-resistant E. coli through dog faeces. They also suggest those in the raw dog food industry should be incentivised to source meat from farms with appropriate antibiotic usage policies.
Dr Jordan Sealey, research associate in the CMM and one of the study's researchers, said: "Individual measures to reduce the risk of resistant bacteria being excreted by dogs include changing to a non-raw food diet or sourcing good quality raw meat that can be cooked, and then cooking it.
“Most raw food sold for consumption by dogs is not of a quality that can be cooked, and can cause a serious health hazard to dogs if cooked.”
The full study can be found in the journal One Health.
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