By Dr. Zeoli, Associate Veterinarian

bowl_of_dry_catfood-600x583Just like in humans, food safety is important for our pets, and is commonly overlooked.  You probably know about the contaminated treats coming from China recently. So many types of food and treats can be contaminated with bacteria or toxins that can cause sickness. In addition, if the contaminated food is not handled properly it may cause food borne illness in humans too, especially children, elderly, and sick individuals.

It is important to practice good hygiene when handing your furry friends’ food. Remember to wash the food and water bowls daily with soap and water to prevent microbes from multiplying and causing your pet to get sick. After all, you wouldn’t use the same plate everyday without washing it. Washing your hands before and after feeding them is also important to protect your pet and your family from food borne illness. And remember to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water.

Food storage is also important because they cannot speak to us and let us know that their food tastes funny (well, maybe some of them can). If they are a finicky eater, they might not eat food that went rancid and may become inappetent. However, if they aren’t picky they might still eat it and get sick.

• Canned food should be thrown away after 3 days and should be kept covered in the refrigerator until then.

• Canned food should be taken away and the food bowl cleaned, when they are finished eating.

• Dry food can go rancid if not properly stored. Always store it in a cool, dry place. If within your budget, buying small bags will ensure freshness.

• If you purchase large food bags, make sure to store them in air-proof containers.

• Always check the expiration or “best by” dates!

It is also very important to be aware of pet food recalls. This website is a great one to bookmark because it provides the latest information on any food or treat that was recalled and the reason why (most are due to bacterial contamination). You may have also heard in the media about chicken jerky treats made in China causing illness and death in dogs. Please read this safety alert for jerky treats by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

As a last word of advice, even if there are currently no recalls for products, I recommend being safe and choosing not to feed jerky treats, unless you know the origin, until everything is handled.

We want to hear from you.  What are your thoughts and concerns about pet food safety?  Leave us a comment about what’s on your mind.