Many dog owners don't follow guidelines on pet food handling, study finds

Photo (c) Sally Anscombe - Getty Images

Experts say these measures help keep pets and owners safe

A new study conducted by researchers from North Carolina State University explored how ignoring pet food handling guidelines may pose health risks to consumers and their pets

According to the findings, many dog owners are unaware of important guidelines regarding handling dog food. They explained that dog food bowls are a breeding ground for many kinds of bacteria and that it’s important for consumers to keep things clean to avoid contamination. 

“Most pet owners are unaware that pet food bowls can be a hidden source of bacteria in the household,” the researchers wrote. “Knowing how to mitigate this risk and practice proper pet food storage and hygiene may make for a happier, healthier household.” 

Avoiding health risks

The researchers divided the study into two parts to better understand consumers’ knowledge of FDA guidelines for handling pet food and the potential health risks for both dog owners and their pets when these guidelines fall by the wayside. 

The first part of the study included a survey of nearly 420 dog owners. The researchers asked respondents if they were aware of the FDA’s pet food handling guidelines and if they followed them. It was overwhelmingly clear that the dog owners were unaware of the FDA guidelines; just five percent of the group reported knowing about the precautions to take when feeding their pets. Additionally, just one-third of the survey respondents said they washed their hands before and after feeding their pets. 

To understand the health risks associated with ignoring these guidelines, the researchers tested nearly 70 dog bowls for different kinds of bacteria. They then had the dog owners handle their pet’s food in a variety of different ways for one week. When the owners followed the FDA guidelines, the dog bowls were much less likely to be contaminated with any kind of bacteria. 

Following the FDA guidelines

While the team plans to do more work in this area to better understand the health risks for dog owners and their pets, they hope these findings encourage consumers to follow the FDA’s guidelines for handling pet food. 

Some of their tips include: 

  • Washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before and after feeding and any snacks.

  • Washing food bowls and utensils with soap and hot water after each use.

  • Using clean utensils to scoop pet food for each use.

  • Throwing out old pet food in a safe way.

Consumers can view all of the FDA's safety tips by visiting the agency's website here

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