Keep in mind I feed Raw, and have therapy dogs, just would like other people's views)
The officers of Therapy Dogs of Vermont have been working very closely with our veterinary and medical expert, Dr. Will Eward, regarding the risks associated with therapy dogs who are fed a raw food diet.
In short, raw food diets contain pathogens which can be transmitted from the dog (through saliva and contact with the dog's fur) to humans. These pathogens can cause life-threatening illness to both dogs and humans. This has been well documented by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as many other authorities. Although the risk is small, just as it is for rabies, the outcome of transmission to a very sick, very old, or very young patient would be just as devastating. One can not assume that even while visiting a "healthy" environment that there will not be people with weakened immune systems.
Thus, TDV will release a policy that no therapy dog may be on a raw food diet. TDV will communicate this officially once that statement has been decided upon.
Please review Will Eward's short research findings and explanation on this issue. Please do not hesitate to send questions to the TDV account (Questions@Therapydogs.org). These questions will forward to Will. Position Statement on Raw Food Diets in Therapy Dogs
Raw food diets have exploded in popularity among dog owners during the past decade. While this practice was previously unique to select groups of canine athletes (namely racing Greyhounds and distance event sled dogs), it is now an increasingly common practice among dog owners of all varieties.
Consumption of raw food diets has long been known to pose a risk of enteric infection to the dog consuming raw meat (just as we humans are at risk from consuming raw or undercooked meat). A 1993 study found that the raw meat diets being fed to Greyhounds contained Salmonella 44.6% of the time (2). That this exposure translates into illness in even healthy dogs and cats has been well-documented in the literature (3,4) as well as in my personal experience.
Zoonotic diseases are those which can be transmitted between animals and humans (and vice versa). It is well known that the pathogens found in raw food diets - including Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., Escherichia coli O157, Yersinia enterolitica, Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium perfringes, Clostridium botulinum, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus - are common to both dogs and humans (4). A 2002 study found not only that 80% of raw food diets in their study population contained Salmonella, but that 30% of the dogs in question tested positive for Salmonella in their stool (5). This finding has naturally led to concerns about the public health risks of dogs being fed raw (or undercooked) meat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that most cases of human Salmonellosis are caused by four serovars: S. enterica ser Enterididis, S. ser Typhimurium, S. ser Newport, and S. ser Heidelberg (6). These are the same serovars encountered in canine Salmonellosis (6).
The FDA cautions that Salmonella infection "can cause flu-like symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea) in normally healthy people, but may cause far more serious - even life-threatening injury in immune-compromised patients. Elderly people, young children, and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk."
The potential for human exposure from dogs fed raw meat diets has been described in the literature (4,6). While a healthy individual may have a low level of concern, the level of concern for the immunocompromised is very high.
I feel strongly that the scientific evidence points to a very real and very devastating risk. Admittedly the risk is small, but 1 in 1000 is not such a small number if you are the parent of an immunocompromised child on Baird 5 who dies or becomes very ill from an exposure which could have been easily prevented.
My recommendation is that we (TDV) not allow dogs being fed raw food diets to become therapy dogs. I am aware that one person has alluded to New York's policy of spraying down therapy dogs with Listerine prior to visits. While this is for the members to decide, I certainly would not want my dog routinely sprayed down with Listerine.
I expect that the current trend will continue: that the risks of raw food diets to both pets and their human contacts will continue to become known. However, in the unlikely event that the safety of therapy dogs eating raw food is scientifically proven, I would be all too happy to modify my position.
It is worth noting that even proponents of raw food diets acknowledge that there is currently no evidence to support that dogs receive a health benefit from eating raw food diets (1). Stogdale and Diehl (who support the responsible use of raw food diets) acknowledge, "To our knowledge, feeding home-prepared cooked or raw diets has not been proven to control medical problems, based upon prospective, double-blind, statistically significant clinical trials." (1). However, many veterinarians (myself included) have observed anecdotally that certain gastrointestinal diseases in the dog appear to respond favorably to raw protein sources. It is unfortunate for these very few dogs that their dietary requirements would preclude them from interacting with the very young, the very old, and the very sick. However, for most owners who simply choose to feed a raw food diet, they will be required to choose between this diet and their dog's volunteer activities.
Summary: I've made a position based on what has been demonstrated in an evidence-based manner. Namely: 1) There are pathogens which cause life-threatening illness to both dogs and humans. 2) These pathogens are found in raw and undercooked meat. 3) These pathogens are transmitted to dogs fed raw and undercooked meat. 4) These dogs shed these pathogens in their feces (which means that their fur is also contaminated, just as you have harmless E. coli from your feces on much of your body.) 5) The CDC is concerned about the risk of these pathogens and that's good enough for me. 6) Although the risk is small, the outcome of transmission to a very sick, very old, or very young patient would be devastating.
I can *kind* of see their point, which is why expose humans with weakened immune systems to more potentially dangerous pathogens. Would you accept your dog being sprayed down with Listerine, out of curiosity?
We love our dogs, but they eat poop, eat THEIR poop, roll in dead things, pick through the garbage... If this is what the club is concerned about... maybe therapy dogs should be eliminated alltogether!
I believe thats true, otherwise the dogs being fed a raw diet would become ill themselves, Which is not the case. However I did wonder about the possiblity of a dogs fur, face and ears (if long eared) containing reminense of the raw partical. I believe that is what the article is getting at. I do however only think its a concern due to the population the dogs could visit, Serverely immuno compromised individuals. Which could potentially lead to rare outbreaks of food born illnesses such as Samonella, Ecoli and Campylobacter. Its also one of reasons why we don't want rats in our restuarants. They can contain bacteria on their fur and leave that bacteria where ever they go. Is it a stretch.. yeah probably. But I can understand the concern.
Like I said, if there ever where a slim chance it could happen one would have to be immuno compromised. A healthy adult could probably fight off any minor contamination that could be possible. Thats all I was saying. Not saying that cause you feed your dogs a raw diet your will become sick.
I'm in the *kind of * seeing there point also.the older you get and with lots of health issues your immune system weakens to the point that a common cold can be life threatning to some elderly people.however,the fact that there is all kinds of health scares with poultry and in the past beef doesn't help either.I don't think they should keep therapy animals away from patients because they are on raw diet,I think it is a shared responsibility.wandering_spirit you take care of your animals dishes and so on just like you would your own dishes and so on...... if someone is in therapy with an immune system that is weak or prone to getting infections wouldn't it be easier to find a different source of therapy? I find nothing wrong with the raw diet but,as you can plainly read not eveyone feels the same.I don't think they should ban therapy dogs.....maybe limit the patients based on the patients health risk. if that makes any sense.
This would ,make total sense, these dogs see elderly people and young children with seriously comprimised immune systems. Any one that is sick, cancer patients, or just elderly should stay away from any animal that may carry parasites or what ever.And really any animal could be carriers and we may not know it, even when you do a stool sample at the Veterinarian, there is a good possibility that the cycle of the parasite, has caused it to become undetected.
i can agree about the fear of contamination being greater for some , than others. i know that from experience. i have mrsa. i will always have it. it lives in my bloodstream. where did i get it ? havent a clue. can i spread it to others ? sure can . if it is in the outbreak stage. when my immune system in low, i have a greater risk of an outbreak. i have to be extremely careful as to what i come in contact with. any form of bacteria that would may be insignificant to others, can be life threatening to me. the sa in the word mrsa , means Staphylococcus Aureus. it is one of the bacterias that is a concern in raw fed dogs. so yes, i can fully understand how raw fed dogs can be a greater concern to people that are at greater risks for bacterial infections.
mrsa is : methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. and it is not picky who it chooses. i am a clean fanatic. i keep myself and my house clean. i always wash my hands in public restrooms and never sit on public restroom seats. actually i rarely leave my house. so i do not know where i contracted it. am thinking maybe in the hospital , during my hand surgeries, but just dont know for sure. its scary really.
that is very interesting. scout is certified as a therapy dog, but i have never actually taken her to a nursing home yet. i always wondered what i might bring home with me, never what my dogs may transmit to the patients.
i guess they have a valid concern, i just wonder how they will know who feeds what ?
dusty I am pretty sure you got your mrsa from the hospital! It is rampant in hospitals along with cdif. I have worked in long term care as a therapist for a long time and the number of people that come from the hospital with either infection has sky rocketed over the last few years.
As to therapy dogs we have several dogs that actually live where I work. They are fed reg. dog food, kept up on all shots and parasitemeds. They are always locked up during meals. All employees and residents are required to wash hands after them to lower risk of infection.
As to the raw diet a neighbor of mine fed her great dane a raw diet and she did not monitor it closely enough and her dane ended up dying from it.
Dusty Thanks for sharing. I have to agree sounds like if you are as diligent as you said, you may have pick it up in the hospital. You can take home all kinds of things from a hospital stay. My nieghbor went in for heart surgury and came home with Hep C. You just never know.