Salmonella can come from pets

Yesterday, a local story in a county newspaper in Texas carried the headline, “Salmonella can come from pets.”

The story reported,

“Three cases of salmonella among children in Lubbock County since December 2008 are likely the result of exposure to reptiles, said Judy Davis, a spokeswoman for the city of Lubbock health department.”

The spokeswoman explained that handwashing is the key to preventing salmonella associated with reptiles and amphibians, such as snakes and turtles.

I just wanted to point out that, although less of a problem, handwashing is also important for preventing salmonella infections from furry pets.

In 1999, the CDC received reports from three state health departments of outbreaks of multidrug-resistant Salmonella serotype Typhimurium infections in employees and clients of small animal veterinary clinics and an animal shelter.

The CDC’s report stated,

“Salmonella infections usually are acquired by eating contaminated food [including produce and peanut butter]; however, direct contact with infected animals, including dogs and cats, also can result in exposure and infection.”

Doug and Phebus, at the end of the lengthy video (from September 2008) below, also recommend washing your hands after handling food and treats for your pets… especially when they’ve been recalled.

Pedigree pet food and pregnancy: Managing cross-contamination risks at home

I am now 6 ½ months pregnant and still somewhat peacefully coexisting with our four pets. But pregnancy has meant giving special attention to handwashing and avoiding cross-contamination.
Although I thought I was being overly cautious, on Sept. 13 Pedigree small crunchy bites and Pedigree large breed complete nutrition dry pet food products were recalled due to possible Salmonella contamination (see This appears to be the same food we feed our dogs and I know one of them was throwing up outside yesterday. Of course … she also likes to eat grass and other vomitous materials.

In addition to pet food which may contain pathogens, I pay close attention to the handling of dog treats which have been found problematic in the past. Our dogs have been getting their fill of bones lately because we haven’t had the usual time and energy to devote to their exercise. I try to avoid touching the dog bones when I take them out of the package and I wash the scissors I use to cut the packages open. I always wash my hands afterwards.

It really isn’t easy to think about washing hands every time you feed and pet the dogs, but the following are things I am trying to do to keep me and my future baby safe:

  • regularly wash the dog dishes
  • wash my hands every time I fill the dog water and food bowls (the dogs eat and drink, spreading any microbes from one bowl to the next)
  • wash my hands after opening treats and/or giving them to the dogs
  • wash the scissors after opening treat bags
  • wash my hands after playing with the pets
  • avoid letting the dogs lick my face of hands
  • wipe down the counter where pet treats have touched

These steps are all much more difficult for me than they sound. I’m usually very playful and affectionate with my pets, even though I no longer allow the dogs on the bed or couch. It’s also very difficult to think about handwashing when you are out on a walk with the dogs and give them treats as part of a training process. In those cases I just remind myself not to touch my face or use a wet wipe when I have one handy.

I am still learning after years of taking it for granted that my dogs’ food was safe. Food safety, even for pets, is not simple.

For human symptoms of salmonella poisoning, check out

According to an article in the North Country Gazette (April 3, 2007) related to a past pet food recall:

Pets with salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Apparently well animals can be a carrier and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian

Dog or beef for dinner?

I think it’s funny the way my roommate from India always asks before taking food from anyone if it contains any beef.

If the answer is yes, she tries hard to hide her face of disgust and politely says, “No thanks.”

It is not surprising. Indians consider cows to be sacred and magical, more than what we think of our pets.

I imagine the same reaction in American tourists when scanning the dog section of a restaurant menu during their trip to the Olympics.

The Beijing Catering Trade Association banned dog meat from the Menu of all the 112 designated Olympic Restaurants, to avoid this reaction of dog-loving tourists.

It is a big disappointment for those who were daring enough to try this treat they would never be able to consume in their own countries.

However, it is probably not going to affect the residents, since they don’t tend to eat dog meat during the hot months of summer anyway.

All this fuss about banning dog meat in Beijing during the Olympic season makes me wonder if officers should be more concerned about food safety rather than scaring off a few tourists.

In the end, isn’t killing a dog for its meat the same as having beef for dinner? My Indian roommate would probably agree.

Setting Boundaries: Pets and your newborn baby

My ex mother-in-law once told me that if I had a baby I would have to get rid of my cats. I replied, “No cats, no baby.” My step-brother’s cats mysteriously disappeared once his firstborn was old enough to crawl. Doug and I have two cats and two dogs and no intention of giving them up or sending them outdoors once the baby arrives. Sure, there’s dog hair all over the floors and it’s going to be a hassle learning to manage new and old responsibilities – and much more difficult to keep pet hair out of the baby’s mouth once she’s mobile. But we committed to the pets long ago and have been working on teaching them their order in the home.

The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, recommends that the dogs not even be allowed near the baby’s belongings at first to teach them that Baby is Alpha. Let them sniff at a distance until they know their place. When the dogs go for a walk, it should be behind the stroller, and they shouldn’t get unsupervised visitation, if they are allowed at all, in the baby’s room. It’s all about setting boundaries.

The Worms and Germs Blog by Doug’s ex-hockey buddy Scott Weese (he’s still a buddy but no hockey for Doug in Manhattan) recommends in “Old pet, new baby…new problems?” that we visit our veterinarian and the humane society to get advice on introducing the dogs and cats to the baby. Scott provides relevant downloadable pamphlets from the Calgary Humane Society in his blog post.
We want all four pets and the three of us to survive the transition without nips, scratches, or territory marking. We get enough of that from our friends and colleagues.

Dane Cook in trouble for dog poop

Dane Cook recently spent time in a Beverly Hills courthouse fighting allegations that his mini-Pinscher, named Beast, poops all over his apartment complex.  The management of La Fontaine in West Hollywood took the comedian to court to have him evicted on grounds that he was not properly cleaning up after his dog.

"Neither he nor his girlfriend pick up after the dog," said a source.  "They’ve sent him three notices so far over the last year warning him he’ll be evicted, and they have video. The neighbors all hate him."

Cook’s rep, Ina Treciokas, told the press in April: “Dane vigorously denies the allegations in the complaint and is looking forward to complete vindication through the legal proceedings.”

On Tuesday, the building manager took the stand and told the court that the actor is a serial offender, despite the signs in the gardens warning against animals pooping on the lawn.  He also said he noticed "recurring small black poop being left behind in the backyard."  The manager is alleged to have video footage of Cook’s pooch committing the offense.
Cook faced a trial by jury and he was found guilty 11-1.  His landlord can now officially evict him.

Dog poop contains common pathogens such as tapeworms, roundworms, cryptosporidium, salmonella, e.coli, and many others.  The owners should always  and after picking up dog poop hands should always be washed.

Scooping Poop

“Pick up your dogs’ droppings.”

I’ve seen the street signs for years, but I always thought it was the yuck factor.   As I’ve grown up and gone through high school biology, I’ve learned that it’s not just the yuck factor, it’s also the sick factor.  Dog waste on the sidewalk is a significant contributing factor to the spread many disease, bacteria and protozoa.  Some of the common pathogens are tapeworms, roundworms, cryptosporidium, salmonella, e.coli, parvovirus and many others.

One of the worst culprits is the tapeworm.  They are the single most common infection transmitted by discarded dog poop in United States.
Tapeworms are caused by the ingestion of flea larvae, but also can be caused if an owner tracks flea larvae-contaminated dog poo into the house and a pet is exposed.  In the veterinary clinic I work at during the summers, tapeworms are commonly referred to as rice worms.  They’re easily treated with flea preventative and tapeworm treatment, but even more easily prevented by properly disposing of animal poop.

Doggie doo is also an environmental pollutant.  If the waste is not picked up it will run into the sewers with the rain.  This leads to contaminated streams and seawater.

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Americans owned 68 million dogs in 2000, and 40% of these dogs were large dogs over 40 pounds.  This adds up to a large mess if owners don’t clean up after their pets.

Pet poop is a problem, but what’s the solution?  Many cities have laws concerning scooping poo.  Most states will issue a ticket ranging from $25 to $200 for leaving a dog’s business on the sidewalk.  Australia has even gone so far as to have their own plain clothes poop police approaching irresponsible owners to change their behavior.

How do we take care of it?  Common recommendations are to carry a “doggie doo-doo” sack along when taking a pet out for a walk.  Using flea preventative will help prevent a pet from developing tapeworms from ingesting any flea larvae on their own skin, but they are still susceptible to flea larvae in the environment.  Annual distemper/parovirus vaccinations from a licensed veterinarian will help protect dogs from parvovirus, which is spread through fecal material.

Most importantly, wash your hands after picking up animal waste.  Otherwise get ready for those tapeworms.

Michelle Mazur, guest barfblogger: Gus, the World’s Ugliest Dog

Gus the dog is anything but a beauty queen, but on Saturday he won a contest for his looks.  The World’s Ugliest Dog of 2008 is a three-legged, one eyed, Chinese crested dog, named Gus.  The Chinese crested dog is a popular breed in the contest; in fact eleven of the seventeen contestants for this year are of this breed.  (See all there pictures here)

The World’s Ugliest Dog contest has taken place each year in Petaluma, California since 1976, and each year many people gather to look at faces of dogs that only a mother could love.  It’s kind of like a bad car wreck, these dogs are so disgustingly ugly, but you can’t look away.

There are numerous sites on the web that showcase photos of the cutest, cuddliest pets.  So why do people care about the ugly ones?  I suppose that just as beauty is celebrated throughout the media, it would be only fair to display the ugliness as well.  Many magazines at the checkout line in the grocery stores have photos of celebrities on the red carpet in all their glory, and they also have photos of celebrities looking their worst, without any makeup or fancy clothes.

American culture will continue to celebrate the cutest of the cute pets, but there will always be a special place in our hearts for those truly ugly dogs.

Don’t sleep with dogs, warns chief vet

The first time I met Amy was Oct. 24, 2005.

Ben and I had arrived in Manhattan (Kansas) a couple of days earlier, and our first official function was to serve as the entertainment at a meeting of the Canadian Studies club at Kansas State University. They wanted to see what real hosers were like, and Ben and I wanted free sandwiches, so it worked out well.

Amy said something about being a French professor and I said French food sucked.

At some point we got talking about dogs and food safety, and Amy mentioned that she let her dog sleep on her bed (below) and I said that was a microbiological nightmare.

Or something like that.

Fred Landeg, the U.K.’s acting Chief Veterinary Officer, said today dogs should not be allowed to sleep in their owners’ beds or even in the same room in case they pass on diseases, such as campylobacter and salmonella as well as exotic diseases.

"As a veterinary surgeon I would never advise people to keep dogs in their bedroom."

I was being dramatic when I first met Amy. Our dogs sleep in the bedroom but not on the bed.

Angela Dodd, guest barfblogger: No pee zone

I recently witnessed a different kind of food safety hazard that probably occurs more often than is ever mentioned.
I kicked off last weekend with some classmates — drinks were flowing and the food was disappearing as fast as it could be cooked. Since everyone seemed to be hungry, plates were of no need. As I stood there eating my food I couldn’t help but notice what was going on just across my shoulder. One gentleman had found out how quickly selected beverages run through the body. He had made his way to the fence to relieve himself (since using a toilet would be way to civilized) and decided to place his uneaten hot dog in his mouth in order to free up his hands for other uses. After the job was done, he found it perfectly normal to take the hot dog back out of his mouth and continue eating his dinner

Probably not much of a risk for others, but certainly a yuck factor.
“Don’t Eat Poop, Wash Your Hands”.

Angela Dodd is a Senior in Food Science at Kansas State University — and she washes her hands after peeing.