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.

Cats eating better than their owners

I’ve just started my first year of veterinary school, and after only two days into the program, I’ve been contacted by at least five pet food companies touting their premium pet food that is healthy for pets and tasty as well.  I suppose that pets enjoy the variety of flavors, but a new study from Australia suggests it’s doing more harm than good.

Deakin University scientist Dr Giovanni Turchini
has discovered an estimated 2.48 million tonnes of forage fish – a limited biological resource – is consumed by the global cat food industry each year.

This puts cats ahead of people as far as consumption rates go; pet cats are eating an estimated 13.7 kilograms of fish a year, which far exceeds the Australian average (human) per capita fish and seafood consumption of around 11 kilograms.

Just as obesity has become a major epidemic among Americans, it is also an epidemic among pets.  These tasty canned foods with enticing flavors such as “shredded yellowfin tuna fare” only encourage pets to grow wider around the belly all while pet food companies continue to cook up new ideas for making cats want their food.

What happened to cats eating regular dry food?  Though, even the dry food goes overboard for Fancy Feast, which touts three different flavors for the finicky cat.  With the slogan of “A bowl full of ‘I love you,’” Fancy Feast has definitely gone overboard in pampering cats.  If you love your pet, then why are you feeding it a high-fat meal?

The luxury products containing fish unfortunately are contributing to the overfishing problem worldwide.

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.

Sandbox safety and poop — Michelle Mazur

Cats view sandboxes as a giant litterboxes.

Uncovered sandboxes can pose a threat to a child’s health if there is fecal matter in the sand.  Dogs, raccoons, and especially cats may use this area as a bathroom space.  These animals are known to carry many parasites, such as hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and coccidia.

If a child puts her fingers in her mouth, she can be infecting herself with the eggs of a parasite.  In some cases, the hookworms will penetrate the skin, causing a condition called cutaneous larva migrans. In 2006, a summer camp in Florida reported an outbreak of cutaneous larva migrans involving 18 campers and four staff members. Cat feces in a sandbox was thought to be the source of the infection.

Scott Weese, a veterinarian and publisher of the Worms and Germs blog, said recently,
"There’s certainly no indication that children should not go into sandboxes. These are extremely rare diseases that affect a very, very small number of people in North America every year."

But if a child puts a handful of sand in his mouth, that might just be the winning ticket to the parasite lottery.

Some preventative measures to keep the parasites out of the sandbox are:

~ Cover the sandbox when it is not in use.  Commercial sandboxes come with covers, or a simple board with a brick on top of it will help to keep wild animals out of the sandbox.

~ Supervise children when they are playing in the sandbox and prevent them from putting their hands in their mouths.

~ Always, always, after coming in from playing outside, wash your hands.

Should cats be allowed to control rats in N.Y. deli’s?

Across New York City, the owners of delis and bodegas say, in this morning’s N.Y. Times, they cannot do without their cats, tireless and enthusiastic hunters of unwanted vermin, that typically do a far better job than exterminators and poisons.

Urszula Jawor, 49, the manager of a corner store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said of her cat that,

“In the morning she is lazy, it is her nap time. But in the afternoon she is busy. She spends hours stalking the mice and the rats.”

The story says that to store owners, the services of cats are indispensable in a city where the rodent problem is serious enough to be documented in a still popular two-minute video clip on YouTube from late February ( of rats running amok in a KFC/Taco Bell in Greenwich Village.

Store-dwelling cats are so common that there is a Web site,, dedicated to telling their tales.

But, the story notes that the city’s health code and state law forbid animals in places where food or beverages are sold for human consumption. Fines range from $300 for a first offense to $2,000 or higher for subsequent offenses.

Robert M. Corrigan, a rodentologist and research scientist for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said,

"Any animal around food presents a food contamination threat. And so that means anything from animal pieces and parts to hair and excrement could end up in food, and that alone, of course, is a violation of the health code."

Mr. Corrigan was cited as conceding that some studies have shown that the smell of cats in an enclosed area will keep mice away, but he does not endorse cats as a form of pest control because, he explained, the bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and nematodes carried by rats may infect humans by secondary transfer through a cat.

Still, many store owners keep cats despite the law, mainly because other options have failed and the fine for rodent feces is also $300.

José Fernández, the president of the Bodega Association of the United States, said,

"It’s hard for bodega owners because they’re not supposed to have a cat, but they’re also not supposed to have rats."

It’s delicious… It’s tailgating!

In college football, the Kansas State Wildcats opened at home tonight in Manhattan with a somewhat boring 34-14 victory over San Jose State. The Cats are full of surprises, and not always good ones. When you think they have the other team in check, they give up touchdowns, like in the 4th quarter tonight.

The same is true of K-State tailgating. We tailgated tonight in Cat Town with some of Doug’s lab members. First we ate brauts at the Veterinary Medicine tent, and then we found burgers at Animal Science. Angela asked me where the meat thermometers were, and I replied, “I’m sure they’re in that box with their cooking equipment.” We didn’t see one, so I proposed that maybe they had a standardized cooking procedure with pre-frozen patties and a clear cooking time charted out. Doug said that when they saw him arrive, the cooks called out, “Don’t worry. They’re done!” (We found out later that they use pre-cooked burgers; so indeed, they were done.)

We then went to a private tailgate party where the pregnant hostess, when introduced to Doug the Food Safety Professor, said, “We always try to keep things really safe here!” I didn’t look for thermometers there. By then my stomach was too full to even think about a cookie.

We’ve been thinking about tailgate publicity and reality research possibilities, like meat thermometers with Willie the Wildcat on them and final cooking temperature charts on stickers. Or tonight I thought it would be cool to have backpack coolers with cooking temps printed on them. We like slogans like, “Get‘r done,” and “Stick it in.” I also liked Andrew’s blogpost with the “Heat ‘em up, eat ‘em up” battle cry. But since we have a blog with, hopefully, a few readers, I thought I would put the question out to you. What would compel you to practice safe food handling at a tailgate? There are so many distractions, limited facilities, no running water in the parking lot, and plenty of people coming by and dipping into food unexpectedly. It’s delicious, and not just from the microorganisms’ point of view.  Please share your comments, questions, and ideas on tailgating safely.

Post a comment below.

[pictured is a KSU branding iron (not a thermometer) with this description: "Your sizzling hot Original Barbeque Brand Tailgate Tool can sear the pride of the K-State WIld Cats into most any food item. It’s for more than just meat! Buns, tortillas, potatoes, pie crusts, let your pride run wild!"]