Most dog owners are improperly feeding their pets, study finds

A new study finds most dog owners are improperly feeding their pets according to guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration. 

Researchers from North Carolina recently published their findings in PLOS ONE. They conducted a survey of 417 dog owners to gather data on their pets including their pet’s signalment, health status and diet. Owners were also asked about their knowledge of FDA feeding guidelines, particularly about food handling and bowl hygiene. 

Results showed that less than 5% were aware of FDA guidelines regarding dog feeding. Only one-third of dog owners reported that they wash their hands after feeding their pets, likely increasing risk for puppies with weak antibodies. 

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Results also showed that 22% of survey-takers reported washing their dish, on average once weekly. Also, 12% reported washing their dish at least once daily to 18% reported they wash their dish either less than every three months or not at all.

"It was found that the vast majority of study dog owners were not aware of and did not follow FDA pet food handling and storage guidelines," the study’s authors said. 

The FDA says pet food and treats can be contaminated with harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, such as salmonellosis and listeriosis.

The following are tips from the FDA to buying, preparing and storing pet food. 

Tips for buying pet food

  • Buy pet food products (cans, pouches, or bags) that are in good condition. Check the packaging for visible signs of damage, such as dents, tears, and discolorations.

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Tips for preparing pet food

  • Begin and end with clean hands. Both before and after handling pet food and treats, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water.
  • Wash pet food bowls and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after each use.
  • Do not use your pet’s food bowl as a scooping utensil. Use a clean scoop, spoon, or cup instead. Use the scooping utensil only for scooping pet food.
  • Throw out old or spoiled pet food in a safe way, for example, by placing it in a securely tied plastic bag in a covered trash can.

Tips for storing pet food

  • Promptly refrigerate or throw out unused or leftover canned and pouched pet food. Tightly cover refrigerated pet food. Set your refrigerator to 40 F or below.
  • Store dry pet food in a cool and dry place. The temperature should be less than 80 F. Excess heat or moisture can cause the nutrients to break down.
  • Store dry pet food in its original bag and keep the top of the bag tightly folded down.
  • Keep pet food in a secure location to prevent your pet from eating an entire supply at once.