Researchers Say That Pets Can Not Only Contract Salmonella But Can Transmit The Bacteria To Humans

CANTON, Ga. – Bert Kanist thought nothing of it when he gave his dog Ozzie a treat one day last month, two packages of peanut butter crackers.

Within a few hours, Ozzie was terribly sick.

He was throwing up, Kanist said outside his home in this suburb of Atlanta. He had diarrhea. His knees were wiggly.

The next day, Ozzie was dead. But Kanist’s dog Snickers a pound mutt, like Ozzie refused the crackers and was just fine.

The crackers were from the Austin brand, made by Kellogg Co. Kellogg recalled the product in mid-January because the line was made with peanut paste manufactured by Peanut Corp. of America of Lynchburg, Va., whose salmonella-contaminated products are at fault for sickening more than 500 people and might have caused at least eight deaths.

The Austin foods were just one of more than 420 items that companies across the food industry have recalled because they could possibly be tainted with salmonella, which most people probably think of as primarily a human pathogen.

Although food safety professionals say pets can be equally at risk, either from eating contaminated pet food or poisoned people food. That’s why at least fourteen brands of pet products are on the F.D.A.s list of products that have been recalled since January 1 because they were made with foods from Peanut Corp. of America.

From Owner To Animal And Back Again

As hard as it may be to lose a beloved pet to salmonellosis, doctors say an infected pet poses a bigger problem: It could infect its owner, because the bacterium Salmonella spp. can be transferred via urine, feces, or saliva.

That means you could get salmonellosis simply by letting your dog lick you, veterinarians say.

Even if their dogs show no signs of the illness, owners should always be careful. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine said last year that they can easily isolate Salmonella spp. from healthy-looking dogs and cats, making them classic carrier animals.

Pets may suffer salmonellosis as a ‘reverse zoonosis,’ with infection transmitted from human-to-dogs or cat and subsequently back to other humans, the researchers wrote. Similarly, outbreaks of salmonella infections in large veterinarian teaching hospitals have been linked to the introduction of bacteria from infected human workers, with subsequent spread to animals and then back to other human students.

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