dog_food_bowl.jpgReporting in the September issue of Pediatrics, researchers led by Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that contact with pets and contact with the pet’s environment — their bed and where they eat and sleep, for example — can result in human infections. The authors of the study say they tracked a 2006-2008 Salmonella outbreak that sickened 79 American patients – about half of them 2 years old or younger – to household use of dry cat and dog food.

Feeding pets in the kitchen quadrupled the risk of illness.

Another precaution is to have well-packaged, well-stored pet food, keeping it out of the reach of infants and toddlers.

This new study, “re-emphasizes the importance of washing your hands whenever you deal with anything from a pet, including petting him, touching his mouth or cleaning up after him, especially for children whose immune systems are very weak in comparison to adults,” said Dr. Philip Tierno, clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City and author of The Secret Life of Germs.

  • Salmonella is a bacterium that causes fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The bacteria are spread through contact with animal feces or consumption of food contaminated with feces. Most people recover from salmonella infection without treatment, says the CDC, but the illness can be fatal to the very young and very old.

    Scientists traced the uncommon salmonella strain, called salmonella schwarzengrund, to bagged dry dog food. Many of the infections occurred in homes where pets were fed in the kitchen, which is why scientists are recommending that children younger than 5 not be allowed to touch or eat pet food or pet treats and be kept away from pet feeding areas.