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Scientists Say That Pets Can Not Only Contract Salmonella But Can Transfer The Poison To Humans

Posted Feb 11 2009 2:58pm

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

Within a short time, Ozzie was extremely sick.

He was vomiting, Kanist said at his home in this suburb of Atlanta. He had diarrhea. His knees were wiggly.

The day after, Ozzie had died. But Kanist’s dog Snickers a pound mutt, like Ozzie refused the crackers and was ok.

The crackers were from a brand called Austin, made by Kellogg Co. Kellogg recalled them in mid-January because they were made with peanut paste manufactured by PCA or Peanut Corp. of America of Lynchburg, Va., whose salmonella-contaminated foods are at fault for making sick more than 500 people and might have contributed to 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 might be poisoned with salmonella, which most people probably think of as only a human pathogen.

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

From Human To Animal And Back

As tough as it might 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 transmitted via urine, feces, or saliva.

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

Even if their animals show no signs of the poisoning, owners should always be cautious. Scientists 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.

Animals may suffer salmonellosis as a ‘reverse zoonosis,’ with infection transmitted from human-to-animal 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 students, with subsequent spread to animals and then back to other human students.

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