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Although it seems second nature to wash your plate between meals, the same isn’t true for that doggy dish, according to veterinary nutritionists at North Carolina State University.
More than 75 percent of dog owners aren’t following three simple Food and Drug Administration safety guidelines to protect their pets against foodborne illness — washing their own hands before handling pet food, serving food in a clean bowl and using a clean food scoop, according to a study appearing in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Pet owners should know that pet food bowls can harbor bacteria and that recommendations exist for minimizing that risk,” Emily Luisana, a veterinary nutritionist at Friendship Animal Hospital, said in a statement.
Luisana and her colleagues at NC State, where she completed her residency, decided to study how people handle and store their pet food after conversations revealed that their own approaches differed — and that there actually were FDA guidelines, although not as comprehensive as those for handling and storing human food. “We realized that, when it came to our own pets, we all had different pet food storage and hygiene practices,” she said.
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The study that resulted from these water cooler discussions included a survey of 417 dog owners, who were questioned about the hygiene practices they used in feeding their dogs. In response to questions about specific FDA-recommended safe handling and storage practices, the study found that:
- 50 percent of dog owners wash the pet food dish with soap and hot water after each use; 12 percent wash it at least once daily
- 13 percent wash the food scoop with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds after each use
- 91 percent don’t use the bowl as a scooping utensil
- 22 percent wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds prior to handling pet food
- 38 percent wash their hands after handling pet food
- 30 percent store pet food in the original bag
- 81 percent tightly cover leftover dry pet food
- 57 percent tightly cover leftover canned pet food