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Educating clients about raw diets and the associated parasitic risks

02 September 2020
13 mins read
Volume 11 · Issue 7
Figure 1. Echinococcus granulosus adult tapeworms from a dog. - Image courtesy of John McGarry, University of Liverpool.


Raw diets are increasing in popularity among UK cat and dog owners with a trend towards home prepped rather than processed formulations. This potentially exposes household pets to parasitic infections which can lead to direct zoonotic risk and economic losses for farmers. These parasites include the tapeworms Taenia species and Echinococcus granulosus, and a wide range of cyst forming protozoa such as Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum and Sarcocystis species. Avoiding feeding pets raw diets or adequate freezing prior to feeding that kills the cystic stages of these parasites, avoids exposure via this route. This forms an important part of controlling food-borne parasites in addition to worm treatment, responsible disposal of dog faeces, good hand hygiene and keeping dogs on leads on and around ruminant pasture. Many pet owners are unaware of the parasitic risk posed by raw feeding and client education is crucial in helping to prevent pet exposure. Veterinary nurses play a vital role in educating clients and working with them to minimise parasites transmitted by raw feeding.

Veterinary nurses (VNs) play a vital role in educating clients on parasite control and pet nutrition. Many clients feel more comfortable discussing both parasite control and their pet's diet with a VN as they are perceived to be more approachable and may have more time to offer the client.

An increasing trend over the past decade across Europe has been the feeding of raw diets to domestic cats and dogs (Waters, 2017). In a recent survey (Pennelegion et al, 2020), 4% of UK cats and 10% of UK dogs were found to be fed raw meat. There are two types of raw feeding: homemade raw diets and commercially prepared raw diets. Owners who are feeding raw meat-based diets to their pets claim health benefits such as improved coat quality, wellbeing, immune status, and longevity (Morelli et al, 2019). These benefits are anecdotal and not currently supported by peer-reviewed scientific studies.

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