Owners giving their dogs raw meat food should avoid their sloppy “kisses” after meals, researchers have warned.
High levels of potentially harmful bacteria have been found in the products, which have increased in popularity in recent years, according to a study published in Vet Record.
Children, the elderly and those with poor immune systems are most at risk from exposure and could be susceptible to infection, the authors said.
It has been claimed that raw meat dog food, which contains offal and does not undergo treatment, is a healthier and more natural alternative to commercial products.
The Swedish researchers examined samples from 60 packs of raw meat products in 2017, made by 10 manufacturers in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and England.
All samples contained enterobacteriaceae species, which could pose a risk to health, and more than half (52%) had levels that exceeded the European Union maximum threshold.
Most of the species identified were not known to cause infection, apart from E coli, which was found in around a third of samples.
It is not clear if the E coli identified by the study could have caused illness.
Meanwhile, salmonella species were found in 7% of the samples.
The researchers warned the bacteria could transfer through contact between pet and owner, or easily spread onto surfaces and other food in kitchens.
“A great opportunity for dogs to transfer potential pathogenic and antimicrobial-resistant bacteria to humans is by ‘kissing’ people in the face immediately after they have eaten,” they wrote.
“In view of the resistance problem, dogs should not be fed raw meat-based diets while they are being treated with antimicrobials, as this could increase the risk of resistant strains being selected and multiplying.
“Dogs in families with infants, elderly people or immunocompromised individuals should also not be fed raw meat-based diets, as these groups are more susceptible to infections.”
Owners who do choose a raw meat diet for their pet should keep products separate from other food and handle them with separate equipment in the kitchen, the researchers advise.
Products should also be kept frozen before use and thaw at 10C.