Dog Owners Create Health Risk from Pet Food Handling

Did you know that improper handling of your pet’s food and bowls creates health risks for your entire family?  It is true. In fact, “Pet food and dish handling involves potential health risks for both dogs and people, especially those with compromised immune systems. Multiple outbreaks of bacterial illness among dogs and humans have occurred as a result of contaminated dog food.”

Study overview

To learn how pervasive improper pet food handling is in the U.S. a team of researchers conducted a study of pet owner knowledge and behaviors of handling pet food and pet bowls. Researchers surveyed 417 dog owners. Separately, the researchers tested 68 household dog food dishes for bacterial contamination. After initial testing, they divided the owners into three groups with different instructions for implementing food handling guidelines, then tested the dishes again after 1 week. They found significantly reduced contamination of dishes from owners who instituted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) pet food handling guidelines, either alone or in combination with the FDA’s human food handling protocol, versus dishes from owners who were not asked to implement either protocol.

Results overview

The results of the analysis suggests that most U.S. dog owners are unaware of — and do not follow — guidelines on safe pet food and dish handling from the FDA*. “Most pet owners are unaware that pet food bowls can be a hidden source of bacteria in the household. Knowing how to mitigate this risk and practice proper pet food storage and hygiene may make for a happier, healthier household.”

They found that less than 5 percent were aware of the guidelines, and many owners did not follow many of the recommendations. For instance, only one third reported washing their hands after feeding, and only two thirds reported preparing dog food on separate surfaces from those used for human food. The latter fact is of potential public health importance


On the basis of their findings, the researchers outline suggestions to reduce contamination in pet food dishes for owners, veterinarians, pet food sellers and manufacturers. These include ensuring household members who feed pets adhere to FDA guidelines and including written information on guidelines with pet food sales.

*Tips for Safe Handling of Pet Food and Treats | FDA

Journal Reference:  Emily Luisana, Korinn Saker, Lee-Ann Jaykus, Caitlyn Getty. Survey evaluation of dog owners’ feeding practices and dog bowls’ hygiene assessment in domestic settings. PLOS ONE, 2022; 17 (4): e0259478 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0259478