An attempt by health-conscious pet owners to give their pets a healthier diet, imitating the raw food their forebears ate in the wild, has backfired, according to scientists.

The raw food craze – a form of Paleo diet for animals - exposes the animals and their owners to potentially lethal bacteria and parasites, experts reveal.

An investigation by scientists at Utrecht University and published in the medical journal Vet Record found that 86 percent of raw food products contained life-threatening levels of E Coli, which can cause kidney failure in humans, Salmonella and Listeria. The scientists analyzed 35 Raw Meat diet products from eight different companies and found high levels of contamination.

Antibiotic-resistant

Most concerning for public health was the finding that 80 percent of products contained antibiotic resistant [VIDEO] E coli. The raw food also contained parasites Sarcocystis and Toxoplasma gondii, which is harmful to pregnant women and babies. The study follows a two-year FDA report into raw pet food that found it was more likely to be infected with bacteria and pathogens than other types of pet food.

The trend for raw food rests on the assumption that they are more natural, contain no additives and can help give pets glossy coats, reduce allergies and improve skin problems.

Not so healthy

While owners love their pets and believe they are doing the right thing, researchers found that that no evidence exists for these health benefits and, if anything, they are more likely to cause poor health, stunt growth due to poor nutritional content and increase mouth problems and stomach infections.

The researchers wrote, “in nutritional terms, these diets are often deficient in several nutrients and may, therefore, lead to serious health problems, especially in young animals that are growing.”

Pet owners easily infected

The researchers found pet owners are exposing themselves to serious infection as well. Cross-contamination with human food in the kitchen was found to be a significant risk, as well as animals passing on pathogens by licking their owner’s face or hands, sharing the same bed or just brushing past them.

Animals fed raw diets may be restricted from service and hospital visits

The Charity Burns by your Side that sends dogs into schools to help children with learning difficulties stopped using animals that were fed on raw food to prevent the children being exposed to harmful pathogens.