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Investigation of parasites in dogs and cats kept on BARF diet
Papdeák Viktória - year 5
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Department of Parasitology and Zoology
Supervisor: Dr. Barbara Tuska-Szalay

Abstract:

Today, a growing trend among dog and cat owners is to feed their pet raw food, the so-called BARF diet. In addition to its many advantages, due to the lack of heat treatment, it can be a potential source of pathogens which are significant from the animal and public health point of view, and can also pose a danger to humans through animal excrement. Our study is intended to expand our knowledge about the latter.

In the course of the research, we examined the feces of 81 dogs and 8 cats, which samples were collected from several Hungarian settlements with the cooperation of the owners. Besides we also filled out a questionnaire with them in order to be able to draw conclusions by comparing our results with the answers they gave. The samples were primarily subjected to a traditional parasitological examination, and then, based on the results, DNA extraction was applied using the QIAamp Fast Stool Mini Kit. Each sample was tested by conventional PCR for the following unicellular parasites: Neospora, Toxoplasma and Sarcocystis species, as well as piroplasms. In addition, parasitic worms were also considered as a target group.

With one exception, animals participating in our study did not show any symptoms of disease. During the flotation, 15 samples were found to be positive, in most of these cases fluke and Taenia-type eggs were found under the microscope, in the remaining ones Giardia cysts, Cystoisospora oocysts, Sarcocystis sporocysts and Spirocerca lupi eggs were visible. During the PCR tests, the samples were proved negative for Neospora, Toxoplasma and Sarcocystis species, as well as for piroplasms. The DNA of Dicrocoelium dendriticum was clearly detected in 6 samples, and the DNA of Fasciola hepatica in one sample. Although the research did not target bacteria, during PCR examination we were able to amplify the sequence of Escherichia coli from several samples, which is less significant in the absence of symptoms, but according to some studies, E. coli found in raw food can be a significant reservoir of resistance and virulence genes, thus it can also play a role in the formation of multiresistant strains.

Based on our study, it can be concluded that the BARF diet did not pose an increased risk for either dogs or cats, which may be due to the freezing of the food before consumption and the regular deworming of the animals. The flukes detected during our tests may also have clinical significance, since a dog infected with D. dendriticum showed severe gastrointestinal symptoms. In addition, the presence of this fluke species in urban conditions is primarily epidemiologically significant since humans are among its definitive hosts.



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