The Food and Drug Administration announced it is stepping up its efforts to test pet food for contamination with salmonella.
Food officials are concerned that humans handling pet food or treats contaminated with salmonella could accidentally ingest the bacteria, thereby making them sick.
The FDA aims to test pet food, treats and supplements to see just how many of them are contaminated with salmonella in the first place, as well as to figure out the "antimicrobial susceptibilities of each Salmonella" that is discovered. It also plans to make sure the salmonella-contaminated pet food is removed from the markets.
A number of pet-food retailers, including PetSmart, PetCo, Costco, Walmart and Target, contributed samples for the FDA test, AOL Daily Finance reported.
Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever and cramps in people who have been infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though the symptoms usually only last four to seven days, some people's symptoms get worse and they have to be hospitalized.
Salmonella poisoning is extremely common, with 40,000 cases reported each year in the U.S. (not counting unreported cases), according to the CDC.
Salmonella is most commonly contracted by eating raw meat, seafood and poultry (when feces can get into the meat during butchering, which can then be ingested by humans if not washed or cooked properly), according to the Mayo Clinic. Raw eggs can also be infected with salmonella if the chicken is infected, and some fruits and vegetables watered with contaminated water can also have salmonella.
The Chicago Tribune reported that people should wash their hands after feeding pets to prevent contracting salmonella, and that it's also a good idea to keep babies away from animals' pet food dishes.
Last year, the CDC published a report in the journal Pediatrics about a salmonella outbreak from pet food that sickened 79 people in 21 states, with many of those people being kids under age 2.
Aside from dog food, 5,000 pounds of pine nuts from Wegmans Food Markets were recently recalled because they were possibly contaminated with salmonella, the FDA reported.
For information on how to keep your pet safe and healthy this winter, check out this slideshow with tips from HuffPost blogger Dr. Karen Becker, an integrative wellness veterinarian.
Kitties allowed to wander outdoors unsupervised are at much greater risk than house-cats, no matter the time of year. But a cat left outside in cold weather can literally freeze to death, or become permanently lost or stolen while looking for shelter from the cold. Even if your kitty lives indoors, a cat collar with an ID tag is an excellent investment. You may keep your cat inside, but your neighbors might not, or there could be strays or feral cats in the area. Kitties left out in cold temperatures will sometimes tuck themselves up under the hoods of cars, or in the wheel wells. Starting or moving the vehicle can hurt or even kill the animal. During the winter months, it's a good idea to bang loudly on your car hood before starting the engine as a warning to a cat that might be in or around your vehicle.
Keep your dog on his leash when you're outside with him, and make sure his ID tag is current. More dogs go missing in the winter than any other time of the year. It's very easy for pups to lose their scent and get lost when snow or ice is on the ground, and especially during snowstorms. Snow accumulation can make it impossible for your dog to know if he's in his front yard or standing out on a street or highway. Light-colored dogs with snow on their fur can quickly blend into the background, making them nearly impossible to spot.
Thoroughly wipe off your dog's feet, legs and underside after she's been out in snowy or icy conditions. It's possible she picked up salt crystals, antifreeze or some other toxic chemical on her paws, which she could later ingest by licking the area. Be especially careful not to leave antifreeze leaks or spills where your pet can sample them. Antifreeze is lethal to dogs and cats.
Don't shave or clip your dog's coat too short during the winter months. A longer coat will keep him warmer. If your pup has short hair, a doggy sweater might be in order, especially if he's a small breed, an older fellow, has arthritis, other joint problems or if he's prone to shivering.
Consider paper training a puppy if you get her during cold weather. Puppies don't handle frigid temps as well as older dogs do. If you add a puppy to the family during the winter months, you may find housebreaking her more of a challenge than you expected. If so, you can paper train her instead, then retrain her to potty outdoors when the weather warms up.
If you and your dog participate in lots of outdoor winter activities, make sure his species-appropriate diet has sufficient calories and protein to meet his energy requirements. This may mean increasing his meal portions during the winter months.
If, on the other hand, you and your pet tend to hibernate during cold weather, it's important not to let your dog lose muscle tone and physical conditioning. You'd be amazed at the number of canine knee, soft tissue, cervical disc and neck injuries I see in my veterinary practice each spring. These problems occur most often in out-of-shape dogs that go from zero to 60 on the first warm day of late winter or early spring. There are many creative ways to keep your pet active during cold weather.
Don't leave your pet outside in the car. Just as your vehicle can become an incinerator during hot weather, it can become a freezer, holding in the cold air, during the winter. While not as common as pets expiring in hot cars in the summer, too many precious dogs and cats have frozen to death in a cold car.
Make sure your pet has cozy, draft-free winter sleeping quarters. If your dog has her own crate, make sure her winter bed inside it is one that will keep her warm. Your kitty should have a snug sleeping spot as well, with warm bedding she can curl up in.
Give your frail or older pet some extra TLC. Cold winter temperatures can be especially hard on a senior pet, or on a dog or kitty with degenerative joint disease or another chronic, debilitating conditions. Talk with your integrative or holistic vet about physical therapy treatments and other safe, natural methods for improving your pet's comfort and mobility during cold weather.