Stop feeding your dog raw chicken. The warning was issued by the University of Melbourne after researchers found that a deadly form of paralysis is 70 times more likely in dogs who eat raw chicken necks. The Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine recently published the results. It concluded that dogs who eat uncooked chicken are at risk of developing a nerve disorder called Acute Polyradiculoneuritis (APN).
“We would recommend that owners choose regular dog food rather than chicken necks until we know more about this debilitating condition,” researchers wrote.
APN, Guillain-Barre syndrome and Coonhound paralysis
APN is similar to Guillain-Barre syndrome in humans. Both disorders have the initial symptoms of muscle weakness that quickly turns into paralysis of the limbs. Both conditions can become deadly if the paralysis continues to spread to the lungs. One of the triggers for Guillain-Barre syndrome is a bacterium called Campylobacter. It can ramp up a person’s immune system and cause it to attack the nerves.
Campylobacter is found in a variety of food, including raw chicken.
Researchers thought the same situation might be going on in the nervous system of dogs who were exposed to the Campylobacter bacteria.
Dr. Mattias le Chevoir, chief investigator in the study, said, “APN is a rare but very debilitating condition where the dog’s hind legs first become weak and then may progress to affect the front legs, neck, head and face. Some dogs may die from the disease if their chest becomes paralyzed.”
“Most dogs eventually recover without treatment but it may take up to six months or more in some cases,” le Chevoir said. “It can be difficult for owners to nurse their pet until the condition gradually improves.”
The veterinary world has known about APN for a long time, but it was referred to as Coonhound paralysis. The name was given because it was thought to develop in dogs who were bitten by a raccoon.
That theory never panned out so researchers have continued to look for the reason behind this sudden onset of paralysis.
The University of Melbourne study
The theory researchers hoped to prove was: Raw chicken contains Campylobacter and dogs who eat raw chicken necks were at a greater risk of developing APN paralysis.
Twenty-seven dogs who suffered from APN were enrolled in the study which was conducted at the University of Melbourne U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital. They also enrolled 47 healthy dogs. Fecal samples were collected from every dog along with their DNA.
The results clearly showed that the sick dogs with APN symptoms were 9.4 times more likely to test positive for Campylobacter than the healthy dogs. The study also found that small dogs had the worst cases of APN.
“The link between raw chicken consumption and APN was strongest among small dogs,” wrote researchers. “Smaller dogs are more likely to be fed smaller bones like chicken necks.”
Until further studies can be done, the University of Melbourne team has issued a warning for pet owners to be safe and choose regular dog food rather than raw chicken for their pet’s diet.
Raw food for dogs has grown in popularity in recent years. Will the results of this study keep you from serving raw chicken to your pets?