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Foodborne Rabies

The consumption of cat and dog meat may be playing a role in “massive human rabies epidemics” in Asia. (Some people may find some of the concepts and images in this video disturbing.)

February 15, 2013 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to CDC/Barbara Andrews via Wikimedia Commons, Mr & Mrs Stickyfingers and Liooneel / Flickr


Normally, rabies is only contracted by getting bitten by a rabid animal, but case reports have been published of people coming down with rabies without any such history, like these two from Vietnam. In a truly man-bites-dog story, they both came down with rabies after butchering and consuming a dog or cat. The rabies virus should be killed by proper cooking, but they think it was the preparation of their brains that may have generated large amounts of virus. The dog brains were eaten steamed, but the cat's brains were pulped with bare hands to make some special dish. The doctors suggest the butchering and consumption of dogs should be better regulated, as high as 2% of dogs in slaughterhouses may be infected.  Same percentage found infected in China. In fact the long-distance live animal transport of dogs for the meat trade may be a factor in the massive human rabies epidemics in southern China, where farmers can get as much as $12-15 per dog.  The dog meat trade may also be playing a role in the spread of rabies in the Philippines, though again, as a doc with the Department of Health pointed out, “If the animal is cooked, the virus is destroyed, but many are eaten raw. And even if they're cooked, there may be cross-contamination during handling and preparation. Anyone cutting up a dead dog can transmit the virus to themselves if they touch their eyes or lips while they have traces of the dog’s fluids on their hands."

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Jonathan Hodgson.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Cross-contamination of foodborne pathogens during meat preparation is an issue regardless of the species. See, for example, Food Poisoning Bacteria Cross-Contamination and Unsafe at Any Feed. For a cheerier video, Are Cats or Dogs More Protective For Children's Health? is queued up next, featuring our 13-year-old Lilly!

More on brains eating at Avoiding Cholesterol Is a No Brainer and Mad Fish Disease.

Please be sure to check out my associated blog post for more context: Which Pets Improve Children's Health?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Matthew Ciuccio

    Sure gives a different meaning to mouthwatering food. Yikes.

    • Isaac Chayo


  • Thea

    So sad that people still eat animals and then suffer the natural consequences. Who to feel sorrier for??? Tough call.

  • VeggieVal

    Ewwwww! People actually eat dogs & cats? I thought it was a bad joke…

  • Louie Thomas

    The SWISS love DOG and CAT meat, fully legal and widely sold there.

  • Dana

    They all deserve it…just sayin’

  • beetsbeansbutts

    Oh man I better lay off the dog.

    Interesting video, Dr Greger!

  • Shay Jensen

    Thanks for the warning — I had to bypass this video. I love all animals, but especially cats and dogs. A colleague from China told me they ate cats all the time.

  • Scarlett Baume

    GOOD! They deserve it.

  • coacervate

    You will undo the good work here if you morph this site into an emotional discussion of the morality (or immorality) of carnivory. This site is about nutrition. Please keep it that way, I implore you.

    • joe

      To many Americans, this is an emotional and moral topic (myself included). I wonder what makes you feel that this is not about nutrition. There are videos posted about how eating a certain fruit could kill you and no one takes exception to those. If you have an emotional reaction, that is on you… it does not mean that it should not be discussed.

  • RandyKreill

    Hmmm. Rabies from eating
    Fluffy and Scrappy! Brings new meaning to a newer video I did about Karma and Food!

  • M Davis

    The is beyond disgusting! I hope they suffer the same madness!

  • BlessedMama

    How sad! Hopefully, one day people will finally see that eating our fellow creatures does not do anyone any good. Thank you for your videos.

  • Itsy

    Good for them, the dog or cat had the last word!!

  • Gina Bear

    Great info- thanks. This is useful for those who’s lobbying the government to ban all dog consumption in the country.

  • Alice Johnson

    I recently bought organic broccoletes. The package says it is “a relative of broccoli.” It is delicious. Is it as healthy for one as broccoli and kale and other cruciferous vegetables? Thank you.

  • Cory Goldblatt

    I’ve lived in China for the past 4 years and people DEFINITELY eat dogs and cats. It is not uncommon that a pet owner’s little friend disappears in the middle of the night never to be seen again. They know what happened and are usually saddened by the fact that one of their neighbors may have killed and eaten little taffy :-(.

    On another note, most people in China do not wash their hands so I am not surprised by the spread of infectious diseases through handling contaminated meat. Perhaps one day through education these dangerous habits may die out, at least I would like to hope that.

  • Cecil Dennis

    Nobody tells any of you what to eat. The pig is no cleaner. You ever had a piece of roasted dog cheek meat, or steamed dog tongue? Hhmmm! Go heavy on the soy sauce with that.