Foodborne Rabies

Foodborne Rabies
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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.)

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 in the preparation of their brains that may have generated large amounts of virus. The dog’s brains were eaten steamed, but the cat’s brains were pulped with the bare hands to make some special dish. The doctors suggest butchering and consumption of dogs should be really better regulated, as as high as 2% of dogs in slaughterhouses may be infected.  And, about the same percentage has been 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 are cooked, there may be cross-contamination during handling and preparation. “And 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…”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

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

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 in the preparation of their brains that may have generated large amounts of virus. The dog’s brains were eaten steamed, but the cat’s brains were pulped with the bare hands to make some special dish. The doctors suggest butchering and consumption of dogs should be really better regulated, as as high as 2% of dogs in slaughterhouses may be infected.  And, about the same percentage has been 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 are cooked, there may be cross-contamination during handling and preparation. “And 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…”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

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

Doctor's Note

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

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

And 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.

20 responses to “Foodborne Rabies

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    1. @cetude )-: That is not true! DOGS and CATS are loved but not eaten by most of the Suisse. There was an unusual incident some years back by one individual and provoked an outrage among the population in Switzerland

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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