If you like to give your beloved pooch a chicken neck to gnaw on as a treat, you might want to reconsider.
A new study has found eating raw chicken increases the risk of dogs developing a paralysing and sometimes fatal condition by more than 70 times.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital say the cause of acute polyradiculoneuritis (APN) in dogs has always baffled vets.
But their new study has found raw chicken, especially chicken necks, are a major risk factor.
APN is a relatively rare but debilitating condition that initially causes weakness in the hind legs that can spread to the front legs, neck, head and face.
‘‘Some dogs die if their chests are affected. Those who survive can take six months to recover,’’ chief investigator Dr Matthias le Chevoir said.
The paralysis is caused by the dog’s immune system becoming unregulated and attacking its own nerve roots, and is the doggy equivalent of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) in humans.
The bacteria Campylobacter is now considered a trigger agent in up to 40 per cent of people who develop GBS and it is present in undercooked chicken.
Dr le Chevoir and his colleagues set out to determine if raw chicken could also trigger APN in dogs.
They looked at the diets of 27 dogs with symptoms of the disease and compared them with a symptom-free control group, finding Campylobacter was the likely reason for immune system impairment and paralysis.
Researchers say the findings are a concern given the growing popularity of raw meat diets for dogs.
They say dog owners should choose regular dog food over raw chicken until more research is done.