How do animals not get food poisoning?
Animals do not get food poisoning because they do know what they are eating. They learn about what to eat and what not to eat seeing their parents and it’s a learned behavior.
They do also know what their food habits are, and what suits them the best. In doing so, they have genetically adapted to liking their regular food items and often seen ignoring other food items that they have never eaten and it’s an innate behavior caused due to their adaptive response.
Now, this doesn’t mean that animals can’t eat food without getting any kind of food poisoning. If they eat a very poisonous/contaminated food which they aren’t immune to then it’s probable that they will get food poisoning.
In wildlife species, due to the constant adaptation and evolution, various changes have taken place with time that has made the immune system of these species more capable of fighting against food poisoning.
Food poisoning is a foodborne illness, that is caused by eating contaminated food that has bacteria, viruses and parasites, or their toxins causing food poisoning.
So, in the present-day world, habitat destruction and the resulting deprivation of shelter and food resources are well-known consequences of human activities seen everywhere. These have forced the animals to feed on various kinds of anthropogenic or polluted food.
So far, according to the various food provisioning studies done it has been seen that the innate and adaptive responses of the immune system of many wildlife species to certain immune challenges after eating contaminated food have increased a lot, and this helps the animals to not get food poisoning.
However, it has been also seen that, in captive animals, innate and adaptive responses of the immune system to certain immune challenges after eating contaminated food were less active.
Now, animals have well-adapted themselves and they do know how to interact with the food while eating their specific type of food.
Becker proposed three primary mechanisms through which food provisioning can influence host-parasite dynamics.
So, food poisoning is dependent on the three primary mechanisms:
- The way animals contact and perform behaviors
- The animal (host) demography
- The most important is the host’s immune defenses against the contaminated food
Just for instance, Herbivores will get sick if you give them moldy or rotten hay to eat. However, Carnivores can eat rotten meat a lot better without getting contaminated.
On the other hand, just take the example of vulture that are scavengers and feed on decaying rotten meat, on the other hand humans can’t feed on rotten meat.
It’s because vultures have strong immune system to protect them from any kind of food poisoning caused due to eating contaminated and rotten meat, and they won’t feel any illnesses.
However, the human will fall ill because we don’t have that type of strong immune system adapted for feeding on contaminated and rotten meat.
So, the primary mechanisms vary from animal to animal, and following these mechanisms in a unique way they free themselves from food poisoning.
Can animals get food poisoning?
If an animal doesn’t have a strong immune response or behavioral pattern to get rid of contaminated food, then it can be affected by food poisoning.
Just like animals like cows, pet dogs, chickens, etc. can be easily affected by food poisoning because they are not adapted to eating contaminated and rotten meals.
In the other case, if an animal does have a strong immune response or behavioral pattern to feed on contaminated food, then it won’t be affected by food poisoning.
Just like animals like vultures, lions, eagles, hyenas, etc. won’t get food poisoning because they are well-adapted to eating rotten contaminated meat.
So, Why many animals don’t get food poisoning?
It is also important to know about the fact that food poisoning only occurs when the animals don’t have that kind of immune power, most probably powerful digestive juices to digest the food poisoning agents (like bacteria, viruses, etc) and the toxins they produce, all during the digestion of the food.
So, many of the animals don’t get food poisoning because, they are able to ingest food poisoning organisms along with the food and are easily able to destroy them within their mouth, esophagus, and stomachs before they get down to the gut.
According to the first Eurasian vulture genome, scavengers like vultures are known to have a unique genetic make-up allowing them to digest carcasses and guard themselves against constant exposure to pathogens in their diet, thus saving them from food poisoning.
Some animals like the vultures have a very strong immune system with extremely acidic digestive juices having anti-pathogenic and anti-viral biochemicals in it.
Those animals that have their feeding habits being involved with constant exposure to pathogens are known to be precisely able to eliminate microbes found in their diet.
There are also genes in their specific body cells that exhibit the formation of proteins that signals the cellular uptake of microorganisms, by specifically targeting pathogens that have been absorbed in the blood for ingestion and elimination from the body.
How do animals know what is poisonous to eat?
Animals know what is poisonous to eat from instinct, experience, and training that they get from trial and error or by looking at their parents.
In simple words, animals know about their food habits and what they need to eat, and what they need to ignore both from their innate and acquired behaviors.
Innate behaviors are those that an animal will engage in from birth without any intervention. Just like vultures are scavengers from birth and they will only feed on rotten meat.
Learned behavior is something an animal discovers through trial, error, and observation. Just like the way the vulture will act, contact, and perform various behaviors when it will eat on the meat.
Young herbivore animals like cows, horses, etc. will know that their food is the plant and that is their innate behavior.
But, they will learn more by looking at their parents and adults that which plants are poisonous and which aren’t, and in this way through observation they will know what is poisonous to eat and what isn’t.
Others will learn how to eat a poisonous plant first, and then the next they will eat a plant that contains the anti-toxic agents to avoid the toxins of that plant.
They also avoid poisonous food by following the Conditioned Taste Aversion psychology. According to this psychology, if an animal has fallen sick after eating a particular food, then its body will believe that the sickness was caused by that particular food it had eaten, and so, in the near future it will avoid that food due to getting unpleasant bodily/mental reactions when it sees or smells the food.
Does eating raw meat cause food poisoning in animals?
The answer is “It depends.” Depending on the feeding habits of animals the answer will widely vary.
Herbivores are animals like cows, buffaloes, zebras, etc. whose primary food source is plant-based. So, if you give them raw meat than they will better choose to die than eating that meat.
Carnivores like lions, leopards, hyenas, etc. are known to feed on raw meat and they can easily do so because of their strong immune system, and digestive power to feed on their fresh kill. They can also feed on rotten meat too.
Scavengers like Vultures, Hyenas, Jackals, etc are also known to feed on rotten meat. Others like leopards, lions can also choose to scavenge when their hunting is unsuccessful.
However, if you feed your pet dogs and cats with raw meat than it’s likely that they will fall ill. It is always recommended to cook raw meat to kill harmful bacterias before feeding your pet to avoid food poisoning.
Food poisoning agents like Salmonella bacteria are often found in raw or undercooked meat, raw eggs, milk, and other dairy products.
So, if you see that an animal doesn’t have a feeding habit of eating raw meat then better give it properly cooked meat to eat.
Or else, it can very risky for them to get food poisoning after eating the raw meat.