Salmon Poisoning in dogs

Avoid Salmon Poisoning with your dog

Hey! Wag your tail or raise a paw if you like to go fishing! What a fun way to spend the day with a special human pack member. You can sit quietly until one of the gilled critters takes the bait OR you can chase birds around while you wait. Here in the great Pacific Northwest there are lots of different types of fish and fishing, but I want to share some information about the Salmon. That is one fish that us canines can not share, it can be fatal!

Salmon and other fish that swim upstream to breed can become infected with a parasite called (uh oh, here comes a big scientific word) Nanophyetus salmincola. This parasite is relatively harmless. The danger occurs when the parasite is infected with an organism (a rickettsia for you scientific types) called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. This microorganism is what causes Salmon Poisoning Disease. Dogs are the only species susceptible to Salmon Poisoning Disease. Cats, raccoons and bears can eat the raw fish without any problems. (Now that hardly seems fair).

Clinical signs usually begin within six days of eating the infected fish. Common symptoms include vomiting, lack of appetite, fever, diarrhea, weakness, swollen lymph nodes and dehydration. Basically, you would feel pretty yucky. If not treated, death usually occurs within 14 days. 90% of dogs showing symptoms die if not treated BUT this disease IS TREATABLE if caught in time!

The key to successful treatment is diagnosis. If you are a dog that likes to roam or raid trashcans you are at greater risk. Your human doesn’t know what you may have gotten into, so they need to tell the veterinarian that you like to go out and about. Even if your human keeps you confined to a yard, those dastardly seagulls or brazen raccoons could drop some salmon into your space and, come on, admit it, you would eat that tasty morsel right away!

Diagnosis includes recognizing the symptoms, finding the microscopic parasite eggs in your poop, or finding the rickettsia in a needle sample from a swollen lymph node. Treatment includes specific antibiotics to kill the rickettsial organism and a dewormer to kill the parasite. If you are very sick, your veterinarian may have to check you into the hospital, start IV fluids and anti vomiting medication. Luckily, most dogs show dramatic improvement within two days.

Salmon Poisoning can occur any time of the year, but seems more common in the fall. It occurs mostly west of the Cascades, so that would include our little piece of paradise in the North Beach area.

So please, puppy parents, don’t share that fresh salmon with us, no matter how we beg! Bring some dog biscuits for us to snack on and keep us safe to wag another day!

Waggingly yours, Karoo.

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