Ronnie Casey

 

PETS: Salmon poisoning in dogs

By RONNIE CASEY 

PUBLISHED: November 1, 2019 at 5:07 pm | UPDATED: November 1, 2019 at 5:08 pm

 

A few years ago, a friend went camping at one of our Northwest lakes. It was an enjoyable outing for the family and dogs. Unfortunately, a week later her dog would not eat, started vomiting, and had diarrhea. A speedy trip to the veterinarian resulted. Recently, another friend was fostering a dog that was picked up as a stray with an unknown history. Within six days of being picked up, the dog stopped eating and her temperature became elevated.

The reason I bring these animals up is because most of us are aware of foods never to feed our furry companion friends. Chocolate, onions, nuts, grapes and raisins are a few examples on the list. We are also advised to avoid raw eggs because of the possibility of food poisoning from bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli. However, there are a number of us who feed our pets dry kibble with salmon as the main ingredient, never realizing that its consumption in the raw state can be potentially lethal to our faithful buds.

Maybe you knew, but I must admit that other than the concern for the bones, I never gave it a thought. Due to both of my friends’ experiences, I have since learned that salmon poisoning disease (SPD), also called the fish disease, can be fatal to dogs, coyotes and foxes. Fortunately for both pooches, their concerned guardians’ rapid responses, and their veterinarians’ treatment, saved both of them.

Salmon Poisoning Disease is a potentially fatal condition seen in dogs that eat certain types of raw fish such as salmon, trout, lamprey, sculpin, redside shiner, shad, sturgeon, candlefish or the Pacific Giant Salamander. Salmon (salmonid fish) and other anadromous fish (fish that swim upstream to breed) can be infected with a certain fluke. The fluke, a type of trematode, is an internal parasite which, in this case, is called Nanophyetus salmincola. Overall, the parasite is relatively harmless. The danger occurs when the parasite itself is infected with a rickettsial organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. It’s this microorganism that causes salmon poisoning. Other rickettsial organisms are the causes of infectious diseases such as Lyme’s disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Typhus.

The disease is most often seen in dogs who have ingested the raw above-listed fish found in Washington, Oregon, Northern California and southern Vancouver Island. However, infected fish have been found in the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to the coast of Alaska. Essentially, it is those fish, which spend their lives in coastal streams and inland along the rivers of fish migration in the Pacific Northwest, which can be infected with the organism.

The term “Salmon Poisoning Disease” (SPD) is misleading, because no toxin is involved. The infective agent is transmitted through the various life stages of a fluke in a snail-fish-dog cycle. The sequence begins when the eggs of the fluke are released in the feces of an infected animal. Those eggs find their way into a small snail called Oxytrema plicifer. Larvae are released from the snail and infiltrate the fish, developing into a resting or maturing stage of an infected fluke. The cycle is completed when mammals eat the fish, and the infected “teenager” becomes an infected adult, passing the bacteria to its eggs which are excreted, thus continuing the cycle.

In the dog, the bacteria spreads through the bloodstream to the liver, lungs, brain and lymphoid tissue. If not treated, SPD is usually fatal within 2 weeks after exposure. The symptoms of SPD are similar to other gastrointestinal diseases and will likely show in about 6 to 10 days after ingestion of the fish. Symptoms may be of variable severity but generally consist of fever, anorexia (loss of appetite), vomiting, bloody diarrhea, nasal or eye discharge, weight loss, ascites (a condition where fluid builds up in the abdomen), enlarged lymph nodes and twitching and seizures.

If you know your dog has eaten raw fish, or if you have a dog that wanders and gets into trash, and you are unsure of what it’s eaten and it displays any of the symptoms listed above, consider the possibility of salmon poisoning and notify your veterinarian without delay. SPD is treatable if recognized in time. The ill animal’s treatment involves administration of an antibiotic to kill the bacteria, and a dewormer to kill the parasite. In addition, the animal may need IV fluids, antiemetics, antidiarrheals, blood transfusions and hospitalization.

Some preventative measures you can take when taking Fido out for a romp in one of the lakes, rivers, or streams in our beautiful Northwest area are: not to feed raw fish to your dog; cook fish caught thoroughly or deep-freeze it for a minimum of 2 weeks to destroy the parasite before your dog gets to eat it; leash your dog in order to monitor what he gets into; wrap all garbage, especially any parts cleaned from fish caught, and dispose of them in well-secured garbage cans.

I am sorry my friends and the dogs had to go through SPD, but I am glad that they shared what happened, so the rest of us could learn some valuable lessons.

Ronnie Casey is vice president of PETS — Providing Essentials for Tehama Shelter. She can be reached at rmcredbluff@gmail.com. For more information about PETS, visit petstehama.org.

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Contact information-

P.E.T.S.
P.O. Box 1174
Red Bluff, CA 96080

Phone:  530.527.8702

Email:  petstehama@gmail.com  

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