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Salmon Poisoning Disease in Dogs

Salmon Poisoning in Dogs is one of those things that, quite honestly, I thought everyone who had a dog was aware of. But, lately I’ve been speaking to some pretty savvy dog parents who were completely unaware of this serious – and potentially deadly – disease. So, if you’ve never heard of Salmon Poisoning Disease, now’s the time to get the scoop so that you can be sure your dog does not become a victim of this horrible – and preventable – disease.

raw salmon dogs pet food diva

What is Salmon Poisoning Disease?
Salmon Poisoning Disease (SPD) is a potentially fatal gastrointestinal or systemic infection that occurs when dogs eat raw salmon or other types of fish containing a ricketssial microorganism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca.

What fish carry SPD?
Any ocean-going fish that swims upstream to breed can cause SPD, including salmon (salmonid fish) and steel head trout.

Are cats susceptible to SPD?
No. Cats do not get Salmon Poisoning Disease.

Is SPD limited to a certain geographical region?
Yes. SPD occurs in fish living in the coastal regions of northern California, Oregon and Washington in the United States and southern British Columbia in Canada. Dogs in Brazil have been reported to contract a similar disease.

How does infection with SPD occur?
First, the fish is infected with a fluke called Nanophyetus salmincola, which in itself is relatively harmless. However, the fluke in turn carries a dangerous microorganism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. When a dog consumes infected raw fish, this dangerous microorganism is passed along, serving as the cause of the disease.

What are the symptoms of SPD?
Symptoms include vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea, dehydration, fever, weakness and swollen lymph nodes.

How is SPD diagnosed?
Suspicion of the disease is based on the dog’s clinical signs and history and diagnosed via a fecal sample or lymph node needle biopsy.

Is SPD treatable?
Early SPD is treatable, however left untreated 90% of dogs die within 6 – 10 days of showing clinical signs. Clinical signs typically appear about one week after the dog consumes the infected fish.

How is SPD treated?
Treatment includes administration of certain antibiotics as well as supportive care of IV fluids and maintaining body temperature.

How can I prevent my dog from getting SPD?
The only certain way to protect against SPD is to never allow a dog to eat raw fish.

Please, heed this information and steer clear of feeding your canine companion raw salmon or any raw fish that can potentially carry Salmon Poisoning Disease. You, and your dog, will be glad you did.


References
Hall, EJ. (2013). Chapter 57 – Small Intestine, in Canine and Feline Gastroenterology, pp. 651 – 728, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-4160-3661-6.00057-2.

Hoggan, Sarah, Salmon Poisoning Disease, Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, https://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/diseases/salmon-poisoning.

Solano-Gallego, L, Parnell, NK & Lappin, M. (2008). Chapter 115 – Rickettsial Infections, in “Handbook of Small Animal Practice” (5th ed), pp. 1121 – 1131, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-4160-3949-5.50119-9.

Comments

  1. Paul Ryan says:

    I think you should do your homework before scaring people! I was involved in the fishing industry for many years. I have never heard of this disease and I live in British Columbia. If you are concerned about this or any other parasite in raw fish, then freeze the fish first. That will kill any parasite. When restaurants serve raw salmon for sushi or other dishes, it is always frozen first. I would suggest that you buy wild salmon, rather than farmed salmon, since it stands a better chance of being parasite free!

  2. Does cooking the salmon make a difference? Just wanting to make sure that cooked salmon is safe.

  3. Does freezing kill this microorganism?

  4. I didn’t see you mention Alaska. Are those salmon considered safe?

    • Alaska is not considered a “hot spot” for this problem, however I have read that some fish carrying the microorganism have been found in Alaskan waters. I would contact your local fisheries officer for more information on that.

  5. What about freezing the salmon for 3-6 weeks before giving it to the dogs? Does that mitigate the infection?

  6. As well as cooking I understood freezing for at least two weeks was ok. No? This link to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Assoc. says they think freezing two weeks is ok. https://oregonvma.org/care-health/dogs/salmon-poisoning-disease

    • Two of the links you give also say freezing makes the fish safe for dogs, one says only 24 hours freezing is necessary.

      • My concern with freezing is that the temperatures given are below that of a normal household freezer and therefore I do not consider that to be a viable method for the average person. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the only surefire way to be certain to kill the harmful microorganism is by cooking. Since there are many safe fish to feed raw, I don’t advise taking the chance.

    • Hi Jean. They are talking about deep freezing. Deep freezing is not the same as freezing in a normal household freezer. Deep freezing is an industrial technique that subjects the food to extreme cold.

  7. I occasionally use canned salmon. It says it is wild caught. Would this be considered cooked, therefore safe to feed?

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