Salmon Poisoning in Dogs

Dogs in the Pacific Northwest can develop a life threatening infection called salmon poisoning disease.  They develop this infection by eating raw fish that has been parasitized by a fluke, Salmon Poisoning in DogsNanophyetus salmincola. This fluke first infects a small snail, Oxytrema silicula, and eventually leaves the snail and penetrates a fish, most commonly salmon, but other fish have been reported to be infected.  Fish can remain infected with the fluke for years.  The fluke can carry a microorganism, Neorickettsia helminthoeca, that is the cause of most of the clinical signs seen with salmon poisoning.

The fluke attaches to the dog’s intestinal tract and transmits the microorganism into the dog’s body.  The infection can spread throughout the body and clinical signs are typically seen within 6 to 10 days.  The clinical signs that can occur are vomiting, diarrhea, fever, poor appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, and weakness.  The diarrhea can sometimes be bloody. Salmon Poisoning and Dogs

If you suspect your dog has salmon poisoning it is recommended that a veterinarian evaluate your dog immediately.  Your veterinarian will need to perform certain lab tests (blood work, fecal tests, and lymph node cytology) to confirm the diagnosis.  Many of the dogs with salmon poisoning will have severely low platelet counts along with an elevated white blood cell count and possibly low protein levels.  The fluke might be observed in the feces with a fecal sedimentation test.  Finally, the parasite can be seen in a cell sample taken from an enlarged lymph node.

The treatment for salmon poisoning is doxycycline (antibiotic) and praziquantel (dewormer).  Often times the dogs with salmon poisoning are very sick and need supportive care, such as intravenous fluids and gastroprotectants.  To avoid salmon poisoning you should cook any fish that your dog will eat.  Freezing fish for 24 hours will destroy the parasite and microorganism that cause salmon poisoning.  Cats are not susceptible to salmon poisoning.

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Dr Peter Nurre

Peter Nurre, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include internal medicine and cardiology.

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