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Salmon Poisoning in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Salmon poisoning, also known as Salmon Poisoning Disease or Neorickettsia helminthoeca, is an acute infectious disease of wild and domestic dogs caused by ingestion of raw fish. The infective agent is transmitted through the various stages of a fluke in a snail-fish-dog life cycle.

The name of the disease is misleading because there is no toxin involved. The disease is caused by the Rickettsial organism Neorickettsai helminthoeca, and is most often associated with eating raw fish containing N. salminocola, the trematode fluke (worm) carrier.

Exposure to a fresh brackish stream or beach and eating raw fish in an endemic area are risk factors. The fluke parasite is carried in the kidneys of infected Salmon (can occur in other fish but is uncommon). The fluke is passed to the dog after ingestion of the infected fish. The fluke grows and matures in the dogs gastrointestinal tract at which time the fluke releases the rickettsial organism Neorickettsai helminthoeca. This organism is then taken up into the blood stream, blood cells and lymph nodes.


Salmon poisoning is seen in dogs of all ages and primarily occurs in the northern Pacific portion of the U.S. and the Pacific costal are of Canada.

What to Watch For

Common signs of Salmon poisoning include:

  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (with or without blood)
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Nasal and eye discharge may be seen in some dogs
  • Fever

    Diagnosis

  • Baseline tests to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in all patients, and are often within normal limits.
  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the thorax (chest) and abdomen are helpful in ruling out other disorders.
  • Isolation of the organism via special staining procedures
  • Lymph node aspirates
  • Fecal Examination in Dogs may reveal characteristic eggs of the carrier N. salminocola

    Treatment

    Most of these patients are acutely (abruptly) ill and need hospitalization. Treatment to treat infection, control vomiting and maintain hydration is essential.
  • Fluid and electrolyte therapy is recommended.
  • Drugs to control vomiting.
  • Monitoring for extreme elevations in body temperature and treating, as with cool
    water baths
  • Appropriate antibiotic administration may include Doxycycline (Vibramycin®), Tetracycline (Panmycin®), Oxytetracycline (Terramycin®, Liquamycin®), or Ampicillin (Polyflex®).
  • Anthelmintics (dewormers) are effective against the fluke (carrier). Praziquantel (Droncit®, Drontal®) is a drug commonly used.

    Prognosis

    The prognosis is good in pets that are aggressively treated with fluids, antibiotics and medications to control vomiting. Many untreated dogs die within 4 to 10 days.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication and diet as directed by your veterinarian. Overall prognosis is good if caught and treated early. Dogs not treated usually succumb within 5 to 10 days.

    Prevent animals from eating raw fish.


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