Salmon poisoning is an infection that dogs get from eating raw salmon or trout, and is only found in Oregon, Washington and Northern California west of the Cascade Mountains. This infection is caused by a rikettsia (bacteria), Neorickettsia helminthoeca, that resides inside a liver fluke called Neorickettsia salmonicola. The fish ingests the fluke which is living in the same water as the intermediate host, the snail. Quite a complicated life cycle! Once the fluke is in the intestines of the dog, it releases the rickettsia which spreads in the bloodstream. Symptoms generally occur within one week of ingestion of the raw fish and include fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, not eating and nasal or ocular discharge. If not treated, this disease is often fatal.
To diagnose the disease, a fecal sample is needed to look for the fluke eggs. Treatment involves antibiotics and supportive care which includes maintaining hydration and monitoring protein levels which can be lost through the inflamed intestine. We also deworm the pet to eliminate the liver fluke. Most pets begin responding to treatment within 24 hours. The good news is that once a pet is successfully treated they are likely immune from getting this condition again.
Please keep this in mind if you and your pet(s) spend any time near water. If any of the above symptoms should develop, please seek veterinary care right away and don’t forget to bring a fecal sample!