A seasonal hazard to our canine friends known only to the great Northwest of the United States is Salmon poisoning. Ingestion of raw salmon, steelhead, or any other anadromous fish (fish that swim upstream to breed) can contain a parasite known as Nanophyetus Samincola. If this parasite contains the rickettsial organism known as Neorickettsia helminthoeca, the canine is at great risk of dying without treatment. The most common fish known to cause infection are salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon.
Dogs are the only species susceptible to Salmon Poisoning. The majority of cases in Oregon and Washington occur west of the Cascade Mountain range and along the Columbia River basin. Dogs usually will find dead fish spawned out riverside, or may be fed the raw fish by their owners after a trip to the coast. After ingesting raw fish clinical signs usually occur within 6 days and include: lethargy, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, anorexia, dehydration, and lymph node enlargement. If these signs are left untreated by a veterinarian ninety percent of canines will succumb to the infection within 14 days from ingestion.
Salmon Poisoning is treatable and the key to successful treatment is first accurate diagnosis. If eye witness ingestion is not noted, but disease is suspected it can commonly be diagnosed from a fecal sample (the parasites eggs will be seen) or an aspirate of an enlarged lymph node (the rickettsial organism would be identified). Depending on the time of diagnosis and severity of signs; treatment may include only an oral antibiotic if no vomiting/anorexia, dehydration present. Many cases go left without a diagnosis for the first week until they are a real emergency as the dog has likely become severely dehydrated, suffering from major protein loss/ GI disease, and require days of hospitalization on IV antibiotics as they are unable to hold anything orally down. Once a canine has recovered from the infection your veterinarian will need to prescribe a second medication to kill off the parasite present in their body.
Although the salmon and steelhead cannot spawn up the Deschutes River as far as Bend; there are still numerous cases seen at veterinary hospitals across Deschutes County. Please monitor your dog closely as you hike riverside or along the coastal waters. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us during normal business hours – (541)-383-3833 or the Animal Emergency Center of Central Oregon (541)-385-9110.