Every fall, salmon fill local waterways as they return to lay and fertilize their eggs in streams where they were born.
As salmon spawning season begins this month, now is a good time to remind Pacific Northwest dog owners about the danger of salmon poisoning disease.
What is Salmon Poisoning Disease?
Salmon Poisoning Disease is a potentially fatal condition seen in dogs that eat raw salmon and other anadromous fish (fish that swim upstream to breed).
Dr. Bill Foreyt, a veterinary parasitologist at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said that “salmon (salmonid fish) and other anadromous fish can be infected with a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola.
“Overall, the parasite is relatively harmless,” added Dr. Foreyt. “The danger occurs when the parasite a rickettsial organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca infects the parasite. It’s this microorganism that causes salmon poisoning.”
You should also remember that the parasite can be in not only any species of salmon, but it can also be in trout, steelhead, and the Pacific Giant Salamander.
The area from northern California to central Washington, “is the only region of the world in which dogs face this potentially deadly health threat.”
Dr. Bill Foreyt also noted that “Canids (dogs) are the only species susceptible to salmon poisoning. That’s why cats, raccoons and bears eat raw fish regularly with out consequence.”
Once a dog eats an infected salmon, some or all these symptoms will appear in about six days:
- lack of appetite
- swollen lymph nodes
Without treatment, about 90% the dogs infected with salmon poisoning will die within about 2 weeks.
However, studies show that 85-90% of dogs affected by salmon poisoning will recover with appropriate care and antibiotic treatment. The key is to diagnose and treat it as quickly as possible.
How to Protect Your Dog from Salmon Poisoning Disease
The best way to protect your dog from salmon poisoning disease is simple: Don’t let it eat raw salmon!
But this may be difficult if you have a dog that will scarf up any piece of food it finds (Labrador Retriever owners, I’m talking to you!).
Here are some ways you can prevent your dog from eating raw salmon:
- Cook salmon thoroughly or deep-freeze it for a minimum of 2 weeks to destroy the parasite
- Don’t leave raw salmon out where a counter surfing dog can snatch it.
- If you clean a salmon yourself, wrap the raw entrails securely and dispose them in well-secured cans.
- Remind family members not to give raw salmon to the dog.
- Keep your dog leashed at beaches, rivers and streams with spawning salmon to prevent it from eating dead, dying, or even swimming fish in shallow water.
If your dog does eat raw salmon, take it to a vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Salmon spawning season generally lasts from September through November.
Here’s a story from KING 5 last year about salmon poisoning: