The majestic Pacific salmon species is loaded with beneficial nutrients not just to us but also to our four-legged companions. Local walks around creeks, rivers, and streams in late summer and early fall, you may see and smell salmon. A quick warning though, try and not let your dog eat raw salmon. Now it may seem natural or as nature intended, but unfortunately there are deadly parasites in salmon that could also cause serious health issues to your dog like salmon poisoning. Salmon poisoning is caused by a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. Overall, the parasite is relatively harmless. The danger occurs when the parasite itself is infected with a rickettsial organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. It’s this microorganism that causes salmon poisoning in our dogs.
Neorickettsia helmonthoeca organism living inside the salmon is responsible for causing the disease. If left untreated, salmon poisoning can be fatal within two weeks of exposure. Your dog may show signs of depression, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. Treatment is antibiotics, IV fluids, and supportive care, and the response may take a couple of days to weeks.
Dogs are the only species susceptible to salmon poisoning. Cats, raccoons and bears eat raw fish on a regular basis without any consequence. In my years of working in Campbell River, I have not yet confirmed a single case of salmon poisoning, but it is on the rise in West Coast so be aware, and tight lines out there.
Written by: Dr. Peter Woodward, Veterinarian