As spawning salmon become accessible along the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest, Veterinary Poison Emergency Treatment Services (VET PETS) wants to remind you that ingesting the raw, undercooked and smoked fish can be fatal to your dog. Salmon poisoning is caused by a microorganism (Neorickettsia helminthoeca) within a fluke parasite in the fish. Dogs typically become ill within a week of eating the raw fish. Signs include a lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), weight loss, dehydration and lethargy. Lymph nodes can be enlarged as well.
A positive diagnosis can be made by finding the fluke eggs in the stool or the microorganism in an enlarged lymph node. Without treatment, salmon poisoning is often fatal within two weeks. With prompt treatment including supportive care to rehydrate your dog, antibiotics to kill the microorganism, and a dewormer to kill the fluke parasite, the prognosis can be good.
Diagnosis is not difficult, and prevention is as easy as avoiding raw Pacific Northwest salmon in your dog’s diet. Always let your veterinarian know if ingestion of raw fish is a possibility for your dog, especially if signs consistent with salmon poisoning arise.