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Salmon poisoning disease (SPD) is a fatal disease of dogs including wild species and occurs on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains from northern California to central Washington. The disease, first recognized by settlers in the early 19th century, was named salmon poisoning disease because dogs became sick after eating salmon.

SPD is caused by bacteria called Neorickettsia helminthoeca that is carried by a parasitic fluke which had a complicated life cycle involving both snails and salmonid fish. The fluke harbors the bacteria throughout its life including immature fluke stages which are released from the snails and then infect fish. The immature flukes encyst in salmonid fish (and some non-salmonid fish and Pacific giant salamanders) and are then consumed by fish eating mammals. Cats appear to be not susceptible to SPD. Where other species are unaffected by SPD, wild and domestic canine species become severely ill when the developed and mature fluke releases the bacteria into the dogís intestine and the disease is spread to lymph nodes, spleen, liver, thymus and brain.

Following ingestion of a parasitized fish, dogs will generally show high fever within 5-7 days with the animalís temperature gradually decreasing over the next 4-8 days while becoming more severely ill if lift untreated. Inappetence, depression, dehydration, vomiting and watery, often bloody diarrhea follows and more than 90 percent of infected dogs will die unless treated with immediate veterinary care.

Care will often include specific antibiotics to kill the bacteria, a wormer to remove flukes, intravenous rehydration and treatment for vomiting and diarrhea.

If your dog has had access to raw fish in the Pacific Northwest and shows any signs of illness get to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Freezing fish at -4 degrees F for 24 hours or thoroughly cooking infected fish will kill both the immature fluke and deadly bacteria. Salmon poisoning disease does not affect humans. However, though symptoms are rare, people can become infected by flukes if they consume inadequately cooked fluke infected fish.

For more information contact you veterinarian.
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