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Dec 02 2014

Alert for Pets Who Frequent Our Local Beaches of Normandy Park, Des Moines and Burien!

Priceless Pet Clinic just diagnosed a case of “Salmon Poisoning” in a young dog in the local community.  The dog frequents the local beaches in Normandy Park.  This likely means the surrounding beaches contain the infectious organism that leads to “Salmon Poisoning”.

The dog has been under care in the last 24 hours and is doing well.

We do not see “Salmon Poisoning” very frequently, but is an important differential diagnosis for patients with acute onset vomiting, diarrhea and a fever.  In our experience, “Salmon Poisoning” tends to arise in geographic pockets than can change from year to year. Without treatment, this infection can progress to a fatal disease.  Prognosis is excellent when treated early on in the coarse of the disease.

We have seen dogs develop this disease drinking stagnant water that contained dead, decaying salmon. Thus, it is possible to come down with the disease without directly eating the fish.  If your dog frequents the area beaches and has experienced vomiting and diarrhea, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian.  Diagnosis can be made through fecal examination.

We’ve included some basic information regarding “Salmon Poisoning” below.

Patrick Miles, DVM

Lee Miles, DVM

Jenny Brown, DVM

If you have further questions or concerns please contact Priceless Pet Clinic at 206-592-6454 or email us at

Priceless Pet Clinic

Normandy Park Towne Center

19893 1st Ave S.

Suite 202

Normandy Park, WA 98148


Now open weekdays until 7pm


Salmon Poisoning 

Salmon poisoning is also known as salmon disease, salmon poisoning disease (SPD), and neorickettsia poisoning. It is an acute and often fatal infectious disease of dogs, coyotes, and foxes of the Pacific Northwest.

Despite its name, salmon poisoning does not involve a toxin. Salmon poisoning is an infection that develops when dogs eat raw fish (salmon, trout, or steelhead) or Pacific Giant Salamanders that contain a fluke. A fluke, also known as a trematode, is an internal parasite. In this case the fluke is Nanophyetus salmincola that contains a rickettsial organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. Rickettsial organisms are the cause to other infectious diseases such as Lyme’s disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis which are spread through ticks.

Once the larval flukes reach the dog’s intestinal tract, they embed in the dog’s duodenal mucosa, and release the rickettsiae. The rickettsial organisms then spread through the bloodstream to the liver, lungs, brain, and lymphoid tissue. Clinical signs include but are not limited to: fever; nausea; vomiting; bloody diarrhea; weight loss; ascites; nasal and eye discharge; enlarged lymph nodes; twitching; and seizures. Approximately 60 percent of cases present with generalized lymph node enlargement. Unless treated, 50 – 90% of affected animals can die of infection within 7 to 10 days.

Clinical signs usually begin about one week after the animal eats the infected raw fish, although delays of 33 days have been reported.

Geographic Distribution

Although infected fish can be found in the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to the coast of Alaska, salmon poisoning is most commonly found in Washington, Oregon, northern California, and southern Vancouver Island (Canada). It is also seen inland along the rivers of fish migration. The Pacific Northwest has the trematode’s first intermediate host, a small snail called Oxytrema plicifer.


Although clinical signs are caused by the rickettsial organisms and not the fluke, presumptive diagnosis is usually made by identifying the fluke’s ova (eggs) in the feces. Ova are identified in 92% of cases. Direct smears of fecal material usually provide sufficient specimen for diagnosis, although other methods can be used.

Lymph node cytology and histopathology may provide a more definitive diagnosis, if necessary.

A history of access to raw fish also aids in diagnosis.


To combat the hemorrhage, necrosis, and infection, affected animal usually need antibiotics, fluid therapy, antiemetics, antidiarrheals, and anticestodals (drugs that kill flukes).

Preventive Measures

Dogs should not be allowed to eat raw or smoked-raw fish (salmon, trout, steelhead), or Pacific Giant Salamanders.

Dogs that survive salmon poisoning will be immune to re-infection with the same strain. However, infection with an alternate strain can occur because there is no cross-protection.


Authored by: Becky Lundgren, DVM

Date Published: 11/8/2010 10:24:00 AM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 11/8/2010 10:24:00 AM


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