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Please tell me if raw salmon is harmful to dogs -- I have been told that it is extremely toxic and could cause death.

Jeff Parke, DVM, MS (Seattle, Washington), has written a number of interesting dog & cat related medical articles for the internet. You may write and address your speicifc questions to INTERNET-VET@NETCOM.COM. This article is Copyright 1995 by Jeff Parke DVM. We've received permission from Jeff Parke and Cindy Tittle Moore (publisher) to reprint this article. It has been edited from the original for length, but none of the content has been changed.
Great, a Pacific Northwest question! I learned all about Salmon Poisoning in vet school, but have yet to see a case. It certainly is possible. It is another fascinating example of the circuitous routes evolution has found to get things done. Sorry about that to all of you not living in Northern California northwards on the Pacific coast.

Salmon poisoning is very serious and often fatal. It is caused by a bacterial-like organism (Neorickettsia helminthoeca) that lives in little flukes which parasitize salmonid fish. This fluke (Nanophyetus salmincola) has three different hosts in its life cyle - snails, fish and mammals/birds. The fish eat the snails, mammals/birds eat the fish, and their droppings end up back with the snails again. The flukes travel along for the ride and find various forms of their life cycle in the different hosts. Normal mammilian hosts are critters that eat the salmon; bears, raccoons and birds. Apparently the rickettsia that come with the flukes that come with the fish don't bother these mammals very often. And the flukes and snails seem to get along with the rickettsia pretty well. But dogs and coyotes are considered incidental hosts and haven't evolved ways to counter invasion by the rickettsia.

I would not feed any part of a raw salmon to a dog. That is the way to avoid the disease. Offal is more likely to be infected than meat, but any part of the fish could harbor these critters.

The disease can result in a very sick dog - high fevers are common, gastrointestinal signs often occur, lymph nodes enlarge, dogs dehydrate and basically do all they can to die. Sometimes salmon poisoning is difficult to distinguish from parvo. Diagnosis is usually done by looking for the fluke eggs in fecal samples. It is a more difficult task to look for the rickettsial organisms, but lymph node aspirates can be examined. Treatment is intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy in a veterinary hospital. Tetracycline antibiotics are effective if instituted early enough.

Article is Copyright 1996 by its Author and Cindy Tittle Moore. We reprint with permission.

DISCLAIMER: One of my concerns in writing a column like this is that I am not seeing the animal, and what I get from folks in ASCII isn't always going to be the whole story. So I cannot provide diagnoses, or really tell you to ignore or treat a given problem. I hope the information provided guides you in making good health care decisions for your pets.