Salmon Poisoning


Salmon Poisoning Disease or “SPD” can be a problem for anyone who lets their dog go fishing on their own or feeds their dog a raw meat diet that includes raw salmon.

While many of us humans enjoy getting out into nature with our fur friends and often take them along when we go fishing, feeding raw fish to our furry companions could be a moment of sharing that accidentally poisons or kills Fido or Fifi.

When our dogs eat raw salmon, or salmonid type fish, which includes many anadromous species of fish, which are born in fresh water, yet spend most of their life in the ocean and then return to fresh water and swim upstream when it’s time to spawn, our dogs can become infected. Common species of anadromous fish include salmon, shad, smelt, striped bass and sturgeon.

SPD is a potentially fatal condition seen in dogs that become infected with a parasite called “Nanophyetus salmincola”, which are found to infect some species of freshwater snails that are eaten by the anadromous species of fish as part of their food chain.

By itself, the parasite is relatively harmless. The danger to our dogs occurs when the parasite is infected with a difficult to pronounce micro-organism bacteria called “Neorickettsia helminthoeca”, which is eaten by the fish, which is then eaten by a dog.

According to Dr. Bill Foreyt, a veterinary parasitologist at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “Salmon poisoning occurs most commonly west of the Cascade mountain range.” In case you’re wondering, canids (our dogs) are the only species susceptible to contracting this fatal disease, as felines, raccoons and bears regularly eat raw fish without harmful consequence.

If your dog has been poisoned from eating raw fish, onset of symptoms usually occur 5-7 days after eating the infected fish and in the acute stages, gastrointestinal symptoms are quite similar to canine parvovirus which displays itself with abrupt vomiting and diarrhea.

While SPD has a mortality rate of up to 90%, it can be diagnosed with a fecal sample or a needle sample of a swollen lymph node and is treatable if caught in time, which means that early recognition of the symptoms could save your dog’s life. Common symptoms of salmon poisoning include, vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, weakness, swollen lymph nodes and dehydration.

If you don’t take swift action and the symptoms are left untreated, 90% of dogs can die within fourteen days of eating the infected fish. The key to quickly and successfully treating salmon poisoning is acting in time and letting your veterinarian know that your dog ate raw fish.

If you allow your dog to wander and they have a propensity to raid garbage cans or fish in the local stream and you are otherwise unsure of what he or she could have eaten, you will want to be aware of the possibility of salmon poisoning if your dog is displaying any of the above abnormal symptoms.

The next time you take your dog fishing with you or purchase raw salmon, be very careful to keep this raw fish out of your dog’s reach, no matter how much they may beg for it, so they will never suffer from SPD symptoms that can lead to their death.

Prevention is simple, cook all fish before feeding it to your dog and please immediately attend your veterinarian’s office if you suspect your dog has eaten raw salmon or any species of raw anadromous fish.


“There are NO bad dogs ~ only misunderstood ones.”


~ Asia Moore, Author & Dog Whisperer
© 2016

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