to Pet Health Network or

Answers from vets about your dog:

Salmon Poisoning Disease: Fishing with Your Dog

Posted September 10, 2014 in Dog Health

One of the most enjoyable outdoor activities for me personally is fishing, and generally dogs enjoy it too. There are, however, a few precautions to take when fishing with your dog. First of all, dogs can be injured by lures and hooks, either by getting caught on them or by swallowing them. Less commonly, dogs can be injured by a large fish flopping and flailing around. They can also fall overboard or slip into the water from a steep bank where, if the current is fast, they can swiftly be swept downstream. Lastly, raw fish can pass along a dangerous condition called salmon poisoning disease (SPD). Salmon poisoning disease is expanding to new parts of the country and you should be aware of it, not only when you’re boating, but even when you’re gardening!

What is salmon poisoning disease?
Contrary to the name, salmon poisoning disease is not a poisoning at all, but rather an infectious disease caused by a parasite called Nanophyetus, which becomes infected with a rickettsial organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. It’s this microorganism that causes salmon poisoning disease.

Surprisingly, it’s not exclusive to salmon; perhaps even more surprisingly, the organism responsible for the disease is not harmful to fish.  

Where is the risk of salmon poisoning disease highest?
Salmon poisoning disease was once a regionalized danger-somewhat limited to the Pacific Northwest. SPD has more recently been reported in other areas though, including California1. Infected fish have been found in the Pacific Ocean from Brazil to the coast of Alaska, but salmon poisoning disease is more prevalent from northern California to Puget Sound.Dead Salmon It’s also seen inland, along the rivers of fish migration2.  

How is salmon poisoning disease transmitted?
Salmon poisoning disease is transmitted by eating or even licking raw fish—primarily members of the salmon family, including trout. This parasite’s life cycle begins in a stream snail called Oxytrema silicula. After a period of time the snail is consumed by a fish—most often a salmon fish, but not always. Dogs (not the only mammal to host the parasite) can then get it by licking or eating affected fish.

What are the symptoms of salmon poisoning disease?
According to Washington State University, common symptoms of salmon poisoning disease include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Dehydration

If not treated, most infected animals will die within just a few

Share This Article

Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.