Feeding Anadromous Fish Safely: Not Just An Issue for Raw Feeders

Be careful if you bring your dogs fishing or if you live near bodies of water where your dog may find & eat raw fish infected with neorickettsia helminthoeca.

Recently one of our members lovingly fed his two wonderful and much adored dogs some fresh trout purchased from a local market. Unfortunately, he was unaware of the potential risk associated with feeding fresh raw salmon and anadromous fish or how to prepare this type of fish so that it could be consumed safely. Sadly, both of his dogs became very ill and ended up in the emergency clinic. Thankfully, both dogs recovered and were able to come home after a few days, but this was a very scary and expensive incident that could have been easily prevented.

Unfortunately, the attending veterinarian did not correctly diagnose the condition at the time, but thankfully they are now under treatment and should recover in full. From this incident, we realize that education for veterinarians and all canine care-givers on this topic is still needed.

Even though “Salmon Poisoning Disease” is neither rare, difficult to prevent, difficult to diagnose, nor a new problem and many long-time raw feeders are well aware of the risk, we thought it might be a good time to re-post some emails from past discussions on our SFRAW Yahoo Group regarding the safe feeding of raw fish to dogs, which you can find below.

Here is an excerpt from one of the sources we cite in the below emails explaining a little bit about this disease:

“If untreated, death usually occurs within fourteen days of eating the infected fish. Ninety percent of dogs showing symptoms die if they are not treated. Thankfully, salmon poisoning is treatable if it’s caught in time. A key to its diagnosis is telling your veterinarian that your dog ate raw fish. If you have a dog that wanders, or raids trashcans and you are unsure of what it’s eaten; consider the possibility of salmon poisoning.  Salmon poisoning can be diagnosed with a fecal sample or a needle sample of a swollen lymph node. Detecting the parasite’s eggs as they are shed in the feces confirms its presence. The rickettsial organism can be detected in a needle sample from a swollen lymph node. The combination of symptoms, and the presence of parasite eggs or the rickettsial organisms, are enough to justify treatment.

Given the severity of the condition, treatment is relatively simple. Your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic and a “wormer”. The antibiotic kills the rickettsial organisms that cause the illness, and the wormer kills the parasite. If the dog is dehydrated, intravenous fluid are given. Once treatment has been started, most dogs show dramatic improvement within two days.”

Regions where you may find certain species of fish infected with neorickettsia helminthoeca.

July 3, 2011

QUESTION: I’d like to start feeding Eco Paw for my pets. But I learned Raw salmon is not safe for them. How do you feed Eco Paw wild salmon?? Would you tell me your idea?? Thank you! – Megumi Cusick

ANSWER: Yes — raw feeders do need to be careful about raw salmon coming from populations of fish that may be exposed to/carry a parasite infected with Neorickettsia helminthoeca. It’s not just salmon, but certain species of trout as well that can be unsafe to feed raw to dogs. You can learn more about salmon poisoning disease here:

http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/cliented/salmon.aspx

Thankfully, Greg did his research before bringing his products to market – he even spoke directly to the top scientists/veterinarians considered experts on Neorickettsia helminthoeca and Salmon Poisoning Disease in dogs to ensure what he is producing would be 100% safe for dogs to eat. First, the fish he sources are not known to be infected, nor considered to be at risk of being infected, with this microorganism. Next, he freezes all of the product at a temperature and period of time past that kills the microorganism. So, even if the fish did get infected, the handling he does before selling kills any of those microorganisms by duration and constant low temperature freezing. By the time it is sold to you, the risk has been eliminated entirely. Freezing at a low enough temperature for long enough time and cooking will both eliminate the risk for this disease entirely.

Greg of EcoPawz even has this question answered on his website:

http://ecopawz.com/Home/faq

“What is salmon poisoning disease and should I be concerned? All wild salmon and anadromous fish have a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. This parasite is harmless by itself and is in a symbiotic state with the salmon. The danger to canines is when that parasite comes in contact with another parasite (Neorickettsia helminthoeca – a nematode or worm) that lives in snails found in some rivers and streams in the Pacific Northwest watersheds. Through this cycle, eggs from the nematode hatch in the canines’ stomachs causing massive dehydration, vomiting and death if untreated within a few weeks. We have consulted with the Department of Veterinary Parasitology at Washington State University, as well as the FDA’s guidelines on the preparation of raw fish for human consumption, and our processes far exceed any necessary to kill these parasites. In addition, our wild salmon is sourced from Alaska where the parasites that cause SPD cannot live. To summarize, our processing procedures are far more comprehensive than necessary to kill a parasite that cannot exist in our raw material! Take that helminthoeca!”

So, the EcoPawz products are totally safe to feed to your dogs! Now, when he does the “Catch of the Day” Seafood packs, those are meant for people to eat and there have been some packs that would not be safe for dogs unless it was frozen or cooked first before feeding. Fresh salmon and trout are what you need to be really careful with.

Hope this clarifies!

Kasie

Nov. 10, 2004

QUESTION: I’ve been feeding a raw diet to my dog (a 40 pound border collie) for the past 14 months and he’s doing just fine. I live near an Asian market where they sell many different kinds of fish, as well as fish heads (salmon and catfish are the ones I remember seeing). I’ve read that it’s ok to feed raw fish, even whole ones, to dogs, but I haven’t had the nerve to do it yet! Do any of you have advice about this? Thanks very much. – Laurie & Blue

ANSWER: Laurie, Below please find information about the dangers of feeding raw salmon from an old email I wrote that includes some informative articles. I would not recommend feeding raw salmon, trout or other fish that may carry the Neorickettsia helminthoec microorganism. There is a fairly significant risk to feeding raw salmon to dogs. It is commonly called “salmon poisoning” but it’s really not poisoning, it’s an infection by a microorganism called Neorickettsia helminthoec. This organism infects a parasite that certain fish (salmon, steelhead and trout being the most common) can carry. It’ doesn’t harm the fish, raccoons, cats or bears – but can actually be fatal to dogs.

More about it here:

http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Prairie/3702/SPD.html

http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/ClientED/salmon.asp

Salmon caught anywhere on our western coasts are at risk for carrying this organism, so it’s best to cook any salmon before feeding, or feed canned salmon instead. “Salmon poisoning” is really common in dogs in the Pacific Northwest – and in dogs who go fishing with their people or who find dead fish parts on the river-banks or garbage cans.

As for other raw-safe fish – I think that dogs generally prefer the smaller fish, like sardines. The smaller fish have less of a bio-accumulation of toxins and heavy metals – so they are healthier, too. I actually only feed canned fish/seafood on occasion, so I haven’t fed raw fish before, but you can learn more about feeding raw fish here:

http://www.njboxers.com/faqs.htm#Fish

http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Flats/7244/fish.html

Have fun!

Kasie

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