Salmon Poisoning Disease Found In Southern California

SPD found in Southern California.

A recent case of salmon poisoning disease (SPD) in two dogs in Southern California is prompting veterinarians to warn pet owners about the potential risks involved in allowing dogs to be exposed to raw salmonid fish.

The potentially fatal disease is usually found in the Pacific Northwest  and can affect dogs, wolves, ferrets and foxes that ingest uncooked salmon, trout, steelhead and similar freshwater fish.

Symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, weakness, swollen lymph nodes and dehydration, signs that can often be confused with other gastrointestinal diseases.

“Most people in this area [Orange County] are unfamiliar with the symptoms of this disease, which appear within five to seven days after eating infected raw fish,” says Mike Moore, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, at VCA All-Care Animal Referral Center in Fountain Valley, who treated the patients.

“Left undiagnosed, SPD can be fatal within several weeks. SPD is treatable if diagnosed quickly.”

Dr. Moore, who had practiced in Washington for several years and was familiar with the disease, says he suspected SPD when the pet owners told him that their 10-month-old Yorkie and her 2-year-old mother had ingested raw fish from the Santa Ana River Lakes.

SPD is caused by a bacterial organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca, which is associated with a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. This parasite completes its life cycle in a snail called Oxytrema plicifer. Fish become infected by eating the snail.

Because the snail primarily lives in the Pacific Northwest, it is unlikely that SPD will be able to establish itself and thrive in Southern California, Moore says. The trout in this case are thought to have come from stocks in northern California.

There aren’t any requirements to test for SPD before fish are stocked in Southern California waters or treatment measures once the disease is found, says Joe Maret, fish health lab pathologist with the California Department of Fish and Game.

One reason could be because SPD doesn’t affect humans, says Emily Beeler, DVM, a veterinarian with the Los Angeles County of Department of Veterinary Public Health-Rabies Control Program.

The department reported seven cases of SPD in dogs in 2007 and four cases in 2006.

In Southern California, SPD generally isn’t at the top of the list of things to look for, says Dr. Beeler. But veterinarians are now becoming more aware and know what signs to look for, she adds.

SPD is usually diagnosed through a fecal examination and treated with antibiotics and a de-wormer as well as intravenous fluids. Most dogs usually show improvement within a few days.  <HOME>

Posted December 26, 2007, 8:48 a.m., EST

salmon poisoning disease, SPD, raw salmonid fish

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