Salmonella is a bacterial infection that can negatively impact the health of our furry friends. Today, veterinarians from our Augusta animal hospital discuss salmonella in dogs, its signs, transmission, and treatment options.
What is salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacteria that can infect many different animal species' gastrointestinal tracts. Salmonella is divided into two species, which are further subdivided into thousands of different strains (serovars). Each of these strains is slightly different, with some causing severe disease and others not causing infection at all.
Can dogs get salmonella poisoning?
In fact, salmonella can affect our beloved four-legged friends too. According to a 2017 study, 2.5 percent of all dogs tested had bacteria in their gastrointestinal tract. Only 55% of infected dogs in the study, however, showed symptoms of salmonella, such as diarrhea, at the time of testing. This means that nearly half of the participants had no symptoms but were spreading the infection asymptomatically.
And yes, salmonella can be passed from dog to human, and vice-versa. Dogs with salmonella can become carriers of the bacteria without showing signs of illness, potentially posing a risk to other pets and humans in the household.
What causes salmonella in dogs?
Salmonella lives primarily in the gastrointestinal tract and is excreted in the feces of infected animals. Infection occurs when an uninfected animal consumes the bacteria. Some dogs may become infected after consuming some contaminated pet food, treats, or undercooked meat. Salmonella infections are most common in dogs who have a compromised immune system. Because puppies do not yet have a fully developed immune system, they are more likely to develop salmonellosis.
Can dogs get salmonella from raw chicken?
Yes, dogs can contract salmonella from consuming raw chicken or other raw meat. While some dogs may not show symptoms, others can experience symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and lethargy. To minimize the risk of salmonella infection, it's recommended to cook meat thoroughly and follow safe food handling practices, especially when preparing homemade diets for your dog.
What are the main ways that salmonella occurs?
There are a number of ways that you or your dog can contract salmonella, including:
- Consuming raw or undercooked meat, particularly chicken, is a common source of infection.
- Drinking water contaminated with salmonella can lead to infection.
- Dogs can contract salmonella from interacting with infected animals, their feces, or contaminated environments.
- Salmonella can be transmitted between dogs and humans, emphasizing the importance of proper hygiene when handling pets.
What are the symptoms of salmonella poisoning in dogs?
While some dogs may have salmonella and show no signs at all (asymptomatic), others can develop severe symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of salmonella in dogs include:
- Acute diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Appetite loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lethargy, lack of interest in play or exercise
- Increased heart rate
If your dog is showing symptoms of salmonella, it is essential that they see a veterinarian to confirm that salmonella is the cause of your pup's symptoms and to help stop the spread of this condition to other pets, or people, in your household.
More Severe Symptoms of Salmonella in Dogs
If your dog displays any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately or bring your dog to an emergency vet:
- Persistent fever
- Uncontrolled weight loss
- Blood loss
- Non-intestinal infections
- Prolonged diarrhea (lasting more than 3-4 weeks)
- Miscarriage in pregnant dogs (a rare symptom, but still a cause of concern)
How is salmonella diagnosed?
To begin, your veterinarian will go over the fundamentals. Your dog's medical history will likely be taken into consideration to help the veterinarian determine whether salmonella is a possible diagnosis. The veterinarian will then go over your dog's symptoms and perform a physical examination.
If your vet suspects salmonella, they may run more diagnostic tests. These can include:
- Fecal cultures
- Blood work
- Blood cultures, if sepsis is present
Remember, take your dog to the vet if you suspect salmonella. The sooner you can get a diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin.
How is salmonella in dogs treated?
Salmonella treatment is determined by symptoms your dog is experiencing. Antibiotics may be used in severe cases or if your dogs has a compromised immune system, but should be avoided in mild or asymptomatic cases due to concerns about antibiotic resistance and potential disruption of gut microbiome.
Your veterinarian may also advise you on symptomatic treatments to alleviate the clinical signs of salmonellosis. Since salmonella can cause dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea, fluid therapy may be administered to maintain proper hydration levels. In cases of severe illness, hospitalization might be necessary.
Dietary changes may also be recommended, such as feeding a bland diet or easily digestible foods to give your pup's digestive system a chance to recover.
Can I prevent my dog from getting salmonella?
Salmonella is a very real health risk for dogs, but awareness and proactive measures can help you to minimize the risk of your furry friend becoming infected. Feeding your dog a commercially prepared diet, or ensuring that you homemade meals are properly cooked can go a long way to preventing salmonella. It is also important, especially if you feed your dog a homemade or raw diet, that you wash your dog's bowls after every meal.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.