Canine Salmonella

by Liza Blau
    Salmonella bacteria is often found in undercooked meat.

    Salmonella bacteria is often found in undercooked meat.

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    Salmonellosis is infection caused by the salmonella bacteria. It can occur in cold- and warm-blooded animals of all kinds, and it transfers among them. It can occur in dogs of all ages, but it's more likely in puppies and older dogs with weak immune systems, in dogs taking various medications, in dogs who live in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, and in dogs whose natural resistance has been compromised by other illnesses.

    Symptoms

    If your pooch has contracted salmonellosis, his symptoms can range from chronic to severe, depending on the aggressiveness of the illness. Symptoms might include vomiting, lethargy and mild to chronic diarrhea. The stool may be bloody, foul-smelling and mucousy. If he's vomiting or has diarrhea, the dog can become dehydrated. Salmonella bacteria in a dog's bloodstream can potentially lead to abscesses in his kidneys, liver, kidneys, lungs and uterus. In extreme cases, a dog may develop high fever and suffer dramatic weight loss. If your dog has chronic diarrhea, he can shed the salmonella bacteria in his feces and spread the infection to other animals and even humans. Salmonellosis is zoonotic, which means it transmits from species to species, such as from dogs to humans.

    Causes

    Your dog might have contracted the salmonella bacteria by ingesting contaminated foods or animal feces, or after coming into contact with objects or surfaces that have been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected pooch. Dry pet food, raw foods, treats and supplements have also been implicated as possible sources of salmonella bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While shopping for dog food, look for cans or packages without discolorations or tears. Never purchase canned dog food with visible dents. Promptly discard or refrigerate leftover wet pet food.

    Diagnosis

    Take your pup to a vet if you suspect he has salmonellosis. Bring a fresh stool sample with you, if possible. The vet will ask how long your pup has been sick and for a list of his symptoms. He'll obtain blood, urine and fecal samples for laboratory analysis to rule out other causes with similar symptoms, such as gastroenteritis, parasites, food allergies or sensitivities, or other possible stresses that might be making him ill. If it isn't possible to obtain a stool sample, your vet will take a anal swab to examine for evidence of salmonella bacteria.

    Treatment

    If your furry friend is diagnosed with a mild case of salmonellosis, outpatient treatment is usually possible. But if your dog has a severe case and has developed a blood infection, extreme dehydration or other serious side effects, he might require a plasma or blood transfusion to help replace lost fluids. Other treatments might include antibiotics and helping your pup overcome severe weight loss. If your dog has diarrhea or is vomiting, your vet might limit food and water until he fully recovers. As Fido becomes stronger, he'll gradually be allowed more food and water.

    Considerations

    Avoid giving your dog raw food or undercooked meat -- both are high risk factors for salmonellosis. If possible, don't leave your dog in an animal pound or shelter while you're traveling because overcrowding often spreads salmonella from infected animals. Always wear protective gloves while cleaning up feces and areas where your dog has eliminated. If possible, wash your dog's utensils and dishes in a sink other than a bathtub or kitchen sink to protect against cross-contamination. After you handle dog treats and food, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially if you're about to prepare, serve and eat human food, or prepare baby bottles, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Photo Credits

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    About the Author

    Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.

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