Fishermen around the Northwest are enjoying some exceptional salmon runs this autumn. Puget Sound is teeming with pink salmon and there's a record-breaking fall Chinook run in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
But as fish move upstream to spawn, danger lurks for dogs.
Dr. Scott Capsey had his first encounter with "salmon poisoning" years before he became a vet. His family's normally exuberant golden retriever mysteriously turned lethargic, had diarrhea and lots of vomiting.
"They didn't know if she was going to make it," says Capsey. "I remember that conversation."
After much investigation, it turned out the dog had eaten a fisherman's discards, which brought on a bacterial infection spread by a fish parasite. The potentially fatal infection is treatable with antibiotics, antidiarrheals, fluid therapy and an anti-parasitic drug.
Capsey says his dog made a full recovery.
Now that it's salmon season, he and his colleagues at the Steamboat Animal Hospital near Olympia routinely ask owners of sick dogs, "Did Fido possibly interact with raw fish?"
"There's always, 'Oh, I didn't know,'" Capsey says. "There's a lot of (pet) food that is salmon-based. It is usually okay, because it's cooked. So the idea is, 'Oh they love eating fish. It's not a big deal.'"
But it is.
Capsey says the best defense is to keep a close eye on your pet near the water and never feed raw salmon, steelhead or trout to a dog.
Cats, bears and humans are not subject to this disease.
On the Web:
Salmon Poisoning Disease - WSU College of Veterinary Medicine