Salmonellosis & Our Dogs

 Most people think of salmonella as a food poisoning. In dogs, salmonella does induce treatable intestinal infections but that’s not all it causes. Blood infections, abortion, and even death have all been reported in dogs with Salmonellosis. Consider the case of a robust three year old chocolate Labrador retriever that was brought to the vet for acute vomiting and diarrhea. Despite aggressive medical treatment, the dog died within a few hours of the first symptoms. On post-mortem examination, salmonella was isolated from the dog’s intestinal tract. The source of the bacterium was traced to the dog’s home, a commercial chicken farm. The dog had scavenged some deteriorating chicken carcasses contaminated with salmonella.

Once salmonella bacteria enters the body through the mouth, they pass through the stomach to the small intestine where they attach to mucosal cells lining the intestine. After the bacteria move inside the cells, the infected cells die, releasing toxins that trigger fluid excretion by the intestine and, therefore, diarrhea. The salmonella organisms continue moving, penetrating the intestine and eventually reaching the lymph nodes that drain the intestines. If the body mounts an adequate immune response at this stage, the bacteria will not migrate further in the intestine. The dog will only suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly dehydration. If the bacteria manage to pass through the lymph nodes into the body, more serious disease develops. Bacteria can migrate to joints and the uterus, causing infectious arthritis and abortion, respectively. Salmonella organisms can also multiply in the bloodstream. The toxins they release can lead to organ failure and eventual death. Recovery can occur but is very rare.

Salmonella has become more of an issue to the dog-owning public in recent years because of the trend toward feeding raw diets. Meat contaminated with salmonella is a real concern. In a survey of commercial raw meat used in greyhound diets, 66% of samples tested positive for salmonella bacteria. Dogs fed diets contaminated with salmonella will not always become infected, but you should never take that risk. Remember to keep your dog healthy when feeding them meat is to cook it until you know it is 100% cooked so you are at no risk of infecting your dog.