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Dogs could become ill from eating raw salmon

Since You Asked

My dog came home the other day proudly carrying a salmon carcass. I've heard dogs can die from eating salmon. What should I do?

' Bill B., Rogue River

Better watch your pooch carefully for the next 10 days, Billy. Your pal could come down with a case of potentially fatal disease known as salmon poisoning.

We see a lot of that this time of year, says Sheila Jarvis, a veterinary technician at Siskiyou Veterinary Hospital in Medford.

Salmon, steelhead and trout carry a parasite that can be fatal for dogs, coyotes, foxes and other canines. The parasite is a rickettsia, a microorganism that's somewhere between a virus and a bacterium.

Dogs are at the tail end of a parasitic cycle that includes fish and snails. The organism develops in snails, then moves to fish.

Dogs are infected when they eat the raw flesh ' whether it's from a spawned-out salmon they find along rivers, or the remains of an uncooked fish that somebody carelessly left where a dog could get at it.

Cooking destroys the parasite, though, and not all fish are infected.

Jarvis says symptoms of salmon poisoning usually include lethargy, complete loss of appetite and diarrhea (which may be bloody or orange).

Symptoms typically develop within five to seven days after ingesting the fish, but may not appear for as long as a month.

The disease is often fatal unless treated, as the dog succumbs to dehydration. It can be treated effectively with drugs such as tetracycline, and if your friend has been infected once it will be immune to future infections (even though it took antibiotics to beat the bug).

So pay attention to your pup, pal, and be prepared to see a vet.

Send questions to Since You Asked, Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to