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Recent recalls of several pet food brands due to possible Salmonella contamination have pet parents justifiably concerned. What if your dog eats tainted food and becomes sick?
The good news is that severe Salmonella infections are rare in adult dogs with healthy immune systems. However, they can be lethal to puppies whose immune systems are not fully developed, and older dogs with weakened immune systems. The infections can also be transferred to people, so it is important to take preventative measures to prevent the spread of this bacteria.
What Causes Salmonella in Dogs?
Dogs can become infected with Salmonella by eating contaminated food or feces, or by licking surfaces that have been contaminated.
According to petMD.com, there are more than 2,000 different types of Salmonella. “Typically, a host animal carrying the disease will have two or more different microorganisms or types of Salmonellae bacteria that cause this disease,” the website reports.
Puppies are the most susceptible to the disease due to their undeveloped immune systems. Dogs taking antibiotics are also more at risk because the healthy bacteria lining their digestive tracts may become imbalanced, increasing the possibility of an infection.
Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, writes on veterinarypartner.com that adult dogs fed a raw food diet are also more at risk of becoming infected.
“It has, unfortunately, become popular to feed raw foods to pets with the idea that a raw food diet more closely approximates the natural diet that the feline or canine body evolved to consume, and thus such a diet should be healthier than commercially prepared foods,” she writes. “In fact, the cooking of food is central to removing parasites, bacteria, and bacterial toxins from food. A recent study evaluating raw food diets found that 80 percent of food samples contained Salmonella bacteria and that 30 percent of the dogs in the study were shedding Salmonella bacteria in their stool.”
Dogs in stressful environments, such as crowded shelters with poor sanitation, are also more at risk to become infected, according to petside.com.
Can I Get Salmonella from My Dog?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Salmonella infections are “zoonotic,” meaning they can spread between animals and people. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Salmonella is transmitted through your dog’s stools or saliva.
Salmonella can be shed in your dog’s stool for 4 to 6 weeks after he is infected. If your dog is diagnosed with Salmonella, the CDC recommends taking the following precautions to prevent the spread of infection:
A study released earlier this month found that people, especially toddlers under the age of 3, can become infected by handling contaminated dog food. For that reason it is important to keep young children away from dog food and treats, as well as your pet’s feeding areas. You should also routinely clean and disinfect your pet food and water bowls, preferably not in the kitchen sink.
Further information about how Salmonella infections affect people can be found at WebMD.com.
What are the Symptoms of Salmonella in Dogs?
Salmonellosis is an infection caused by bacteria from Salmonella, according to petside.com. The infection usually stays in your dog’s intestinal tract and can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. It can spread from the damaged intestines to the lymph nodes and then onto other organs, leading to severe illness.
The majority of adult dogs that have been infected with Salmonella have what is referred to as a “subclinical carrier state,” according to the University of Wisconsin – School of Veterinary Medicine. This means that although they are infected, they show no clinical symptoms.
In fact, studies of sled dogs, Greyhounds and other working dogs found Salmonella in up to 63 percent of their stool samples – and most dogs showed no signs of illness, according to petside.com. Since Salmonellosis rarely occurs in dogs, it is believed they may have a natural immunity to it.
If a dog does show signs of being infected, the CDC reports that the most common symptom is diarrhea, which may contain blood or mucous.
These are other symptoms to look for, according to petMD.com:
Abnormally fast heart rate
Swollen lymph nodes
Abnormal vaginal discharge
How is Salmonella in Dogs Diagnosed?
Your vet will probably perform a bacterial culture on a stool sample from your dog, according to petside.com. Additional specialized tests may be run on the culture to determine the type of infection.
How is Salmonella in Dogs Treated?
In most cases your dog can be treated at home, reports petMD.com. You should encourage him to drink water and feed him a diet of bland, easily digestible food.
But for severe cases of Salmonellosis, hospitalization may be necessary, especially for puppies that are severely dehydrated. In the hospital, your dog will be given intravenous (IV) fluids to replace lost fluids and electrolytes, and he may be given antibiotics to kill the infection. In very extreme cases, plasma or blood transfusions may also be necessary.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting a Salmonella Infection?
You can regularly check the FDA website for recent pet food recalls, market withdrawals and safety alerts. You can also sign up to receive updates via email.
To boost your dog’s immune system and prevent him from getting Salmonellosis and other infections, you can supplement his diet with reishi, which offers immunity support for aging dogs as well as dogs with weak immune systems.
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