Disease that causes fever, vomiting reported in California dogs, vets say. What to know

Fishmas, the start of fishing season, is nearly upon us in California.

The state’s lakes and rivers are about to be lined with hopeful anglers. And while the abundance of trout will make way for many days by the water and fresh meals, a new advisory from the Los Angeles County Department of Health is warning Californians to be mindful with their catch, especially around their family pets.

In the memo, Karen Ehnert, Director of Veterinary Public Health, warns dog owners about Salmon Poisoning Disease, an infectious disease in dogs caused by a bacteria-containing parasite most often found in raw trout and salmon.

Ehnert’s advisory was issued after multiple dogs came down with Salmon Poisoning Disease between June 2023 and March 2024.

“On March 22, 2024, an emergency veterinary practice in Pasadena, in Los Angeles County, reported four cases of Salmon Poisoning Disease in dogs that had become seriously ill,” Ehnert said. Fortunately, all four dogs survived.

SPD is not caused by poison, despite its name. It is caused by a bacterial infection following a dog’s consumption of raw fish found in lakes.

“Dogs in Southern California usually become infected after exposure to raw trout, specifically trout that has been caught for sport fishing in local lakes, or water used to rinse raw trout,” Ehnert said.

Dogs that have been exposed can take up to seven days to exhibit symptoms, including:

  • lethargy

  • fever

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • enlarged lymph nodes

Many dogs infected with the disease will need hospitalization.

To avoid your dog getting sick, Ehnert recommends owners refrain from feeding them raw fish and deter them from drinking water used to clean raw fish. If your dog ingests either of these things, keep an eye out for symptoms over the next 10-14 days.

“Trout and any other fish caught during sport fishing should be cooked before being consumed,” she said. And, “always wash hands thoroughly after handling raw fish.”

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