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Ask the Vet: Can Dogs Get Salmonella from Chicken?

 

Can dogs get salmonella from chicken? This is a good question considering that more and more dogs are being nowadays fed raw diets, which often include the raw carcass of chickens. Salmonella is a dangerous bacteria that dog owners must be aware of, both to protect their dogs but even themselves, considering that this bacteria affects both dogs and people. If you are planning to feed your dog raw foods, it’s important to implement safe handling. Veterinarian Dr. Crnec provides an insight into salmonellosis and provides answers to the query “can dogs get salmonella from chicken?”

Can dogs get salmonella from chicken?

Can Dogs Get Salmonella From Chicken?

Salmonella is a wide-spread and very significant zoonotic bacteria. The term zoonotic indicates that the bacteria, not only affects both people and animals, but it can also be spread from one specie to another. Salmonella is a hardy bacterium that can stay alive in the soil and manure for many years. This bacteria’s sturdiness increases its pathogenic and zoonotic potential.

How do dogs get salmonella? Salmonella can be contracted by eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water or through contact with infected animal droppings (including chickens), or from surfaces contaminated with diarrhea from an infected individual.

However, in dogs, the most common method of infection is through eating contaminated food. Can dogs get salmonella from chicken? Yes, potentially  contaminated foods include raw eggs, raw or undercooked chicken, recalled pet food and unrefrigerated wet meals.

In spite of being a very common bacteria, salmonella, does not always cause disease in healthy dogs. For the salmonella to cause a clinically manifested condition, it must be present in a particularly large number. Additionally, pups, young dogs, old dogs and dogs that are weakened by viruses, other medical conditions or poor nutrition, are particularly prone to salmonella infections.

Dogs who are taking antibiotics over a prolonged period of time are also more prone to salmonella infections. This is because the level of healthy bacteria within their intestinal tracts is imbalanced.

In a nutshell, if the salmonella organisms are present in large numbers, or encounter a weakened host, they can overcome the stomach’s acidity and consequently establish themselves as part of the normal intestinal bacteria.




Symptoms of Salmonellosis in Dogs

Once the salmonella manages to enter the dog’s intestines, it attaches to the intestinal lining. Over time, the salmonella gradually progresses and makes its way into the deeper intestinal tissue layers.

What are the clinical manifestations of a salmonella infection in dogs? More often than not, the salmonella infections go on without any clinically visible manifestation. If present, the clinical signs often mainly encompass diarrhea. The diarrhea can be plain or it can contain other substances like blood, mucous or both.

Nevertheless, in severe and complicated cases, the clinical signs are more complex and in addition of acute diarrhea, they include: vomiting, fever, cramps, loss of appetite, dehydration, depression, lethargy, abortion in pregnant dogs and even death in severe cases.

How long is the incubation period  (time between ingesting something like contaminated raw chicken and showing signs) of salmonellosis in dogs? It should be noted that dogs usually begin to show symptoms within the first 72 hours of exposition to the salmonella pathogen.

At the Vet’s Office

Salmonella is found in stool samples. Therefore, if you suspect your dog is having salmonellosis or your dog is showing potential signs of salmonellosis, bring a fresh stool sample to your vet. Although the results from the stool examination are conclusive and enough for setting a diagnosis, the vet will want to perform a thorough physical examination of your dog. Based on his findings, he may suggest some additional diagnostic tests and procedures.

Simply put, the treatment depends on the severity of the infection. While most salmonella infection cases resolve on their own, some cases require medical attention. What is more, to achieve proper supportive care and constant monitoring, patients with complicated salmonella infections should be hospitalized.

Generally speaking, the medical treatment includes: antiemetics (anti-vomiting drugs) – to control the vomiting and reduce the loss of fluids, painkillers – to reduce the pain and make the patient more comfortable, fluids – they need to be administered intravenously and their role is to restore the lost fluids and prevent dehydration , antibiotics – although rarely effective against the causative pathogen, they are indicated to prevent secondary bacterial and viral infections.




The prognosis is generally good, especially for otherwise healthy dogs. Most patients with uncomplicated Salmonella infections recover fully and relatively quickly.

Sadly, there is no vaccination that can be used to prevent Salmonella infections. The most efficient prevention method is controlling what your dog eats. Start training your dog while still a young puppy – discourage him from eating stool from other animals, hunting and drinking water from ponds and streams that may be contaminated with feces from infected animals.

Raw Diet in Dogs and Salmonella 

If instead of buying commercially prepared food, you prefer to cook for your dog, make sure all the ingredients are well-prepared and enough heat is used during the cooking.

Few years ago a new nutritional concept, called BARF diet, has emerged. Developed by the Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst, the concept is based on the idea that dogs are natural carnivores and to stay true to their wild heritage, they need to eat fresh, raw foods like raw animal proteins, including uncooked meat and edible bones and offal.

The BARF diet has many health benefits, but unfortunately its advantages are shaded by the fact that raw food has infectious and zoonotic potential. Simply put, raw food contains many pathogens. The salmonella is one of those pathogens.

Although it is established that healthy canines are capable of coping with those pathogens, under certain circumstances diseases are a possibility. For example, if the dog has impaired immunity or if the pathogen (in this case the salmonella) is present in significantly large amounts.

On top of this, salmonella, as mentioned, has zoonotic potential. In people, most cases of salmonella infections come from contaminated food. However, a significant number of cases can be traced back to pets, specifically dogs. If anyone in your family has been diagnosed with salmonella infection, have your dog examined to see he/she is a carrier. It is not uncommon for the dog to be a carrier and shed the pathogen in the environment while showing no signs of illness.

To protect yourself, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds after handling your dog, its stool or raw dog food. To minimize the chances of contracting Salmonella, people at increased risk, should not handle infected dogs. People with increased risk are those who are young, elderly, ill, immunocompromised or HIV-positive.

In conclusion, unfortunately, salmonella is everywhere, but fortunately, it is not always dangerous. Nevertheless, since it is always better to e safe than sorry, respect the above stated prevention tips and keep yourself and your beloved canine baby salmonella-free.

Did you know? According to a study,  80 percent of BARF food samples cultured positive for Salmonella and 30 percent of stool samples taken from dogs fed homemade BARF diets contained  Salmonella, whereas none of the samples from dogs fed commercial dry diets contained it.

About the Author

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She is a certified nutritionist and is certified in HAACP food safety system implementation.

She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.

Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.


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