There are over 2,000 different strains of salmonella (salmonellosis). Affecting mammals and reptiles, the common bacterial infection can affect nearly every type of pet. Salmonella usually affects the gastrointestinal tract after it settles in the lymph nodes and drops down into the intestines. It is a zoonotic disease so humans are highly capable of contracting the infection from their pets. Sources of salmonella include natural pet treats such as rawhide or pig ears, raw pet food, or the feces of an infected animal. Bacteria is shed in the feces of a previously infected animal for months after it seems to have resolved, so humans and other animals can still become infected even if it appears that a pet is no longer contagious.
Pets and pet owners who are most at risk are those with weakened or underdeveloped immune systems, namely the very young or very old. Also, pets taking antibiotics or pets with weakened gastrointestinal systems are at an increased risk.
Symptoms indicative of salmonella
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Skin disease
- Weight loss
Diagnosing and treating salmonella
The veterinarian will perform a complete diagnostic evaluation, collecting urine and fecal samples for laboratory analysis. Depending on the severity of your pet’s circumstances, blood cultures may also be collected. The laboratory analysis will identify the bacteria present in your pet’s stool sample and will also determine if there are any intestinal parasites that are causing any of the symptoms your pet is exhibiting.
In less severe cases, salmonella is treated by feeding a pet bland food that is easily digested, while increasing their water intake. If symptoms persist, or if pet waste becomes excessively foul smelling or bloody, seek veterinary care immediately. Pets with severe cases of salmonella will need to be prescribed antibiotics. Extra care should be taken when cleaning up after a contaminated pet to ensure that you do not become infected.
If you have any questions about salmonella or think your pet may have an infection, please contact our office.