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Salmonella in Dogs

What Is Salmonella in Dogs?

Salmonella, a bacterial infection primarily affecting the gastrointestinal tract, poses risks to both humans and dogs. In canines, known as salmonellosis, the infection typically remains asymptomatic unless the dog’s immune system is compromised or if the dog is a young puppy.

Salmonella strains are usually specific to particular hosts, meaning they cause illness in certain species. For instance, a strain affecting cows is unlikely to infect a healthy dog, and vice versa. Nevertheless, even if a dog displays no symptoms of salmonellosis, it can still transmit the bacteria through feces or saliva, potentially infecting humans. This zoonotic aspect underscores the importance of vigilance.

While instances of salmonella in dogs are relatively rare, the risk increases when pet owners opt for raw and unprocessed meats in their dog’s diet. Across all species, salmonella-induced diarrhea and illness can be severe, leading to dehydration, sepsis, and potentially fatal outcomes if left untreated. Thus, it’s imperative for pet owners to promptly seek veterinary care when their dogs exhibit diarrhea accompanied by decreased appetite, lethargy, fever, or blood in the stool.


While salmonella can affect various systems within the body, its symptoms most commonly manifest when it disrupts the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms of salmonellosis typically include:

  • Sudden onset of severe, watery diarrhea
  • Bloody diarrhea (hematochezia)
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite, with or without weight loss
  • Dehydration

Although clinical signs may resemble those of other causes of severe diarrhea, salmonellosis might be suspected based on factors such as dietary history, travel history, recent illnesses, or stress on the immune system.

Although rare, salmonella has the potential to spread to the lungs, leading to pneumonia, or to the reproductive tract of breeding female dogs, resulting in pregnancy loss.


Salmonella is typically transmitted when dogs ingest fecal matter from infected animals or consume products contaminated by the bacteria. Dogs in agricultural environments face heightened risk, as do those whose diets incorporate raw chicken or beef. Additionally, dried pig ears serve as another common source of canine infection.

While the accidental ingestion of small amounts of raw meat is unlikely to result in salmonellosis, dogs may experience mild gastrointestinal upset, such as enteritis. Mild cases generally do not necessitate medical intervention, but pet owners should remain vigilant for symptoms.

Maintaining good hygiene practices is essential when handling or disposing of pet waste. It’s advisable to avoid raw diets, as repeated exposure to salmonella sources heightens the risk of illness for the entire household.


Diagnosing salmonellosis in dogs presents challenges due to symptom overlaps with various other illnesses, compounded by dogs often exhibiting no symptoms at all. Typically, veterinarians suspect salmonellosis based on symptoms and a history of exposure, particularly through the consumption of raw meat or if any family members are symptomatic.

Several other conditions, such as foreign material ingestion, parasitic infections, Addison’s disease, and viral diseases, can cause severe gastrointestinal inflammation with symptoms resembling salmonellosis. Before confirming a diagnosis of salmonella, veterinarians typically conduct blood tests, radiographs, and fecal examinations to rule out these alternative causes.

Specific testing for the type of salmonella is rarely necessary for treatment unless recurrent exposure is suspected and the infection source remains unidentified.


Treating salmonellosis in dogs primarily involves providing supportive care, similar to addressing other forms of gastrointestinal inflammation. Treatment measures include:

  • Administering fluid therapy to maintain hydration levels
  • Managing nausea and vomiting
  • Administering antibiotics to prevent bloodstream infection or sepsis

In certain cases, more intensive care may be necessary, such as the use of feeding tubes, medication to suppress fever, probiotics to restore gut flora balance, or fecal transplants to reintroduce healthy bacteria into the gastrointestinal system.

Recovery and Management

The recovery and management of salmonella in dogs hinge largely on the severity of the infection. Mild cases often respond well to supportive care within a few days, whereas dogs with more severe infections and bloodstream involvement may necessitate several weeks of intensive treatment. This comprehensive therapy typically includes intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and, in some cases, the use of feeding tubes to ensure adequate nutrition.

Prevention of Salmonella in Dogs

Preventing salmonellosis in dogs primarily involves feeding them well-balanced commercial diets and processed treats. Opting for raw food diets poses documented safety risks, including exposure to E. coli, salmonella, and even tuberculosis. Contrary to claims, there is no evidence indicating that raw diets are healthier than commercially prepared and cooked diets.

As a precaution, ensure that meat and eggs are fully cooked before being offered to pets. It’s also advisable to stay updated on FDA pet food recall lists to avoid potentially contaminated products.

Salmonella in Dogs FAQs

Can dogs contract salmonella?

Salmonella disease in dogs is rare, although it can be severe if it does occur. More commonly, dogs carry salmonella bacteria that can cause severe illness in humans if transmitted.

Can dogs acquire salmonella from raw chicken?

Raw chicken and dried pig ears are among the primary sources of salmonella bacteria found in dogs’ intestines, particularly due to the widespread but discouraged practice of feeding raw meat to dogs and cats.

Is salmonella lethal to dogs if left untreated?

Dogs afflicted with salmonellosis can become severely ill. Without treatment, dogs often succumb to dehydration and the bacteria entering their bloodstream (sepsis).


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