Can Dogs Get Salmonella from Chickens?

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Salmonellosis is caused by infection of the gut with the Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella bacteria is commonly associated with chickens, who carry the bacteria and can pass it to other animals through feces and other excretions or through consumption of their meat. This is why we are always warned to cook chicken well, and clean up any mess or juices from raw chicken in our kitchen thoroughly with warm soapy water.

Dogs have been eating raw meat, including poultry and other birds, for centuries. Our pets wild canine cousins thrive on a diet that includes raw bird meat, so one would assume that dogs are not affected by salmonella bacteria right?

Can Dogs Get Salmonella from Chickens?

YES!

Dogs can get Salmonella infection from chickens and other animals carrying the bacteria, by exposure to contaminated excretions (mostly poop!) or by eating contaminated meat.

Many pet owners have moved to a raw meat diet for their dogs, so how does this affect them? It seems that dogs are resistant to Salmonella infection, due to a hardcore GI tract with strong stomach acid, that usually neutralizes the bacteria. However, if their system is overwhelmed with the bacteria, or their immune system is compromised by other illness, parasites, or stress, they can become susceptible to infection with Salmonella from their raw food diet.

In addition, dogs seem to have an endless fascination with poop! They can acquire Salmonella infection from consuming chicken droppings, or feces of other animals that are carrying Salmonella. An animal carrying Salmonella bacterium may not get sick, and this is often the case with dogs, but they are perfectly capable of passing the bacteria they harbor on to other animals, who may acquire illness from the bacteria. Humans are also susceptible to Salmonella bacteria from consuming improperly prepared poultry, or from exposure to body fluids or excretions from infected animals such as your dog. So you might want to think about that next time you let your dog lick your face!

Does My Dog Have Salmonella?

Dogs have a very hardy digestive system, and Salmonella bacteria consumed in a raw food diet or from exposure to feces is usually neutralized. However, if your dog is exposed to overwhelming numbers of bacteria or experiences decreased digestive system functioning due to a compromised immune system, they can develop salmonellosis. Dogs often do not exhibit symptoms of the Salmonella poisoning, however, they do carry the bacteria and excrete in in body fluids. It is estimated that almost one-third of our dogs carry Salmonella bacteria and are not affected by it. However, their feces and other body fluids can pass the bacteria on to you and your family, so taking precautions to prevent infection from your dog is recommended. If your dog does contract Salmonella infection and becomes ill with the infection, the following symptoms, similar to those in humans, may occur:

  • Diarrhea, sometimes with mucus or blood present

  • Vomiting

  • Lethargy

  • Refusal to eat

  • Fever

  • Abdominal pain and cramping

  • Dehydration

  • Shock

Salmonella can be acquired in a number of ways:

  • From raw chicken, eggs or other raw meat including pork or beef

  • From processed foods: dry kibble can contain Salmonella in spite of its processing and because it digests slower than raw meat, contaminated processed food has more opportunity to infect your dog's gut

  • From vegetables or fruits contaminated with the bacteria

  • From poultry feces or feces of wild birds

  • From feces or saliva of other infected animals, including other dogs

Salmonella is much more likely to create illness in an immunocompromised dog. A dog experiencing stress or using medications such as antibiotics may have a compromised digestive tract and immune system, making them more vulnerable.

Diagnosis of Salmonella infection can be provided with analysis of a fecal sample from your dog. Most often your dog will be diagnosed based on symptoms and exposure factors to Salmonella bacteria.

Read more about salmonellosis at Salmonella Infection in Dogs .

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Salmonella Infection?

Many mild infections can be treated at home by resting your dog and ensuring they are well-hydrated until the illness passes.

If your dog is experiencing severe symptoms of Salmonella poisoning, such as extended bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, your veterinarian can provide intravenous fluids with electrolytes to prevent or treat dehydration.

Anti-diarrhea medications may also be provided. If a severe case occurs, steroidal medications to counteract shock and blood transfusions may be necessary.

If systemic infection occurs, your dog may be treated with antibiotics, although this is usually avoided unless required, as antibiotics can compromise the digestive tract’s natural ability to fight off the infection.

An infected dog will shed the bacteria in their feces for several weeks after infection, so care should be taken to ensure other pets and family members in the home are not exposed. Clean up after your pet and wash your hands and the dog’s bedding thoroughly to minimize contamination.

There are several things you can do to prevent Salmonella infection in your dog:

  • Wash your hands, wash your dog's paws

  • Store raw meat in freezer until ready for use

  • Clean up spills and juices when preparing raw food

  • Keep the area where your dog consumes raw food clean using washable dishes and mats for eating. Clean the area after each meal so bacteria does not build up and overwhelm your dog's immune system

  • Purchase raw meat from an approved facility that utilizes proper handling procedures to minimize the risk of meat being contaminated.

  • If you live on a farm, chickens can be treated for salmonella bacteria, which is not natural to them, and should be removed from their systems as well to ensure their health

  • Make sure vegetables are thoroughly washed as they are often contaminated with bacteria

How is Salmonella Infection Similar in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?

Salmonella is a zoonotic gram-negative bacteria that can be carried or passed to several animals including you and your dog.

  • Symptoms of Salmonella infection in humans, dogs and other animals are similar, and include gastrointestinal symptoms, fever and dehydration

  • Treatment is similar for all animals, and people, providing supportive care for dehydration and other symptoms.

  • Proper preparation of raw food minimizes the chance of infection with Salmonella bacteria.

How is Salmonella Infection Different in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?

Dogs are far less likely to contract Salmonella infection resulting in illness.

Dogs have a hardier digestive tract that is resistant to infection with Salmonella bacteria.

  • Dogs can often harbor Salmonella bacteria without becoming sick, although this is true of all animals. Dogs are much more likely to be asymptomatic, while humans usually get sick when exposed to the bacteria.

  • Dogs are frequently exposed to Salmonella due to their propensity for eating raw food and other animals feces, making it very likely that they are carrying the bacteria and spreading it to other animals and possibly family members.

  • Cats are also resistant to salmonella infection, which is a good thing since they are especially fond of hunting and eating birds!

Case Study

A family who was experiencing a severe illness in the family returned home from the hospital one day to find their Rhodesian Ridgeback, who was fed a raw food diet regularly, in a pool of bloody diarrhea. They rushed him to the nearest veterinary emergency clinic where he was admitted for care and provided with intravenous fluids and supportive care until he recovered from his illness. Tests revealed Salmonella bacteria in his feces. It is not clear whether he acquired salmonella from his raw food diet, which he was accustomed to, or from exposure to other animals feces, accompanied by stress, as the family was experiencing their own medical crisis in conjunction with their pet’s. Thankfully, both family member and dog made a successful recovery.