By: Rebecca Rose, In Clover founder and product developer

I walked into my favorite pet store right after work, hungry. I was projecting my tastes as I selected the pet food flavors. The dog food package had a beautiful stream full of jumping salmon. The cat food label had an appetizing array of seafood, I chose the salmon. But then I remembered about “salmon poisoning.” Salmon is not safe for pets, or is it?

Living inside some salmon is a parasite, a member of the trematode family that relies on the host salmon to live. Living inside some of these trematodes is another parasitic organism named Neorickettsia helminthoeca, this rickettsia is sort of like a bacteria. And this is where the problem begins. The rickettsia is what can cause infectious disease in dogs and cats who eat raw salmon. This may result in serious illness and death. However, your pet may safely eat salmon if it is prepared by cooking or freezing it first, this will kill the rickettsia. If your pet does eat an infected raw salmon, the symptoms of the disease occur about a week later. They include severe intestinal upset and inflammation. This is easily treated but you will need to give your veterinarian a history of what he has been eating since a routine blood test will look normal.

The name “salmon poisoning” is a misnomer. The salmon simply carries the rickettsia, and not by choice. So cook or freeze your pet’s salmon and bon appetit.