Friday, December 10, 2010

Salmon Poisoning!

It's been a stressful beginning to a normally festive time of year. On Monday, Nov. 29, Mr. McCoy, our 7 1/2 month old Great Pyrenees, took the 25 mile car ride to our vet's office to be neutered. Livestock Guardian Dogs do not like to leave their family (goats, in Mr. McCoy's case). LGD's are submissive by nature (except when protecting their family) and show their submission to their goats, people, sheep, whatever, by sitting or lying down. Mr. McCoy went into submissive overdrive at the vet's office, refusing to get up and walk into the building. The vet's assistant had to pick up and carry that 70 pound lanky white blob of fur from the front walk into the office. McCoy was not any happier about getting back into the car to come home later that afternoon, when I came to retrieve him after his surgery. Again the assistant carried him and stuffed him into the back seat. He barely fit.

For the first two days after getting home, McCoy seemed fine... but a bit subdued... I thought because of his operation. The site of the operation looked fine... no heat, swelling, redness... so I figured McCoy would soon be back to normal. Thursday morning when I gave him the anti-inflammatory pill I was giving him morning and night, he threw it up along with whatever else was in his stomach. That was the beginning of a downhill slide. Our big white normally exuberant pup grew lethargic and totally stopped eating.

I thought McCoy might be having a reaction to the anti-inflammatory and would recover now that I'd quit giving it to him (no point since he threw it up). But he had not rallied on Friday so I called the vet. She said I'd have to bring him in for her to see what was going on. The thought of dragging that poor dog to the vet clinic again was enough to make me wait until Saturday to see how he was doing. He seemed a little brighter on Saturday although still not eating. Same on Sunday. Something, I knew not what, was very wrong. I was very worried. Monday I took Mr. McCoy back in to the clinic, much to his dismay.

We learned that Mr. McCoy had all the symptoms of salmon poisoning: swollen glands, fever, diarrhea, no appetite. But he could not have been around fish since he had been locked in the goat pasture for weeks. And the vet could find no flukes in his feces. He was also slightly anemic. She gave him a penicillin-derivative antibiotic, thinking, I suppose, that he must have some sort of infection going on, although salmon poisoning had seemed most likely to her, as this is the time of year for it. She just couldn't find the telltale flukes, necessary for diagnosis. The vet asked if our other dog could have shared some fish with him and explained how very infectious the flukes are. One dog that has licked the blood of an infected fish can give it to another just by touching noses. Apparently, virtually all trout/salmon family fish that come into fresh water to spawn in the Pacific Northwest, west of the cascades, are infected.

We have never seen spawned-out salmon dying in our creek frontage, but we know that this year is a better salmon run than usual and anything is possible. Shirley does have access to the creek and I suggested I bring her in to check her feces. Shirley seemed a bit depressed the last few days but I thought that was because all my attention and worry had been going to McCoy and she was jealous. Maybe, though, she was starting to get sick...

The next day, Tuesday, I hauled another very reluctant livestock guardian dog 25 miles to the vet and that same assistant had to pick a flat-on-the floor Shirley up (at least Shirley walked into the clinic on her own before realizing this was not where she wanted to be) and carry her in to the examining room. Shirley had a normal temperature, no swollen glands, but a touch of diarrhea. The vet put the feces under a microscope and soon came back triumphant... Shirley had flukes!

Salmon poisoning is caused by a microorganism that lives in snails that are common in the Pacific Northwest. When the snails are eaten by fish (salmon or trout that come into fresh water to spawn), that microorganism creates a cyst in a common fish parasite. When a dog (or coyote/wolf/fox) eats the fish, it ingests that infected parasite. 90% of dogs that develop the disease and are not treated, die. The good news is that most dogs that recover are immune from then on.

The treatment is tetracycline. Shirley got an IV of tetracycline and I got pills to give her morning and night. As soon as I got home, I turned around and took Mr. McCoy back in for his tetracycline shot as he almost certainly had salmon poisoning, too. Who knows why the flukes didn't show up in his feces. That made trip number 3 across the coast mountains to the vet clinic in 2 days.

The turnaround for both dogs has been fast and wonderful. On Wednesday, both dogs ate their treats and Shirley cooperated by eating her tetracycline pills hidden within the treats. McCoy had to have his pills thrown down his throat... and still does. Today, Friday, McCoy is back to his bouncy self, gobbling everything in sight (except the pills). Shirley has had a bit of swelling in her leg from the IV but is moving around better now and eating fine. I have slept well the last two nights for the first time since this whole mess began.

With the dogs on the mend yesterday, I took a stress-relieving trip to Egan Gardens with two friends to view the spectacular poinsettia plants. Wow! What a picker-upper! Rather than photos of sick or recovering dogs, here are photos of the Egan greenhouse full of poinsettias and a couple that I bought. Life is good again. Let the festivities begin!

This is all one plant! And a new variety for Egans this year.

This one is very young, yet, and small. But oh so pretty! I bought several... couldn't help myself.

It's for a good cause: Egans is donating everything above their cost to a food bank.

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