Salmonellosis is the name of the disease caused by infection of the intestinal tract with Salmonella bacteria. Puppies and kittens most frequently contract salmonellosis from contaminated food or environments. Adult dogs and cats have better immunity against Salmonella bacteria and rarely develop clinically significant infections, except if they are fed raw food diets.
Animals with salmonellosis frequently stop eating, are lethargic, vomit, and have diarrhea, which may contain blood. The symptoms are common to many different types of intestinal disorders, and so a veterinarian may need the results of blood work, fecal examinations, abdominal x-rays, and parvovirus testing to rule out other diseases and plan appropriate treatment. Culturing and identifying the types of bacteria present in a fecal sample is necessary to definitively diagnose salmonellosis. In severe cases, Salmonella can invade the bloodstream and spread to the rest of the body, causing an extremely serious condition called septicemia.
Therapy for salmonellosis depends on the severity of the infection, but intravenous fluid therapy, antibiotics, and medications to prevent nausea and vomiting are commonly used. Animals may need to be hospitalized for several days until they are able to hold down food and water and leave the veterinary clinic to go home and finish their treatment. Salmonella can be transmitted to other animals and people through contact with feces containing the bacteria. Even with appropriate treatment, animals with salmonellosis can shed the bacteria for weeks after their symptoms have disappeared. Proper hygiene and thorough disinfection of contaminated environments helps prevent the spread of the disease. Salmonellosis can be fatal if left untreated, but with timely veterinary attention, most pets can be expected to recover without incident.
Written by: Jennifer Coates, DVM
Last reviewed: October 2, 2008