Parasitic Worms in Dogs: The Dangers of Raw Fish
Why Is Raw Fish Dangerous?
Fish is one of the best sources of healthy protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. That’s why it’s a common component in dog food and many dog owners include it in their dog’s diet.
However, how fish is prepared plays a huge role in the way it impacts the body once ingested. Raw fish in particular is notorious for harboring all sorts of parasitic worms. So if your canine companion’s daily meals often consist of uncooked salmon, they’re at risk of contracting harmful parasites, like kidney worms.
What’s A Kidney Worm?
Kidney worms, scientifically known as Dioctophyma renale, is the largest of all roundworms—they grow up to 40 inches (or 3 feet) long! While normally found in mink, these worms can also infect companion animals, such as dogs and cats, as well as humans.
The process of infection begins when a fish (or a frog) ingests kidney worm larvae or an infected annelid, such as earthworms or leeches. When prepared uncooked, the infected fish serves as a vehicle for the worms to enter your dog’s body.
Once inside, the kidney worm larvae burrow inside the intestinal wall and for a short while, live inside the liver. Eventually, they migrate to both or either one of the kidneys (usually the one on the right) and cause damage.
What Do Kidney Worms Do?
When kidney worms reach the kidneys, they’re known to cause blockage, inflammation, and destruction of the outer and inner tissue layers of the organ. If two of the kidneys are infected, there’s also a potential risk of kidney failure.
In addition, they can cause several liver problems, including peritonitis, which is a condition where the peritoneum—the tissue that lines the abdomen and supports the abdominal organs—become inflamed; abdominal adhesion, which is when the abdominal walls sticks together; and liver damage.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Kidney Worms?
Dogs that contract kidney worms normally develop a fever, lose weight, have blood in their poop, urinate more than usual (typically during daytime) but in small amounts, and feel pain in their abdominal or back area.
How Do Vets Confirm a Kidney Worm Infection?
If you notice any of the above signs in your dog and suspect that they may have kidney worms, bring them to the vet right away. Your veterinarian will perform a series of tests to confirm whether or not your suspicions are correct, and if so, provide necessary treatment and veterinary care.
Since kidney worm eggs are detectable in urine, your veterinarian may initially ask for a urine sample from your pooch for evaluation. The presence of blood, protein, and pus indicates an infection. To check if your dog’s kidneys are inflamed, an ultrasound or an intravenous pyelogram (an x-ray exam done by injecting contrast material to evaluate organs) may also be used.
How Is a Kidney Worm Infection Treated?
Unfortunately, there’s currently no available oral medication that can treat a kidney worm infection. The only way to get rid of the worms is either through manual removal or a surgical procedure called unilateral nephrectomy, where the affected kidney is removed.
How Can I Protect My Dog from Kidney Worms?
The best way to protect your dog from kidney worms is to simply avoid feeding them raw fish and prevent them from lapping up freshwater, which serves as a breeding ground for potentially infected critters and worms.
If you’re after raw fish for its health benefits, then freeze-dried, air-dried, or dehydrated dog food and snacks make good alternatives. They’re safe and just as nutritious.
When going for a walk or taking your dog on a hike, make sure to always bring safe drinking water for your dog. To make things more convenient, you can use a collapsible water bowl that you can easily hook onto your dog’s collar or portable pet water dispenser that comes with a foldable doggie cup. In our opinion, they’re a total must-have if you own a dog. We highly recommend checking out the TuffPupper Pupflask and Anpetbest Portable Pet Water Dispenser!