Diagnosis of Salmon Poisoning Disease in an African Lion (Panthera leo krugeri)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2015
Kirsten S. Thomas1*, DVM; Jane Sykes2, BVSc, PhD; Benjamin E. Alcantar Hernandez1, MVZ
1Wildlife Safari, Winston, OR, USA; 2Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA


Salmon poisoning disease (SPD) is a neorickettsial disease most commonly affecting canids and seen almost exclusively in the Pacific Northwest.1,3,4 Resulting in severe gastrointestinal signs, this disease is often fatal if left untreated.1-3 SPD results from the consumption of raw salmonids carrying the fluke intermediate host infected with Neorickettsia helminthoeca.1,3 A 4-yr-old, female African lion (Panthera leo krugeri) at Wildlife Safari was diagnosed with SPD after accidental exposure to raw salmon. Clinical signs presented ten days after initial exposure, and included progressive lethargy, anorexia, and vomiting. Hematology and serum biochemistry testing revealed a neutrophilia and mild changes in serum electrolyte concentrations. Fecal sedimentation revealed a large number of fluke ova. Empirical treatment for SPD was initiated immediately, and included aggressive fluid therapy, parenteral oxytetracycline (Vetrimycin™ 200, VetOne, MWI, Boise, ID, USA), and subcutaneous praziquantel (Praziquatel, TEVA Animal Health Inc, St. Joseph, MO, USA). Two separate immobilizations over 7 days were required to maintain hydration and achieve clinical improvement. Once appetite returned, doxycycline (Doxycycline, PAR Pharmaceutical Co. Inc., Spring Valley, NY, USA) was administered by mouth for an additional 7 days. Complete clinical resolution occurred within 14 days of initiating therapy. Neorickettsia helminthoeca was detected in the lion’s feces using real-time PCR. This is the first reported case of SPD in a felid species (domestic or wildlife). This case illustrates the importance of awareness in all aspects of enrichment, and suggests considering SPD as a differential based on history and gastrointestinal signs in any captive carnivore species.


The authors thank the Carnivore Department at Wildlife Safari for their dedication and assistance in all medical procedures and treatments.

Literature Cited

1.  Forest WJ. Salmon poisoning disease. In: Williams ES and Barker IK (eds.). Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals. 3rd ed. Ames (IA): Wiley Blackwell; 2008. p. 480–486.

2.  Gai JJ, Marks SL. Salmon poisoning disease in two Malayan sun bears. J Am Vet Assoc. 2008;323:586–588.

3.  Philip CB. There is always something new under the “parasitological sun (the unique story of heminth-borne salmon poisoning disease).” J. Parasitol. 1955;41:125–148.

4.  Simms BT, Donham CR, Shaw JN, McCapes AM. Salmon poisoning. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1931;78:181–195.


Speaker Information
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Kirsten S. Thomas, DVM
Wildlife Safari
Winston, OR, USA

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