Salmonella, peanuts and dogs

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column - 2/1/09
By: Gail T. Fisher


I got an email from a client last week asking about the risk of salmonella to dogs that eat tainted peanut products. She had overheard one of my staff explaining that dogs are resistant to salmonella, and asked me for clarification.
For as many years as I have been involved professionally with dogs, I have not, to the best of my recollection, ever heard of a dog being affected by salmonella. When you consider what dogs in the wild eat – or for that matter, a pet dog sniffing around the woods on a nice companionable hike – it would be particularly dangerous for the canine species if they regularly got ill – especially fatally ill – from coming in contact with or eating carrion or other things they may ingest. On the other hand, I would never state unequivocally that it’s impossible for a dog to get salmonella poisoning. No matter how much I know and continue to learn about dogs, I always say that the only “absolute” about dogs is that there are no absolutes.
Despite knowing that dogs are not affected by salmonella the same as people are, when we heard about the salmonella outbreak being connected to peanut products, since we offer our boarding dogs peanut-butter filled Kongs to entertain them, and we sell peanut-butter filled bones, we did some research to make sure that the products we were feeding were safe – not just for the dogs, but just as importantly, for the humans who might be handling these products.

To quote from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): "The source of the outbreak of illnesses caused by Salmonella Typhimurium are peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) at its Blakely, Georgia processing plant.

"The problem peanut butter is sold by PCA in bulk containers ranging in size from five (5) to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to product sold by the tanker container. Neither of these products is sold directly to consumers.

"However, through its investigation, FDA has determined that PCA distributed potentially contaminated product to more than 70 consignee firms, for use as an ingredient in hundreds of different products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream. Companies all over the country that received product from PCA have issued voluntary recalls of their products. FDA has created a searchable database for these products, which can be found at, Identification of products subject to recall is continuing and this list is updated frequently.

"Product recalls now include some pet food products that contain peanut paste that was made by PCA. While the risk of animals contracting salmonellosis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling these products. It is important for people to wash their hands--and make sure children wash their hands--before and, especially, after feeding treats to pets. Further information for consumers is located in the Frequently Asked Questions section located on this web site. The pet food products are also included in the searchable data base of recalled products.
While it is unlikely that your dog will be affected by the salmonella bacteria, or develop salmonella poisoning, the symptoms to watch for are vomiting, diarrhea, fever and lethargy as well as potential abdominal pain. Of course those are the symptoms for a wide variety of other conditions and illnesses, but if you’ve fed your dog peanut products, and he or she develops these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
Even though dogs are not likely to be affected by salmonella, it bears repeating that it’s important for you to wash your hands thoroughly if you’ve handled anything that you suspect might be contaminated.

Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2009. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this article or suggestions for future topics, please contact us.