Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Scombroid Poisoning ~ A warning

This post was written by guest blogger Gina Snow of Swanback Jacks. She learned a lesson the hard way and wants to get the word out to other dog lovers who feed might fish to their dogs.

Scombroid food poisoning is a foodborne illness that results from eating spoiled (decayed) fish. It is the second most common type of seafood poisoning. It is often missed because it resembles an allergic reaction. It is most commonly reported with Mackerel, tuna, mahi-mahi, sardines and anchovies or related species of fish that were inadequately refrigerated or preserved after being caught. Scombroid syndrome can result from inappropriate handling of fish during storage or processing. One of the toxic agents implicated in scombroid poisoning is histamine. Other chemicals have been found in decaying fish flesh, but their association with scombroid fish poisoning has not been clearly established.
I never heard of this type of poisoning until last Wednesday. I had my young JRT with me all day, along with my other three. We were home most of the day but went for a hike late in the afternoon. I noticed the young JRT was a little less active on the hike, but I had fed them before leaving, so I thought that may have something to do with her sluggish nature. At around 8pm, I started to notice her lips swelling. I knew right away it was hives and I was not that concerned. As the next few minutes passed, she started with some larger hives around her eyes and throat area. I always use natural treatments when I can so I reached for the homeopathic Apis. Apis is for hives, swellings and allergic reactions often caused by stings or bites. Since I had no idea what had started this reaction, I could only assume she got bit by a spider or something. She initially responded to the Apis with decreased swelling around the eyes but after a short time, the swelling came back worse. I repeated the Apis but it offered no relief this time so I gave her a Benadryl capsule. I waited about an hour and the swelling continued to increase, especially around the throat/neck area on the right side. This one area on her neck really made me wonder about a possible bite of some kind. Because of the increase in swelling despite the Benadryl, I gave her a steroid tablet. After an hour, some of the swelling reduced but it was quickly replaced with intense itching. She itched and scratched constantly until 2am. At that point, I gave her a dose of the homeopathic Belladonna which is also good for hives but more for redness, swelling and itch. This seemed to help her sleep for an hour but then awoke again with intense itch at 3am although we did manage to get some rest from 3-5am. At 5am the swelling was returning, worse then before. I packed her up and went to the hospital (I work at a local Animal Hospital) and on our way, the vomiting started. It was then that I really brain stormed and realized what the problem could be. I use a grain pre-mix for my dog's food. I normally mix in water, turkey or beef, eggs and Salmon. This batch that my young JRT ate the day before had canned Mackerel instead of canned Salmon. That was the only difference in her day, the day before when the hives all started. So with a little research, I quickly find the following information.
Unlike many types of food poisoning, this form is not produced by an organism or virus. Histidine exists naturally in many types of fish, and at temperatures above 60°F on air contact it is converted to the biogenic amine histamine. This is one reason why fish should be stored at low temperatures. Histamine is not destroyed by normal cooking temperatures, so even properly cooked fish can be affected. Histamine is a mediator of allergic reactions, so the symptoms produced are those one would expect to see in severe allergic responses. The suspect toxin is an elevated level of histamine generated by bacterial breakdown of histidine in the muscle protein. This natural spoilage process is thought to release additional by-products, which cause the toxic effect. Freezing, cooking, smoking, curing and/or canning do not destroy the potential toxins.
Symptoms consist of skin flushing, throbbing headache, oral burning, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, palpitations, a sense of unease, and, rarely, collapse or loss of vision. Symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes of ingesting the fish and generally are self-limited. Physical signs may include tachycardia, wheezing, and hypo or hypertension. People with asthma are more vulnerable to respiratory problems such as wheezing. Symptoms of poisoning can show within just minutes, or up to several hours, following consumption of spoiled fish. Symptoms usually last for approximately four to six hours and rarely exceed one to two days. In the worst cases, the poisoning causes blurred vision, respiratory stress and swelling of the tongue. Treatments in these cases can include histamine receptors like Tagamet, supportive care such as fluids and oxygen.
After arriving at the hospital, I did some more research for her treatment. The edema around her throat was now severe and the swelling of her tongue was very concerning. She was smart enough to stay calm and breath with her mouth open. She tried to doze at times sitting up because of the difficulty breathing from the edema and hives when she tried to lie down. Finally, I found the correct homeopathic remedy for her, Nat Mur, which I gave to her orally in liquid. Nat Mur is a wonderful hive remedy especially when you see a response with Apis but it does not hold. Within 15 minutes, 80% of the hives had disappeared and she was more comfortable. Her response to this remedy was amazing and much needed! I dosed her again with the Nat Mur an hour later since the throat swelling and edema was still present. Within 2 hours after that second dose, she was 90% improved in all ways. I was relieved that she was finally feeling better. She was very hungry that night and she got a nice dinner with NO FISH included! ;-) It was a very happy ending to a very scary 17 hours.
I have since sent the remaining Mackerel to a lab in Colorado. They will determine the actual histamine level in that sample of fish. Anything over 2ppm is considered a danger. This was human grade canned Mackerel that I purchased from a local super market. I am in hopes by testing the product that hopefully others can be spared the issues my little JRT and I had. I hope you find this informative, please share the warning!
Gina Snow and Swanback's Cue


Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Thanks for the good information.

Martin Bowers said...

My little 20lb Boston Terrier just suffered a very quick, dramatic reaction to licking some king mackerel slime from my leg 4 hours after we caught the fish. The fish went in the cooler and was fine to eat, but that little bit of slime on my leg that stayed wet and warm must have cooked up a good dose of scombroid poisoning. It gave her a terrible reaction. A 20mg Benadryl did nothing to help so we rushed to the Emergency Vet for some stronger anti-histamines which quickly got her back to normal. After a day of supplementary Benadryl she is fine.

Marie said...

Martin, glad to hear she is fine now. How scary!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say thank you for your story, glad your dog is better. I am doing a project on Scombroid Poising for a class project in college and your story was a help!