Dog Salmon Not For Dogs

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Recipes And Disasters

Salmon is pretty much the chicken of the Pacific Northwest; many of us eat it frequently in a variety of ways. Right now, in spawning season, it’s best to let them do their reproductive thing unhindered, so we rely on canned, smoked, or flash frozen fish. I know folks who scorn canned salmon, but I also know old timers who have lots of tasty recipes from back in the day, when canned salmon was a lot better than none. Salmon quiche; salmon and rice souffle; salmon, potato and leek casserole; salmon hash, all are quite toothsome uses for canned fish (and prime fresh salmon would be wasted in such recipes).

I often use soft smoked salmon in a favorite version of Standby Pie, my go-to speedy dinner when unexpected company arrives. It’s also delightful in omelets, sandwiches, casseroles and appetizers, not to mention a great protein pick-me-up with crisp apple slices and a little soft goat cheese. Frozen salmon is excellent these days, thanks in part to pioneers like Bainbridge Islander Bruce Gore, one of the first to embrace sustainable catch methods, high-quality preparation, and flash freezing at sea. I don’t recall seeing anybody else’s name on packaged fish, but Bruce Gore and his company Triad Fisheries have been names to reckon with for nearly 40 years.

Dog Salmon NOT For Dogs Anymore

Back in the day, coastal people fed their dogs on chum salmon, which many still call dog salmon. However, these days, that’s a very risky idea, since here the maritime northwest, dogs can die from eating raw or undercooked salmon (or their trout cousins). What?!? Yup, sad but true. Here’s the scoop; because of a complex series of parasite-host relationships, fish raised in northwestern waters can cause Salmon Poisoning Disease, which can kill dogs (and coyotes, and wolves, and foxes) in a week or two. Most commonly, dogs get the disorder when they eat fish guts or raw kitchen scraps, or find dead fish along spawning streams or riverbanks.

There isn’t really any poison involved. Instead, salmon may be hosting a bacteria called Neorickettsia helminthoeca which is carried by a flatworm-like trematode, or fluke (Nanophyetus salmincola).  These flukes may infect any of nearly three dozen hosts, among which aquatic snails (Oxytrema silicula) may be the most common. The infected snails then poop out fluke eggs, which may be eaten by salmon (or Giant Pacific Salamanders), which in turn become infected. When a dog (or wolf or coyote or fox) eat an infected fish or salamander, the bacteria make themselves at home, damaging the lymph system and causing often fatal hemorrhaging within a week or two.

How Many Way Is This Disgusting?

So if your dog has gotten into raw salmon, you may notice lethargy after a week or so, as well as poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose, fever, and eventually seizures. Caught soon enough, a combination of worming treatments and antibiotics can reverse the disorder within a few days. Why am I telling you this horrible story? Because in recent weeks, several friends have had their dogs diagnosed with Salmon Poisoning Disease (and successfully treated, thank goodness). Vets in the Maritime Northwest are generally quite aware of the disorder, since this is the only part of the country that the snail is found. The point? If you even suspect that raw salmon (or trout) may have been eaten, get your dog in to the vet as soon as possible. The sooner treatment starts, the better the outcome.

Still Hungry?

Me too. How about that Standby Pie? This is one of the most versatile recipes I know; it started off as a traditional Italian ricotta torta, enlivened with spinach and asiago cheese. Over the years I’ve given it all kinds of twists, from ham, leeks, and mushrooms or kale and sharp cheddar to Greek olives and myzithra or chili peppers and fresh corn. The key is not to load it up with soft, watery vegetables, but stick to fairly firm ones. Here’s the smoked salmon version (just don’t feed it to the dog, please).

Smoked Salmon Torta  

1 pie crust (gluten free or any)
1 pound ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/3 cup flour (gluten free or any)
1 cup grated hard cheese (pecorino is nice)
1 bunch spinach or kale, chopped
4-6 ounces soft smoked salmon, skinned and flaked

Preheat oven to bake 350 degrees F. Line a pie dish with crust, flute edges, set aside. In a bowl, combine ricotta, egg, salt, and paprika, then stir in flour and cheese, reserving a little cheese to sprinkle on top. Add kale and smoked salmon, stir to combine, fill pie shell, top with remaining cheese and bake until set and lightly browned (40-45 minutes). Let stand for 10 minutes, then serve. Serves 6.

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