A Windsor, Ontario woman is convinced that her dog acquired listeriosis afetr eating recalled hot dogs.  Last week, Maple Leaf Foods recalled various hot dog products because of low-level contamination with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, the cause of listeriosis. Her dog Tigger was fed four hot dogs one evening, and the next morning starting vomiting. He recovered after a few days of treatment. No specific testing was done to investigate the possibility of listeriosis.

Dogs can get listeriosis.  Non-specific signs of infection including vomiting, diarrhea and fever are most common. Neurological disease can occur in a small percentage of cases. Listeriosis is extremely rare in dogs, however, despite the fact that dogs are certainly exposed to the bacterium periodically. Just because the dog ate recalled meat and got sick, it does not mean that the dog had listeriosis.

No human illnesses have been reported in association with this recall, and it’s very unlikely that this dog actually had listeriosis. It’s possible but I really doubt it. Dogs get gastrointestinal disease like this all of the time, from a variety of causes. Eating four hot dogs in one night could itself cause diarrhea in some dogs.

Some tips come to mind from this story:

  • Limit feeding of treats to dogs. Four hot dogs is pretty excessive. Low fat, nutritious treats are better.
  • Pay attention to recalls. Don’t eat recalled food or feed it to your pet. At the same time, don’t overreact to recalls. We are exposed to potentially infectious agents on a daily basis, but a combination of our immune system, normal bacterial populations in the intestinal tract, low levels of contamination and other factors mean that we don’t usually get sick. If you are concerned about listeriosis, make sure processed meats are cooked before feeding.
  • If you are really concerned or suspicious about a disease, make sure testing is done.
  • If you think food is the source of a problem, save a sample. It might be useful to test the food.

More information about listeriosis in animals is available in the Worms & Germs archives.