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Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Linked to Peanut Butter, 2008–2009

Posted February 14, 2009

This outbreak appears to be over. However, Salmonella is an important cause of human illness in the United States. More information about Salmonella, and steps people can take to reduce their risk of infection, can be found on the CDC Salmonella Web Page.

Questions and Answers Related to the Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak and Pets

CDC has been investigating the current Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak in humans in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state and local health departments. In addition to human illness, animals may also have been affected. One laboratory-confirmed case of Salmonella in a dog from an Oregon household was reported, and further characterization of this Salmonella isolate is pending. Salmonella resembling the outbreak strain was isolated by a private laboratory from recalled peanut butter flavored dog biscuits from this dog’s household. At least three states have reported incidents of dogs that have shown gastrointestinal signs consistent with Salmonella infection, and those animals have been known to have consumed peanut butter products on the FDA recall list.

Advise clients that you do not recommend giving away their pet or euthanizing their pet because of a Salmonella infection. Talk to clients about what precautions to follow in order to minimize the risk of illness to their family and how to safely clean up after their pet. Prescribe treatment recommendations to your clients and tell them to contact you if they have any questions. For up-to-date information on the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak investigation.

Certain pet foods and pet treats may contain peanut butter or peanut products, including dog and cat treats and bird food. Pets may get Salmonella infections from eating contaminated pet products affected by the recall of peanut butter and peanut-containing products. People may get Salmonella infections from handling contaminated pet products, contact with infected pets (i.e., contact with pet feces or the anus or hair around the anus of the pet), or from cleaning up after their infected pets. Moreover, it should be made clear to clients that they can still touch their pets and interact with them; but they need to take extra precaution not to come in contact with their pet’s feces or areas around the anus of the pet.

Dogs and cats can become ill due to a Salmonella infection and have diarrhea, fever, vomiting, decreased appetite, or abdominal pain; however, some dogs and cats may have a Salmonella infection, but can appear healthy and will not have diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Like humans, some dogs and cats may not exhibit symptoms of salmonellosis but can be carriers and can infect other animals or humans. If your client has a pet that is known to have eaten any of the products on the FDA recall list and they have concerns that the pet may have salmonellosis, they may want to bring the pet to you, their veterinarian. Questions and answers on the recall, testing of animals and pet products, and suggested advice for veterinary clients are below.

Question and Answers

Have any pet foods or treats been recalled?

Yes. Search the FDA Searchable Database to look for recalled products.

For those without Internet access, telephone 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for product recall information from the FDA website and for other information on Salmonella.

What type of samples should I collect from an animal suspected with a possible Salmonella infection and a history of exposure to a recalled pet product that contains peanut butter? What laboratory should I send the sample to for testing?

If you are presented with an animal suspected to have come in contact with recalled products or with clinical signs consistent with salmonellosis, the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommend submitting diarrhea (preferred) or vomitus samples to a state veterinary diagnostic laboratory for Salmonella culturing and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis testing (PFGE). Additionally, feces or stool samples can also be submitted for pets that appear healthy but were known to eat a recalled product. If your state laboratory isolates Salmonella but cannot perform PFGE, the laboratory may wish to forward the isolate to a laboratory that can perform the procedure such as one of the AAVLD labs in your area. To locate an AAVLD laboratory in your area click here, or go to the AAVLD’s home page and click on the “Accreditation” link on the left side menu bar.

Veterinarians who want to characterize Salmonella isolates from animals can submit these isolates to the Diagnostic Bacteriology Laboratory at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. Isolates should be submitted with a completed form VS 10-3 indicating whether serotyping, PFGE, or both are requested. Form VS 10-3 and additional information on sample submission.

The pet’s owner brought a leftover treat from a package of treats that were fed to a pet prior to the pet’s illness, and requested the leftover treats be tested. Where do I send those samples?

Submit pet treat samples either to your state laboratory (call first to ensure they will accept food samples) or a veterinary laboratory that is a member of the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) for microbiological agents. An alphabetical list of veterinary laboratories that are members of the FERN is below.

To whom do I report a suspected or confirmed Salmonella illness in an animal?

Veterinarians and other individuals can report complaints about pet food and other animal feed to the FDA by calling the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in their state. Contact information can be found at the list of FDA’s Consumer Complaint Coordinators. Reports should include product details such as lot number, brand name, expiration date, manufacturer or distributor, and location of purchase. Reports also should include medical information—including a veterinarian’s report and diagnosis, signs of illness, numbers of animals that do and do not have the signs, and complete medical histories. Additionally, veterinarians should consider contacting the manufacturer so any necessary investigation can be initiated immediately.

Veterinarians and other individuals can also report the case to their state veterinarian/state public health veterinarian. State-by-state listing of state public health veterinarians [PDF - 34 KB]

State-by-state listing of state veterinarians [PDF - 82 KB]

Consumers may also wish to report the illness to the product manufacturer. The contact information should be available on the product package and/or the company’s website.

What advice should I give clients about their pets and the recall?

Advise clients that you do not recommend giving away their pet or euthanizing their pet because of a Salmonella infection. Talk to them about taking precautions to minimize the risk of illness to their family and how to safely clean up after their pet. Prescribe treatment recommendations to your clients and tell them to contact you if they have any questions. You may also wish to refer them to the CDC web site or to the FDA web site for a list of recalled peanut containing products.

Be sure to tell the client that Salmonella infections are a zoonotic disease meaning that the infection can spread between animals and people. Salmonella is transmitted from animals to humans by the fecal oral route. Inform clients of proper hygiene and sanitation precautions to protect themselves and their family as well as any other pets they may have. It is important for people to wash their hands--and make sure children wash their hands--before and, especially, after feeding treats to pets. Also, advise clients to always wash hands right after handling or cleaning up after their pets. If the client or any of their family members are ill, encourage them to contact a physician immediately.

Additional information to share with clients:

Follow these simple guidelines to prevent getting a Salmonella infection from your pet:

  • After contact with animal feces (stool), wash your hands well with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, then rinse and dry your hands with a paper towel.
  • Clean up after your pet. If you have a cat, scoop the litter box daily and dispose of the stool in a tightly sealed plastic bag. If you have a dog, clean up the stool while on walks or from the yard and dispose of the stool in a tightly sealed plastic bag.
  • Be sure to wash your hands with soap and running water after touching or feeding your pet and after cleaning up after your pet.

Where can I learn more about this outbreak investigation?

To learn the latest information on this outbreak investigation, please visit CDC’s website.

Questions and answers about pets and this outbreak for veterinarians and clients.

For additional information, please visit:

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