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Campylobacter Infection in Dogs

What is campylobacter infection?

Campylobacter infection or Campylobacterosis is a bacterial intestinal infection caused by Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter upsaliensis. It is a major cause of human bacterial enteritis although it is considered a normal bacterium in the intestinal tract of many animals and birds.

"Humans usually acquire an infection by consuming contaminated raw milk, undercooked chicken or poultry, or other food contaminated during preparation."

Poultry and meat products are the main sources of human Campylobacter infection. Humans usually acquire an infection by consuming contaminated raw milk, undercooked chicken or poultry, or other food contaminated during preparation. Dogs tend to become infected with Campylobacter by ingesting or coming into contact with infected feces, or infected food or water.

 

Can my dog get Campylobacterosis?campylobacter_infection-1_-_2009

Research has shown that Campylobacter organisms can be isolated from both healthy and sick dogs.  This suggests that the organism is not a primary cause of illness in the dog.  Since Campylobacterosis does occur in the dog and has a zoonotic potential (ability to cause disease in man) it should be considered as a possible source of infection for humans. If you are concerned about Campylobacterosis, please consult your veterinarian or your medical doctor.

"...the significance of dogs as a source for human infection is not clear..."

Few human cases have been confirmed to originate from a dog. It is important to note that the significance of dogs as a source for human infection is not clear, and to reiterate, the most common source of infection in humans is contaminated poultry and meat products.

 

What are the clinical signs of a Campylobacter infection?

In the dog, typical symptoms include watery to mucoid diarrhea, abdominal cramping or pain, lethargy, and fever. The diarrhea may last a week or more and often relapses suddenly after the dog appears to have recovered.  Many dogs appear unaffected by Campylobacter infection and the condition is often self-limiting, requiring no medical intervention.

 

How is a Campylobacter infection diagnosed?

A campylobacter infection is usually diagnosed by laboratory examination of a fecal sample. A fecal culture and sensitivity test is normally required to make a definitive diagnosis. This test is often performed in chronic, persistent, or severe cases of diarrhea that have not responded to conventional treatments.

 

How is Campylobacterosis treated?

The two most common bacteria that cause Campylobacterosis, Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter upsaliensis, are resistant to many antibiotics. Erythromycin is currently the treatment of choice in dogs. Other medications may be used based on your dog’s condition. Your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic treatment for your dog, based on the fecal culture and sensitivity results.

"Antibiotics...reduce the number of bacteria excreted in the stool, thereby reducing the risk of infection to other pets or members of the household."

Although antibiotics may not shorten the duration of illness, they will reduce the number of bacteria excreted in the stool, thereby reducing the risk of infection to other pets or members of the household.

 

What can I do to prevent the spread of Campylobacter infection if my dog has been diagnosed?

The best prevention is good hygienic practices such as removing feces from your yard on a regular basis, cleaning any soiled areas in your house and laundering your dog's bedding frequently. It is essential to ensure thorough hand washing after handling an infected dog. Discourage an infected dog from licking people's faces, particularly those of young children.

Ernest Ward, DVM
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