They are small and everywhere: bacteria! They lurk outside in nature, in the forest, on the dog meadow, and in the fields. Many of them are completely harmless to our four-legged friends, but some bacteria can lead to serious illnesses in our dogs. We present here five known bacterial diseases in dogs and explain the treatment options for these infections.
Bacteria play an important role in our dogs’ bodies. In the intestine, they provide a healthy intestinal flora that promotes digestion and on the skin, they form the important skin flora. But unfortunately, not all bacteria are so harmless and useful. Some are even extremely dangerous – for our dogs and for humans too. Leptospirosis, for example, is a zoonosis that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. The signs, treatment, and prevention of some bacterial diseases are described below.
Borreliosis (Lyme disease)
Bacteria of the genus Borrelia are transmitted by ticks. The ticks are waiting for the dogs at the edge of the forest, in the field, and in the tall grass. Depending on the region, the risk of being bitten by an infected tick is different. However, in northern latitudes, borrelia is one of the most common tick-borne diseases in dogs. Of course, not every tick bite automatically leads to an outbreak of the disease, but after the dog is infected, the disease usually manifests itself much too late.
Compared to other bacterial diseases, the immune system of our dogs often only reacts to the Borrelia after a few weeks.
Another problem is that the symptoms are quite unspecific and are not necessarily due to Lyme disease. These include, for example, fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite. The typical and easily recognizable ring-shaped redness around the tick bite, which is common in humans, is uncommon in dogs or is not visible through the coat. Painful inflammation of the joints often occurs as the disease progresses, especially after standing. If your dog is lame, less agile, and seems exhausted, see the vet immediately.
The earlier Lyme disease symptoms are discovered and treated, the better the dog’s chances of recovery. If a test has confirmed the suspicion of a Borrelia infection, the sick dog will be given a special antibiotic. Unfortunately, antibiotic treatment is not always successful, especially when the disease is already well advanced. Chronic complaints of serious or fatal damage to vital organs such as kidneys or heart can be the result.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect your dog against ticks and to stop a serious course of the disease in time. If you live in a high-risk area, having your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease may be recommended. Ask the vet for advice and weigh the benefits and side effects of a vaccine. Also, special sprays or tinctures and antiseptic collars can help lower the risk of a tick bite.
In addition, it is advisable to examine the dog thoroughly after a walk in nature – especially along the edge of the forest or field. That is not at all as time-consuming as you might think, because ticks immediately bite. Until the moment of biting, they are clearly visible on the surface of the coat and can be easily removed with a cloth. If a tick has already bitten itself, you will usually find it on the head and neck, on the ears, between the toes, on the abdomen or on the inner thighs. The tick should be pulled out completely withdrawing tweezers, drawing cards, or tweezers. They should not be twisted or crushed as this will allow the dangerous Borrelia bacteria to enter your animal’s bloodstream.back to menu ↑
Colibacillosis is a disease caused by infection with so-called coli bacteria, for example, Escherichia coli (E-Coli) or Enterococcus. For a long time, people mainly got sick from the germs, but now the E Coli bacteria are increasingly common in dogs. For example, the bacteria enter the dog’s organism by licking the anus or through contaminated water. This can lead to serious intestinal or urinary tract infections.
Painful urinary tract infections, diarrhea, or vomiting can also result from the bacteria. It is especially dangerous for puppies that have not yet built up adequate protection against pathogens. In some cases, an infection with E. coli bacteria can also lead to life-threatening meningitis in puppies.
The signs of an infection are not always easy to spot. A link is not always immediately made between the stomach and intestinal complaints and Colibacillosis. If diarrhea lasts longer and there is also fever, you should take your dog to the vet immediately. Only the veterinarian can provide a reliable diagnosis and take important therapeutic measures. Usually, the dog is treated with antibiotics. An accurate antibiogram (resistance tests) is done by means of urine or fecal examination. This provides clarity about the number and resistance of the germs and therefore about the special antibiotic required. Depending on the results, the antibiotics last from 10 days to three weeks.
Unlike humans, dogs cannot prevent infection by washing their hands. Nevertheless, hygiene also plays an important role for our four-legged friends. Keeps the food bowl and bed clean and change the drinking water several times a day. The best protection against E Coli bacteria offers a healthy intestinal flora. If the gut is no longer in balance, for example, due to unhealthy or poorly digestible food or stress, the culprits can penetrate more easily. A healthy, balanced diet that is free from harmful substances is extremely important for the well-being of your dog. In addition to an antibiotic, it is also advisable to give your dog a special diet. The diet should support intestinal flora in a natural way and contribute to the construction of health protection.back to menu ↑
Leptospirosis is caused by long-winding bacteria, the so-called leptospires, that wait for their victim in polluted puddles, plants, or ponds. Infection can also occur through the urine of rodents living in the wild that harbor and excrete dangerous pathogens. The highly contagious disease mainly affects young dogs and dogs with weak immune systems. The disease can cause deadly damage to the organs and is a zoonosis. This means that humans and animals can ignite each other. In many European countries, protection against Leptospirosis is a mandatory vaccination.
Depending on the bacterial subspecies and the age and build of the dog, the disease progresses in different ways. While some dogs show no signs of the disease and the bacteria go undetected in the body, the well-being of other dogs is severely disrupted. Typical symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Muscle cramps, red skin, and jaundice can also occur depending on the bacterial strain. If not treated, it can have irreversible effects on the liver and lead to kidney disease – usually fatal for puppies.
Once the vet has diagnosed infection with the dangerous leptospira, the dog will be given a special antibiotic. If damage to the kidneys or liver is already identified, other steps should be taken to preserve kidney and liver function. However, permanent damage is not excluded.
The best protection against Leptospirosis is and remains a vaccination. Finally, you can’t always avoid licking or drinking water sources that may be contaminated. After a much-needed basic vaccination as a puppy, the vaccination against the pathogens must be repeated once a year to maintain protection. The vaccination, therefore, differs from other recommended vaccinations against distemper, hepatitis or parvovirus, which require a repeat only once every three years.back to menu ↑
First the good news: dogs with healthy immune systems are resistant to Salmonella pathogens. Sick, weak or young dogs, on the other hand, can become very ill – just like people. Salmonella is initially transmitted through poultry. For example, the consumption of raw meat or contact with the faeces of this poultry can lead to the infection of the dog.
The signs can also be different with this pathogen – depending on the number of bacteria that have been absorbed and the build of the dog. It varies from mild to severe diarrhea and fever sometimes mixed with blood, to abscesses on the organs, which in turn can lead to jaundice, inflammation of the lungs and joints and disturbances of the nerves. Other signs include sluggishness and apathy.
The disadvantage here is the same as with other bacterial diseases – through antibiotics. If the organs such as the liver, kidneys, or spleen have been attacked, the intake of other medicines may be necessary.
Unlike Leptospirosis, there is no vaccination against Salmonella. Still, there are a few measures that can reduce the risk of infection. If you feed your dog with raw meat, you need to know the origin of the meat. In the best-case scenario, you buy the meat directly from a butcher you trust. In addition, make sure that your four-legged friend does not come into contact with the droppings of pigeons and ducks.back to menu ↑
Staphylococci are found on both human and dog skin. In dogs, subspecies can lead to bacterial skin infections. The bacteria feel particularly good in mucous membranes or open wounds and can be transmitted by other animals or humans.
The infection is usually visible on the dog’s trunk, between the toes or at the elbows. In puppies, the signs of bacterial infection are usually visible on the abdomen. Symptoms include itching, red purulent skin, hair loss, ulcers and boils. The inflammation can also spread to the heart, bones, and joints.
As with all bacteria, hygiene also plays an important role here. When taking care of a wound, pay special attention to this and prevent the dog from coming into contact with the infected wounds with its tongue. In addition, proper care of the dog is important. Stick to the recommended care of the coat and check the body regularly for possible changes.back to menu ↑
Other bacterial diseases in dogs
Of course, the five infections suggested are not the only distemper caused by bacteria. Tuberculosis, listeriosis, yersinia, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, streptococci, or tetanus are bacterial diseases that can pose a danger to our dog. As different as these bacteria and their characteristics are, protection against infection is the same for everyone. Because with good hygiene and a good immune system, few pathogens have a chance.back to menu ↑
How to keep your dog healthy
To strengthen the immune system and fight bacterial diseases in the dog, you should pay attention to the following points:
- Feed your dog a healthy and balanced diet. Also, pay attention to the high quality of the food or ready-made food and make sure that your dog gets all the important nutrients through the food.
- Remove leftover food and clean the feeder regularly.
- Change the dog’s water regularly (at least twice a day!)
- Do not let your dog drink water from puddles or other standing water.
- Avoid contact with animal feces
- Care for good care of the dog. In addition to the necessary grooming, you should regularly clean and check your dog’s skin, ears, toes, and mouth. You cannot always prevent infection with this, but you will be able to recognize and treat external signs sooner.
- We wish you and your dog the very best!