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Common Bacterial Diseases in Dogs


Several bacteria of the salmonella species are capable of producing acute infectious diarrhea in dogs. Salmonella remain alive for many months or years in soil and manure. In dogs, the disease is acquired by consuming raw or commercially contaminated foods, by eating animal manure, or by making oral contact with surfaces that have been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected dog. This bacterial infection is a risk in dogs fed a raw diet, unless excellent food-handling hygiene is practiced at all times.

Puppies and young adults are most susceptible, as are dogs whose natural resistance has been compromised by a viral infection, malnutrition, parasites, or being housed in crowded, unsanitary quarters.

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Signs of illness include fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. The stool may be bloody and foul smelling. Dehydration develops when vomiting and diarrhea are prolonged. Bacteria in the bloodstream can cause abscesses in the liver, kidneys, uterus, and lungs. The acute illness, which lasts four to ten days, may be followed by a chronic diarrhea that persists for more than a month. Dogs with chronic diarrhea shed salmonella in their feces and are a potential source of infection to other animals and humans.

Treatment: Mild cases respond well to fluid replacement. Many salmonella species are resistant to common antibiotics. In fact, antibiotics can favor the growth of resistant bacteria and prolong fecal shedding of bacteria. Accordingly, antibiotics are used only for seriously ill dogs. Sulfa drugs and the quinolones are the antibiotics of choice.

Public health considerations: Salmonellosis is a zoonotic disease, so care must be taken to practice excellent hygiene when dealing with a dog with salmonellosis. It is important to wear gloves when cleaning up feces and to disinfect areas where an affected dog has eliminated.


Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria are frequently found in dogs with the kennel cough complex and other respiratory diseases. Signs of upper respiratory illness caused by bordetella include a dry, hacking cough accompanied by a clear nasal or eye discharge. In puppies and immune-compromised adult animals, secondary bacterial invasion of the lower respiratory tract following viral illness may cause life-threatening pneumonia. Dogs who are carrying the organism and may not even be ill themselves, may still cough or exhale the organism into the air. Healthy dogs can then be infected by breathing in that contaminated air.

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