Clostridium botulinum in Dogs
Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic disease in dogs, related to ingestion of raw meat and dead animals. Typically, symptoms within a few hours to six days after eating spoiled animal meat that is infected with the Clostridium botulinum type C preformed neurotoxin. This neurotoxin causes spreading weakness, starting in the back legs and ascending to the trunk, front legs and neck. Paralysis of all four limbs is the next symptom.
Dogs generally are resistant to the more severe effects of Clostridium botulinum type C. Mildly affected dogs recover over a period of several days with supportive treatment. However, dogs with difficulties breathing will require intensive care monitoring. In severe cases, paralysis can affect the ability to breath killing the affected animal.
Symptoms and Types
- Sudden spreading weakness starting in hind legs and ascending to the trunk, front legs and neck
- Severe weakness of all four legs or paralysis of all four limbs (which usually occurs within 12 to 24 hours of onset)
- Clostridium botulinum type C preformed neurotoxin, eaten in dead animal carcasses, or in uncooked or spoiled foods
You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your dog's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition, such as contact with spoiled meat or dead animals.
Your veterinarian will perform a full physical exam of your dog, with standard tests including a chemical blood profile, complete blood count and urinalysis. Blood will also be taken to test for the botulinum toxin in the serum. Likewise, your veterinarian may take a stool sample or vomit to test for the the toxin. X-rays of your dog's chest may be taken to check the health of the lungs and upper digestive tract, as this toxin can cause paralysis of the respiratory muscles.
Your veterinarian will treat your dog according to how severely or mildly it is affected by the botulinum toxin. If it is a mild reaction, your dog may be temporarily hospitalized and treated with a urinary catheter and intravenous feeding. However, if your dog is severely affected and is having trouble breathing due to paralysis of the respiratory muscles, it will need close monitoring in an intensive care unit. Under these circumstances, your dog will have a stomach tube placed for feeding and will be hooked up to a ventilator to assist its breathing.
Regardless of the severity, however, a type C antitoxin will be given to your dog to neutralize the botulinum toxin and prevent further progression.Complete recovery usually takes place over 1 to 3 weeks.
Living and Management
Prevention of this disease is easier than treatment. Do not allow your dog to eat dead carcasses or spoiled raw meat. If you live in a rural area where this is a possibility, you will need to be on guard, as far as checking your property regularly for the presence of dead animals. In addition, you should always feed your dog food that has been thoroughly cooked.