E. Coli Infection In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatments

E.coli bacteria

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E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, is a kind of bacteria found in the lower intestines of dogs and other mammals. Usually it is benign, but symptoms can appear in dogs when the bacteria concentration is too high and results in a disease called colibacillosis or E. coli infection. Symptoms can be serious in canines if it is not treated, and it can lead to blood poisoning. It mostly affects very young puppies but can be found in dogs of any age. If you spot the symptoms of an E. coli infection, contact your veterinarian immediately. Here is what you need to know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for E. coli in dogs.

Symptoms Of E. Coli Infection In Dogs

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Symptoms of E. coli infection in dogs can vary. In newborn puppies, blood poisoning and organ failure can occur. In this case, coldness, weakness, and frequent diarrhea are common symptoms, and a veterinarian should be consulted right away. Dogs of any age may experience the following symptoms with an E. coli infection.

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Cold skin or low body temperature
  • Bluish color in the gums, nostrils, ears, lips, or anus due to lack of oxygenation in red blood cells

In elderly dogs, other complications can occur. Seniors may experience bladder, mammary gland, womb, or kidney infections.

Causes Of E. Coli Infection In Dogs

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The most common cause of E. coli infection in dogs is puppies being born to an unhealthy mother. When puppies receive contaminated milk from a mother dog they can become infected. Also, if puppies do not receive enough milk from their mothers, which transfers antibodies that prevent infection, they may also be left with a compromised immune system and experience more infections.

Factors that affect the health of a puppy include poor nutrition in the mother, an unsanitary birthing environment, mammary gland infection, and prolonged birth. Contact with other infected animals, including bedding that has been used by infected dogs, also make E. coli infection more likely, as well as making it common for other infections, like parvovirus, to occur simultaneously.

Though it is less common, infection can occur through exposure to contaminated food or water. This is more likely in kennels that do not properly clean common facility areas. Feeding a dog a raw diet may also increase this risk. It is important to wash food and water bowls thoroughly, keep infected dogs separate and quarantined, and wash your hands after handling food or dogs.

Treatment For E. Coli Infection in Dogs

illness puppy with intravenous drip on operating table in veterinarian's clinic

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Most dogs, puppies especially, will need hospitalization for treatment of an E. coli infection. Treatment will likely include intravenous fluids to restore fluids and electrolytes lost through diarrhea. Glucose may be administered to treat the diarrhea symptoms. Antibiotics like ceftiofur, cephalexin, and cefpodoxime will be administered to treat the bacterial infection. Because puppies do not have fully developed immune systems, they are in extreme danger. Often, treatment is unsuccessful, and untreated puppies have a very high mortality rate. This is why it is important to treat the condition early and aggressively, which can improve a puppy’s chances of survival.

Creating a sterile environment for the mother dog and the puppy is essential in preventing an E. coli infection. It is also important that the puppy receive healthy milk that is rich in antibodies immediately after birth. With a birthing environment that is properly sanitized and not crowded, instances of E. coli infection are reduced.