Septicemia & Bacteremia In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Septicemia and bacteremia in dogs happen when a bacterial infection in the bloodstream causes inflammation and illness in the body. Although the terms are sometimes used to describe the same thing, bacteremia refers to the bloodstream infection, while septicemia, also known as sepsis or blood poisoning, refers to the illness caused by the inflammatory response to the bacterial infection. Bacteremia is fairly common, but most healthy dogs’ immune systems are able to fight off the infection before symptoms can develop. When the immune system is compromised or unable to fight off the infection, the bacteria proliferates and causes septicemia, which is a serious condition that has around a 50 percent mortality rate in dogs. If you see the signs of septicemia in your dog, consult your veterinarian right away so they can form a proper diagnosis and prescribe treatment. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for septicemia and bacteremia in dogs.

Symptoms Of Septicemia And Bacteremia In Dogs


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The symptoms of septicemia and bacteremia in dogs can appear suddenly or develop slowly over time. Dogs that fight off the bacterial infection in the blood stream may not show symptoms at all, but dogs that develop septicemia may face life-threatening complications. The symptoms may vary depending on which organs are affected, and these signs are often confused with symptoms of other immune-regulated diseases. If you see the following signs of septicemia and bacteremia in your dog, get to your veterinarian right away.

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart beat)
  • Heart murmur
  • Weakness
  • Shaking
  • Shallow breathing
  • Pale gums
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood pressure
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Disorientation
  • Septic shock
  • Organ failure

Causes Of Septicemia And Bacteremia In Dogs

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Septicemia and bactermia in dogs happen when bacteria is introduced to the bloodstream, which occur very easily. Sometimes this happens during routine dental cleanings, during surgery, or when a dog has an infection that moves from somewhere else in the body into the bloodstream.

Healthy dogs are usually able to fight off the infection, but dogs that have compromised immune systems are more at risk for developing septicemia. Pancreatitis, diabetes, kidney failure, and liver failure are among the conditions that can leave dogs open to bacteremia and septicemia. Any condition that suppresses the immune system response creates a greater risk. Skin infections and urinary tract infections may also migrate to the bloodstream and cause septicemia. If your dog has an infection or illness, it is important to monitor them for signs that septicemia may have developed.

Treatments For Septicemia And Bacteremia In Dogs

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Treatment for septicemia and bacteremia in dogs often begins with emergency support, as septicemia can easily be fatal. If a dog is in septic shock, they may need hospitalization with intravenous fluids, especially if they are suffering from dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea. This will also help restore electrolytes. Broad spectrum antibiotics may be given until the cause of the infection can be determined. Once the infection is identified, more specific, specialized antibiotics may be prescribed.

Vasopressors that constrict blood vessels may be given to increase blood flow to the organs and restore blood pressure. For dogs that can’t eat or hold down food, a feeding tube may be inserted. If an abscess is found, it may need to be surgically removed. As a dog recovers, the vet may prescribe a soft food diet to give the digestive system more time to heal. Owners should continue to watch for signs of septic shock or other complications, as the mortality rate for this condition is so high. It will take a few weeks of rest, monitoring, and proper treatment before dogs make a full recovery.