Can TB Spread to Dogs?

by Victoria Lee Blackstone
    Ingestion of infected milk or beef can cause TB in dogs.

    Ingestion of infected milk or beef can cause TB in dogs.

    Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Zoonotic diseases are those that have the ability to spread between humans and animals, whether caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. Tuberculosis, or TB, is a mycobacterial disease caused by a variety of different bacterial agents. Depending on the type of TB, transmission to dogs occurs through aerosol exposure or ingestion of contaminated substances. TB infection is not common in dogs, but reducing possible exposure risks reduces the chances of infection.

    Different Types of TB

    The three main types of TB infection come from different hosts. Human TB, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is airborne. Bovine TB, caused by Mycobacterium bovis, spreads to dogs through infected milk products or ingestion of animal feces or tissue, such as meat products or dead animals. Avian TB, caused by Mycobacterium avium, spreads through contact with infected bird tissue.

    Canine TB Symptoms and Treatments

    Clinical symptoms of TB, regardless of the type, are not always present in dogs. Outward symptoms depend on the method of disease contraction. For example, dogs contracting TB through inhalation may experience respiratory symptoms such as coughing or difficulty breathing. Contracting TB through ingestion of infected milk, tissue or feces can cause symptoms in the digestive tract, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Other general symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy and increased salivation. Unfortunately, dogs do not respond well to traditional TB treatments and, because of the risk of TB transmission to humans, euthanasia is recommended for infected dogs.

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    About the Author

    Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist who propagates heirloom and native plants for her nursery. She has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, plant care sheets and magazine and newspaper articles. Blackstone studied botany and microbiology at Clemson University and is a former University of Georgia Extension Master Gardener Coordinator.

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