Tetanus In Canines

by Jen Davis
Tetanus is most likely to occur if your dog has suffered a significant wound or injury.

Tetanus is most likely to occur if your dog has suffered a significant wound or injury.

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

You do everything in your power to keep your dog healthy, but even the best pet owner can't always anticipate and prevent every possible illness. Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a serious infection that can harm or even kill your dog. Vaccinating your dog annually against tetanus is the most effective way to protect him from becoming ill.

Understanding Tetanus

Tetanus is a bacterial infection. The bacteria that cause the infection are known as Clostridium tetani. Clostridium tetani thrive in environments with limited oxygen levels, including the intestines of animals and inside dead tissue. The tetanus bacteria is capable of remaining dormant for long periods of time and then developing into an active infection once an injured animal comes into contact with the bacteria spores. Once inside the body, these bacteria produce toxins. Those toxins make your pet sick by attaching to nerve cells.

Tetanus Symptoms

Tetanus is known as lockjaw for a reason. It causes a loss of muscle control. Your dog's first signs of infection may include stiffness and difficulty walking. You may notice he is having difficulty walking or suffering from muscle spasms. Other symptoms include: drooling, problems passing bowel movements or urinating, fever, stiff tail, erect or stiff ears, strange facial appearance or expression (grinning, wrinkles where you do not usually see them), problems eating or drinking, inability to fully open mouth, paralysis or even death.

Tetanus Diagnosis

You should take your dog to the veterinarian immediately if you notice him showing any signs of tetanus. Your veterinarian will be able to confirm the diagnosis by performing routine laboratory tests on your pet's blood and urine. Your veterinarian may also take samples for a culture so that he can confirm your dog has Clostridium tetani bacteria in a wound or injury.

Tetanus Treatment

Your dog will be unlikely to recover from tetanus on his own. He must have veterinary care. Tetanus is treated by administering standard antibiotics, such as penicillin. Because of the immobility tetanus can cause, your dog may also require IV fluids, intravenous feeding or assistance breathing until the infection clears.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images