Toxic Shock Syndrome in Dogs

by Betty Lewis
    Dog shows and other large dog gatherings offer potential to share streptococci.

    Dog shows and other large dog gatherings offer potential to share streptococci.

    Apple Tree House/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Toxic shock syndrome not only sounds serious, it is serious -- and often fatal. Humans and dogs can come down with this illness by picking up the streptococci bacteria. Toxic shock syndrome in dogs has a sudden onset, making it difficult to treat. Early intervention with the right medication is crucial.

    Toxic Shock Syndrome's Evildoer

    A nasty bacteria called streptococci is the cause of canine streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, referred to as CSTSS for short. There are different strains of the bacteria, which can make the unfortunate recipient very sick. There's a lot of mystery surrounding CSTSS, however dogs can become infected with canine strains as well as some human strains of the bacteria.

    Fast and Dangerous

    The dog who becomes infected with CSTSS becomes sick very quickly; in fact, a dog may appear healthy at noon and be dead by dinner time. Symptoms develop rapidly and are severe enough to debilitate a dog within hours. Lethargy, vomiting, fever, weakness and mild convulsions are early signs of infection. As the bacteria progresses through the dog's bloodstream, symptoms progress and may present as a deep cough, bleeding from the nose, coughing up blood, skin bruising and bloody diarrhea.

    Early Treatment for Best Success

    Treating toxic shock syndrome in dogs is tricky and often unsuccessful due to the illness's rapid progression. As well, the bacteria is resistant to a variety of antibiotics, so using the proper medication is key. Streptococci have proven to be vulnerable to the antibiotics Penicillin G and Clindomycin administered intravenously. That susceptibility means the medication is able to staunch the release of toxins into a dog's bloodstream, providing relief from the toxins' effects. Fluid therapy and other supportive care as necessary are usually part of treating toxic shock syndrome. The mortality rate from CSTSS is high, and dogs who are fortunate to recover can take a couple of weeks to get back to normal.

    Playing Keep Away

    Unfortunately, much of the information gained about toxic shock syndrome in dogs has been learned from cases where treatment was unsuccessful. The bacteria typically enters the dog through his throat and lungs, as well as the reproductive tract of females in heat. Dogs in crowded situations, such as dog breed shows, are at higher risk of infection. Humans can pass the bacteria along by handling multiple dogs without washing their hands. Dogs can acquire the bacteria by sharing food and water dishes, play-fighting, sharing muzzles or even licking the face of a human with strep throat. If your pup is in a situation making him vulnerable to picking up infection, take precautionary measures, including thoroughly cleaning his crate and washing your hands before handling him. Keep his accessories, such as blankets and toys, for him only. Puppies and older dogs are at higher risk of infection because their immune systems may not be fully developed or are diminished.

    Photo Credits

    • Apple Tree House/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master’s degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.

    Trending Dog Behavior Articles

    Have a question? Get an answer from a Vet now!