With the advent of chlorinated tap water in the mid-1900s, typhoid fever now affects only a few hundred people in the United States each year. But typhoid remains a major concern for Americans traveling to less developed countries. The salmonella typhi bacteria associated with the disease is passed through food and water infected with the bacteria, causing symptoms that include diarrhea, fever, malaise, and rash. While the disease does not occur naturally in canines, related salmonella bacteria cause similar symptoms in dogs.
He Won't Get It, But You Might
If you are traveling with your dog in areas where typhoid fever is a concern, you need not worry about him contracting the disease. Although he can pick up the bacteria by sniffing infected fecal matter or ingesting contaminated food or water, a dog's short digestive system eliminates most salmonella bacteria through his feces. The bacteria are also shed through his saliva, so don't allow your dog to lick you on the lips, share a water container or take a bite out of your food. Use care to not contact his feces when you clean up after him, and wash your hands or use antibacterial solution afterward.
Studying Dogs to Help Humans
Dogs injected with the S. typhi bacteria in a laboratory setting developed similar symptoms to humans. The study sought insight about how typhoid may affect human patient's hearts. Researchers noted canine heartbeats and respiration were dramatically affected by the disease. For the first six to 20 hours after infection, the dogs' heart rates were abnormally slow, down to 60 beats per minute or fewer, and were accompanied by slow, labored breathing. Their heart rates then became rapid, increasing to 120 to 150 beats per minute for up to several days. A second episode of slow heartbeat occurred, accompanied by slow, irregular breathing is followed by the heart rate and breathing returning to normal as each patient recovered.
Not Typhoid, but Close
While most salmonella passes through your dog's short digestive system with little incident, a related strain of Salmonella -- S. typhimurium -- occasionally causes vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory symptoms and high fever. Breathing and heart rate sometimes alternate between abnormally slow and abnormally fast over a period of hours, much like dogs infected with typhoid fever in the laboratory. Puppies are especially vulnerable to the disease; about 40 percent of pups contracting the disease die. Dogs contract the disease from fleas or body lice, or in overcrowded, filthy conditions.
He's Sick, Now What?
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms or you believe he may have been exposed, contact your veterinarian. Usual treatment includes antibiotics, rest and sometimes a special diet or electrolyte formula. The acute phase of Salmonellosis may last from several days to a week in dogs, but your pet will take several more weeks to recover completely. The stress on your dog's cardiopulmonary system will leave him with less energy and stamina until he is completely recovered. Avoid vigorously exercising your pet for several weeks to allow him to regain his strength.