If your dog experiences a prolonged bout of diarrhea, it's possible that he's suffering from campylobacteriosis, a bacterial infection affecting the intestinal tract. Since campylobacteriosis is a zoonotic disease -- transmissible from animals to humans -- be careful when cleaning up your dog's feces. While the risk of campylobacteriosis spreading to humans from dogs is low, it does exist. Canines can pick up the campylobacter from various sources.
Campylobacteriosis in Dogs
The bacteria causing campylobacteriosis, campylobacter jejuni, is commonly found in dogs and in most cases causes no ill effects. Approximately half of all canines harbor campylobacter in their intestinal tracts, with the bacteria shed in fecal material. Puppies and young dogs are more susceptible, as their immune systems haven't yet matured. Besides diarrhea, symptoms of campylobacteriosis in canines include abdominal pain, vomiting, weakness and fever. Your dog might lose his appetite, and his lymph nodes could swell. Campylobacteriosis can last for days or weeks, and your dog might appear to recover only to have his bowels turns watery again. Seek veterinary care if your dog has any of these symptoms.
In dogs, the most common means of campylobacter transmission is via exposure to contaminated feces, whether of fellow canines or other infected species. Dogs also contract the bacteria from eating the remains or feces of infected wildlife, especially birds. Because the bacteria can live in soil and water, dogs can pick it up by drinking contaminated water or consuming contaminated dirt. In people, the most common means of transmission occurs from eating infected chickens, which also can affect canines.
Although there's no way to guarantee that your dog won't come into contact with campylobacter, basic hygiene measures can reduce the odds. Clean up after your dog in your yard and while out on walks. Wash your dog's bedding regularly, and thoroughly vacuum and clean any carpets or upholstered furniture he uses for sleeping. Because the bacteria is so common in canine feces, don't let your dog sniff -- or lick -- any poop he finds when you're on an outing. Keep him from devouring any wild animals he comes upon in his travels.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your veterinarian diagnoses campylobacteriosis by testing your dog's stool sample. She'll then prescribe the proper antibiotics to clear up the infection. Untreated, campylobacteriosis can become chronic. It also can cause miscarriage in pregnant dogs. In puppies, the dehydrating effects of persistent diarrhea can prove fatal.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.