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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.