It's not always easy for veterinarians to make specific treatment decisions about bacterial heliocobacter infections in dogs, because questions remain about the condition. Generally, treatments mirror those that serve people, but they don't always work in ridding canines of the infection. Various medications are used in combination to eradicate this tough organism.
Four distinct types of helicobacter bacteria have been found in dogs. Helicobacter felis -- which primarily affects cats -- and Helicobacter heilmannii are the most common species in canines. Less often, dogs might harbor Heliocobacter rappini or Helicobater salomonis. Most likely, dogs pick up the bacteria from the feces of infected animals. Shelter dogs or those kept in unsanitary conditions are most vulnerable to infection. In people, Helicobacter pylori infection is believed to cause stomach cancer, which is not the case with the type of bacteria found in canines. It's unlikely you will pick up a helicobacter infection from your dog, and vice versa.
Many dogs harbor helicobacter bacteria in their gastrointestinal systems and remain asymptomatic. Helicobater infection symptoms mimic other digestive tract ailments, including vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, weight loss, abdominal pain and noises from the bowels. It might also be responsible for cases of inflammatory bowel disease. Dogs might appear weak and lethargic -- sudden death is possible.
To diagnose helicobacter infection, your vet performs standard blood testing and urinalysis. She'll also use an endoscope to take a sample of the dog's stomach wall, then inspect the tissue under a microscope for the presence of helicobacter.
People with helicobacter infections are treated with a combination of antibiotics and antacids. The same protocol is generally used for dogs, although the helicobacter species aren't the same. Your vet will prescribe at least two antibiotics. Common antibiotics used for treatment include amoxicillin, azithromycin, erythromicin, clarythromycin, tetracycline and metronidazole. The vet might prescribe one of these, plus an antacid such as omeprazole or famotidine. Usually, a dog takes this drug combo for two weeks. Dogs suffering from severe diarrhea or vomiting might receive intravenous fluid therapy. Your vet might also place your dog on a prescription diet for canines with sensitive stomachs.
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.