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Dogs + Infectious Diseases

  • Diarrhea is a symptom of an underlying problem that may be minor or very serious. Some cases may resolve on their own or with minimal treatment, while other cases require in-depth diagnostic testing and more aggressive treatment to address the underlying condition. The possible causes, diagnostic tests, and treatment protocols for diarrhea in dogs are numerous and are explained in this handout.

  • Discospondylitis is a bacterial or fungal infection of the intervertebral disks and the adjacent vertebral bones. It primarily affects dogs, though rarely can affect cats. It affects large breed dogs more often and generally starts clinically as back pain. The diagnosis and treatment of this condition are outlined in this handout.

  • Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic dogs and other animals such as ferrets, skunks, and raccoons. It is an incurable, often fatal, multisystemic (affecting multiple organs) disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. The disease is spread mainly by direct contact between a susceptible dog and a dog showing symptoms. The main clinical signs are diarrhea, vomiting, thick yellow discharge from the eyes and nose, cough and, in severe cases, seizures and neurological signs. As with most viral infections, there is no specific treatment. Fortunately we have highly effective vaccines to prevent this deadly disease.

  • Ehrlichiosis is a tick-borne bacterial (Ehrlichia) infection spread by the brown dog tick found in many areas of North America. There appear to be three stages of disease: acute, sub-clinical, and chronic or clinical. Abnormal findings on initial lab work include thrombocytopenia, anemia, hyperglobulinemia, and proteinuria. In-clinic ELISA tests can be used to screen for exposure but will be negative if the infection is new. Blood can be sent for PCR testing to demonstrate infection and to determine the species of Ehrlichia. Prevention includes minimizing exposure to ticks and use of tick prevention medication regularly.

  • Flea and tick prevention consists of a variety of products used to control flea and/or tick infestations on your pet and to prevent infestations inside the home. Fleas and ticks can be found worldwide. Fleas can live in many climate zones, but they prefer humid and shady areas, such as under leaf litter. Ticks can also live in many climate zones, and prefer humid and shady environments, especially areas with woods, shrubs, weeds, and tall grasses. Prevention is key to avoid infestations in your home, severe allergic reactions (in both pets and people), and to prevent disease. Many flea and tick preventives are available. Your veterinarian will help you find an appropriate product that works best for your and your pet.

  • Giardiasis is an intestinal infection in humans and animals, caused by a microscopic protozoan parasite. The parasite occurs worldwide and is a common cause of "Traveler's Diarrhea" in people. Outdoor enthusiasts who inadvertently consume contaminated water may develop "beaver fever", which is another name for giardiasis in people.

  • Heartworm disease is serious and potentially life-threatening to dogs. Treatment involves several components to combat potential bacterial infection, kill the heartworm larvae (microfilaria), kill the adult heartworms, and then test to confirm successful treatment. Complete rest for a dog undergoing treatment is essential. The prognosis for dogs after heartworm treatment is generally good if the pet owner follows all veterinary recommendations closely.

  • Hepatozoonosis in dogs is caused by ingestion of one of two organisms: H. americanum and H. canis. Both parasites are more common in the southern United States. The clinical sign and treatments for dogs with hepatozoonosis differ depending on the parasite species causing the infection. In either case, with appropriate treatment, the prognosis is generally good.

  • Canine herpesvirus, or canine herpes, is a systemic, often fatal disease of puppies caused by the canine herpes virus. It may remain latent in tissues after a dog is infected and may be passed on to other dogs, particularly to fetuses developing in the mother's uterus. Clinical signs in puppies include difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, anorexia, soft stools, crying, seizures, and sudden death. Symptoms in adult dogs include coughing and sneezing, miscarriage, lesions on the external genitalia, conjunctivitis, and corneal ulcers. The disease may be prevented by avoiding contact with infected dogs. Pregnant dogs should be isolated to prevent infection.

  • Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by histoplasma, a fungus found in moist soils and especially prevalent around the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and St. Lawrence Rivers, as well as the southern Great Lakes. Fungal spores are inhaled or ingested and cause infection in many sites including the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, eyes, joints, and spleen. Clinical signs can include fever, lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, coughing or trouble breathing, diarrhea, and straining while defecating. Diagnosis includes routine bloodwork, urinalysis, X-rays, antigen testing, and cytology or histopathology. Treatment requires long term anti-fungal medication such as itraconazole. Prognosis is guarded depending on how ill the patient is. This disease is transmissible to humans, especially if they are immunocompromised.

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