Uncommon Bacterial Infections



Lockjaw - Tetanus

This non-contagious infection enters the body through a deep penetrating wound. The bacteria, Clostridium tetani, thrives in the horse's intestinal tract and is found in soil contaminated by horse or cow manure. Clinical signs are caused by a poison (toxin) produced by the bacteria days to weeks after the injury. Signs include a classic 'smile' caused by muscular retraction of the lips. Forehead muscles contract affecting ear position and the mouth becomes difficult to open. A diagnosis is based upon clinical signs. Tetanus antitoxin, together with antibiotics and sedatives are used. Intravenous fluids are often given. Unlike us, dogs have a naturally high resistance to tetanus so routine vaccination is not undertaken.


The disease is usually contracted by inhaling Mycobacteria tuberculosis and causes coughing, lethargy, loss of condition and laboured breathing. In one case a German shepherd we cared for contracted tuberculosis by licking the sweat from the face of her HIV positive owner who did not know at the time he had TB. Treatment is a dilemma because of the health risk to people. In circumstances where treatment is an option, virtually permanent antibiotic therapy may be effective.

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