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Botulism is a rare infectious disease in dogs caused by ingestion of decomposed or raw meat containing the Clostridium botulinum type C bacteria. The bacteria produce a neurotoxin called botulin, which can affect the nervous system of canines. Though dogs are generally resistant to the toxin, when infected meat is consumed in large quantities, it causes botulism.
The main symptoms of botulism manifest within 12 to 36 hours of ingestion and they include:
- Muscle weakness and paralysis starting from hind limbs and spreading to trunk and neck and front legs
- Drooling, vomiting or diarrhea
- Pain in the abdomen
- Difficulty to chew and swallow
- Reduced heart rate
- Vision problems
- Breathing difficulties
Botulism is a serious condition that requires the immediate medical attention. If our beloved pooches show any of these conditions the vet should be contacted on a priority basis.
Since the symptoms of botulism are similar to poisoning and other nervous system disorders, vets will be able to detect it only through the process of elimination. They will need to know about the infected dog’s history, symptoms and whether he was found sniffing around any animal carcass.
Samples of Fido’s serum stools, vomit or food can be tested for botulin. But at times, the concentration levels of botulin toxin might be low at the time of testing and it may escape detection. Chest X-rays could point to the health of lungs as botulin can paralyze the respiratory muscles.
Treatment and recovery
In cases of mild botulism, may require hospitalization for a few days and intravenous feeding. Under the unfortunate circumstances of an acute infection, Fido may have difficulty breathing by himself. In this case he may be placed in an intensive care unit with a ventilator for breathing assistance and a stomach tube for feeding.
Type C antitoxin is also provided in cases of confirmed botulism to combat the bacteria. Once the dog survives the immediate effects of botulism, it will take him one to three weeks to fully recover his health. It is important to follow all the directions provided by veterinarian during this time.
The best way to prevent botulism is to keep Fido from eating any carcass or spoilt meat. Even if the raw meat brought from the store has been kept in fridge, do not feed it to him if it is more than a week old. Any raw meat provided should be fresh, consisting of muscular meat and without any guts or intestines. While taking our furry friends for a stroll in a park or rural area, they should be monitored for their own safety. It is largely up to us, the owners, to ensure that they don’t come across any spoilt meat and accidentally ingest it.