Digestive Clostridiosis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Has your dog suffered from acute or chronic diarrhea for several months? It may be a digestive clostridiosis

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What is clostridia?

Digestive clostridiosis in dogs is a complex syndrome, still relatively poorly understood, characterized by acute or chronic diarrhea and whose causative agent is the bacterium Clostridium perfringens.

This bacterium would be part of the normal intestinal bacterial flora of the dog but it would appear that certain bacterial strains are capable, in certain cases, of producing an enterotoxin harmful to the animal. This toxin has the ability to attach itself to the intestinal mucosa and cause various lesions, ranging from the reduction of the permeability of the intestinal cells to the pure and simple destruction of the latter.

The ability of Clostridium perfringens to cause disease could depend on factors intrinsic to the animal such as the "he alth" of its gastrointestinal tract or its immune status.

Certain conditions such as stress, dietary changes or pH variations in the intestinal tract are also suspected of promoting the production of toxins by bacteria. However, it would seem that cases of digestive clostridiosis in dogs are often associated with an overpopulation of Clostridium perfringens bacteria in the small intestine.

When is digestive clostridiosis suspected in dogs?

Digestive clostridiosis in dogs can be associated with acute, sudden onset diarrhea or chronic (long-term) and intermittent diarrhea that recurs every 2 to 4 weeks. These episodes can persist for months or even years.

In addition to loose stools, diarrhea associated with clostridiosis is typically associated with the presence of mucus in the stool, tenesmus (efforts to defecate) and, sometimes, the presence of dark red blood in the stool . Affected dogs usually exhibit the need to defecate frequently and urgently.

Some dogs may exhibit liquid stools, vomiting and flatulence.

Although digestive clostridiosis can occur in dogs of any age, most dogs that develop chronic signs are middle-aged or older.

How is digestive clostridiosis diagnosed?

In case of digestive clostridiosis, the diagnosis of certainty is relatively difficult to establish. To do this, your veterinarian may use various examinations including microbiological stool examinations and a colonoscopy.

How is clostridial enterotoxicosis treated?

Digestive clostridiosis usually requires oral antibiotic treatment for 5 to 7 days. Recurrent chronic cases will require antibiotic therapy for several weeks.

Nutrition plays a role in the treatment and management of dogs with this condition. Diets high in fiber often improve clinical signs by reducing the number of Clostridium in the intestinal tract and by regulating the pH of the intestine. Psyllium is a source of soluble fiber which can also be used to enhance the effects of a high fiber diet, 1/2 to 2 teaspoons per day in the diet. Probiotics may also have beneficial antibacterial effects on Clostridium.

If vomiting and diarrhea are severe, the dog may require hospitalization to correct dehydration.

If the animal does not respond well to treatment, this suggests the presence of other existing pathologies and additional diagnostic evaluations will then be necessary.

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