Clostridium Perfringens in Dogs

Clostridium perfringens is bacteria that can cause chronic diarrhea in dogs. It thrives in rotting vegetation, uncooked or undercooked meats and underwater sediment. Many dogs already have this bacteria in their intestinal tracts, but show no symptoms, because some strains of the bacteria are more toxic than others. Learn more about how clostridium perfringens can cause chronic diarrhea in dogs.

Clostridium Perfringens and How It Infects Dogs

Clostridium perfringens is a spore-producing bacteria that can cause chronic diarrhea if it infects your dog's intestinal tract. About 80% of dogs who become infected with this intestinal bacteria show no symptoms, and many of those who do develop symptoms develop only mild symptoms. It can, however, lead to serious, life-threatening diarrhea in some cases.

Dogs usually contract clostridium perfringens from eating garbage or rotten food, since it lives mostly in decaying meats and vegetable matter. Dogs may also be exposed to the bacteria when kept in close quarters with other dogs, such as at a boarding kennel. Often, dogs may carry the bacteria in their intestines for months or years before another illness, or a period of extreme emotional stress, weakens their immune system and leads to more serious infection.

Symptoms of Clostridium Perfringens Infection

If your dog is infected with clostridium perfringens, his only symptom may be chronic diarrhea, or diarrhea that lasts longer than two weeks. The diarrhea may be watery and may contain mucus or blood. Your dog may produce a very small amount of stool in relation to the amount of blood, water and mucus secreted; he may strain to move his bowels and may move his bowels more often.

Dogs infected with clostridium perfringens often experience some degree of discomfort in the abdomen, and may pass an excessive amount of intestinal gas. Vomiting and fever may occur, especially in more severe cases.

Dogs may often carry a small amount of this bacteria in their intestines without ill effect. Symptoms of infection occur when these bacteria become too numerous in your dog's body.

Diagnosing and Treating Clostridium Perfringens Infection in Dogs

Your vet will need a complete medical history and thorough physical exam to diagnose clostridium perfringens infection in your dog. If your dog spends a lot of time outside, has been recently boarded at a kennel, or may have eaten uncooked or rotten meat or vegetable matter, be sure to tell your vet. Blood work, urinalysis and a fecal sample are generally needed to pin down the cause of canine diarrhea. There are a number of other conditions that can cause similar diarrhea symptoms, and your vet will need to rule these out before he can make a definitive diagnosis.

If your dog's diarrhea and vomiting are severe, he may need fluid therapy to help rehydrate his body. The infection itself can usually be cleared up quickly with oral antibiotics. In most cases, antibiotics are administered for a week, but your dog may need to take them for longer if he has a more severe infection.