Helicobacter in Dogs

Helicobacter infection in dogs is caused by Helicobacter bacteria that are present in the stomach of both healthy and sick dogs. Helicobacter bacteria are gram negative, spiral shaped, flagellated bacteria that survive in the acidic environment of the stomach and generally don’t cause disease. However, they can sometimes cause irritation and inflammation in canine glandular stomach tissue and become the cause of helicobacter infection.

Helicobacter Infection in Dogs

There are several species of helicobacter bacteria that are found in the canine stomach such as Helicobacter felis, Helicobacter heilmannii, Helicobacter rappini and Helicobacter salomonis. These bacteria are found in the glandular cavities and mucosal lining of the canine stomach. The infection caused by helicobacter bacteria is difficult to cure and affected dogs can remain infected throughout their life.

Transmission of Helicobacter Infections

Although the cause of the infection is not known, it is assumed that poor sanitary conditions and overcrowding facilitate the spread of this infection among dogs as pets in kennels, shelters and multi-dog families are more prone to this infection. Bacteria have been found in the saliva, vomit and feces of infected dogs and it is surmised that infection is transmitted orally and through the feces of infected dogs. The bacteria is also present in stagnant water.

Symptoms of Helicobacter Infection in Dogs:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Dehydration
  • Food allergy
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ulcers
  • Weakness 
  • Death

Diagnosis of Helicobacter Infection in Dogs

Several diagnostic tests such as testing urease levels, microscopic tissue analysis, complete blood count, urinalysis and gastric biopsy via an endoscopy can help diagnose the infection. The urease tests can conclusively confirm helicobacter infection within 24 hours. A biopsy allows the veterinarian to inspect the dog’s stomach and take tissue samples from infected areas. Impression smears on tissue samples taken during a biopsy can also confirm the infection. Other tests that are often carried out during diagnosis include the urea breath test and the polymerase chain reaction. These tests help identify the specie of helicobacter that’s responsible for the infection.

Treatment of Helicobacter Infection in Dogs

Antibiotics such as amoxicillin and metronidazole are generally prescribed to control the infection and have to be taken for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. These are given in conjunction with antacids such as Pepto-Bismol or gastric acid inhibitors such as famotidine or omeprazole. Although treatment eradicates or reduces the number of bacteria present in the affected dog, the infection often recurs.

This could be because of a fresh infection or due to the resurgence of some bacteria that have survived the treatment. In cases where the infection is not cleared, steroids may have to be administered to suppress the immune system of the affected animal and reduce the symptoms of the infection.

If you have many pets in your household, you should ensure that your house is clean and that your pets are given a nutritious diet and plenty of fresh drinking water to guard them against this infection.