What is Bacterial Infection (Tyzzer Disease)?
Tyzzer disease is a serious disease caused by the intracellular bacterium of Clostridium piliforme, or C. piliforme. This parasitic bacterium is transmitted mainly through the ingestion of infected feces, and it colonizes the stomach and intestines. This causes severe damage to the intestines, liver, and heart, and fatalities often occur in infected animals within just a few days.
Tyzzer disease is a serious and often fatal bacterial infection caused by an intracellular bacterium known as Clostridium Piliforme. The bacterial parasite invades the digestive system causing severe damage to the intestines, liver, and heart.
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Symptoms of Bacterial Infection (Tyzzer Disease) in Dogs
This disease primarily affects young healthy animals during periods of stress. Symptoms in affected animals may not occur until up to a week after exposure and could include any of the following:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Anal bleeding
- Excessive urination or thirst
- Loss of appetite
- Ruffled or coarse fur
- Sudden death
- Watery diarrhea
Tyzzer disease is caused by an intracellular bacterium that goes by the name Clostridium piliforme. Although some isolates of the C piliforme produce toxins that may increase its virulence, C piliforme infections made up of isolates without toxins can still cause the disease to flare up.
Iowa’s muskrat population was also affected by a virulent disease that was named Errington’s disease in the 1940’s that left many muskrats dead. In 1971, it was determined that the Errington’s and Tyzzer’s diseases were one and the same.
Causes of Bacterial Infection (Tyzzer Disease) in Dogs
An intracellular bacterium named Clostridium piliforme is the cause of Tyzzer’s disease. Transmission of the C. Piliforme occurs mainly through the ingestion of spores shed in the feces of infected animals. Although rarer, it can also be spread by ingesting infected meat or from a pregnant animal to it’s unborn fetuses (transplacental infection).
Outbreaks of Tyzzer’s disease outside of the laboratory have been reported in the following areas of North America:
- British Columbia
Diagnosis of Bacterial Infection (Tyzzer Disease) in Dogs
In order to make a diagnosis your veterinarian will ask for a full history of the animal, as well as a general physical exam, taking particular note of any abdominal swelling or pain as well as swelling or pain in the lymph nodes. A complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis are likely to be ordered to discover the underlying cause of the symptoms. Specific blood tests for antibodies may reveal Tyzzer, but is not always a reliable indicator in the case of C. Piliforme. A fecal sample will also be collected and examined and may show evidence of spores or parasites. A PCR assay test may be done on the feces to clinically test for C. Piliforme as well. A definitive diagnosis is based on findings of C. Piliforme bacterium during tissue examination at the laboratory.
As the disease is acute in nature and can progress rapidly, the final diagnosis may not occur until a necropsy is performed. In the case of diagnosis by necropsy, inflammation, and necrotic tissue would be found in the lower digestive tract and distinct necrotic lesions would be found in the liver itself.
Treatment of Bacterial Infection (Tyzzer Disease) in Dogs
Unfortunately, the prognosis is not good for canines who develop Tyzzer’s disease. The Tyzzer bacterium have proven resistant to many of our antibiotics and even with early treatment under ideal conditions death can occur in as early as 48 hours. Tetracycline and penicillin have some effect on the disease if given early enough, but under ideal conditions the effectiveness is sporadic. Supportive treatment such as IV fluids to prevent dehydration are essential to give the patient the best chance for survival.
The best treatment, in this case, is prevention. As the most common vector for transmission is the ingestion of infected feces it is important to be aware of what your dog eats or picks up in their mouths, especially in areas where Tyzzer outbreaks have occurred. Stressed and very young animals also seem to be predisposed to developing symptoms of Tyzzer disease and being extra vigilant is recommended if your dog is still in the puppy stage or is experiencing any sort of unusual stress in its life.
Recovery of Bacterial Infection (Tyzzer Disease) in Dogs
If your canine responds to the antibiotics the best thing you can do to protect their health is to make sure that your pet completes the full measure of their antibiotic medication. Keeping the recovering patient in a calm and quiet environment will help speed any recovery, as will having food and water within reach of your pet. It is important to keep other animals in the house away from any infection points, but Tyzzer is not a direct health risk to humans. Frequent handwashing and keeping the environment clean will help prevent any further spread of the disease. Prompt removal of feces should be observed and sterilization of any surface feces comes in contact with is essential.