What are Melioidosis?
Melioidosis is found in the soil of tropical and subtropical areas. There is some indication that cases become more prevalent after heavy rainfalls in the areas it is found. However, the bacteria have also been shown to be “opportunistic” in that it spreads via different means.
The most common transmission is direct contact with the bacteria not through animal to animal contact. Unfortunately, this bacterial infection has been called “the great imitator” and can mimic many other conditions. This makes it difficult to diagnose accurately and swiftly.
Melioidosis is a bacterial infection that is caused by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei. This bacteria is only found in Southeast Asia, Northern Australia, and the south Pacific. However, there are a handful of cases in the United States each year.
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Symptoms of Melioidosis in Dogs
As identified above, this bacteria’s symptoms mimic many other diseases and can be difficult to differentiate. However, there are some generalized and more specific symptoms to be aware of.
- Asymptomatic – Your dog many never exhibit any symptoms at all while infected with melioidosis
- Nodules or abscesses – These may be like curd in their texture and can appear on all organs
- Pneumonia – This is the most common form the infection takes in your dog’s body and this is due to the infection entering your dog’s body somewhere else without any symptoms at the site of infection but rather elsewhere in his body
- Lameness – Associated with arthritis and osteomyelitis that can occur as a side effect of the infection
- Sudden or intense symptoms – The infections can stay inactive for periods of time before your dog shows any symptoms, however your dog may also suddenly present with severe infection or damage to his internal organs
- Fever – Upon bringing your dog to the veterinarian a fever may be detected
- Anorexia – Due to severe diarrhea and possibly loss of appetite your dog may begin to lose weight
- Swollen glands – May be detected as well upon a veterinary visit
- Respiratory disease – Your dog may develop breathing problems as his sign or symptom of something going on
Causes of Melioidosis in Dogs
Your dog will contract this bacterial infection characteristically by direct contact with the bacteria. However, there are other causes and ways for your dog to come into contact with the infection.
Direct contact – most often your dog came into direct contact with the bacteria in the following ways:
- Soil – The bacteria is found in abundance in the soil and in the event your dog were to eat the soil or it were to get in a wound, he could develop the infection
- Water – Your dog may drink out of a puddle or other water source that has been contaminated with the bacteria
- Wound or skin abrasions – In the event your dog had an opening in his skin and comes into contact with the bacteria he may become infected
- Ingestion – Your dog may eat an animal or infected tissue
- Inhalation – On rarer occasions the bacteria may be in the air, thought to happen after heavy rains and your dog can inhale it and become infected
Other means of transmission – your dog may come into contact with the bacteria in these less common ways
- Breeding – It is not very common, however there is some signs that during breeding dogs can pass the infection on to one another
- Host to host – By any other means of direct transmission such as nasal discharge, milk and other bodily fluids that may be contaminated
- Contaminated tools or instruments – Surgical equipment, tools at the veterinarian’s office
Diagnosis of Melioidosis in Dogs
Diagnosing melioidosis may be somewhat difficult due to how much it can mimic other diseases. However, in the event you are concerned your dog may have contracted melioidosis, it will be important to bring him to your veterinarian. You will want to ensure you share with your veterinarian if your dog has recently been in an area where he may have come into contact with the bacteria or in contact with an animal that was in any of the areas mentioned.
It will also be important to share with your veterinarian if your dog drank water while in an area where the bacteria is prevalent, or came into contact with the soil via ingestion or wounds. Once your dog visits his veterinarian, there are a few possible tests that can be used to diagnose the infection such as DNA probes and PCR tests.
Your veterinarian may also be able to take a sample from any open wounds or discharge your dog is experiencing and test that for the bacteria. This is the standard means of testing for the bacteria; it would be best if your veterinarian can identify the bacteria from a soil or water sample if possible.
Treatment of Melioidosis in Dogs
Treatment options are limited to antibiotics, however the bacteria is resistant to a many antibiotics. While there are antibiotics that can be used, treatment is often not effective and euthanizing may be suggested by your veterinarian.
Reoccurrence of the bacteria can happen even after antibiotics have been administered. Isolation may be necessary if your dog is being treated for melioidosis to avoid any possible contamination to other dogs. It is also important to note that depending on where your dog lives, treating him may not be an option at all.
The best course of action is prevention, this can be done via keeping any areas you bring your dog to clean of dirt, mud and water if you are in an area that carries this bacterium. It is also important to keep him away from any animal carcasses or water that you cannot confirm is safe.
Recovery of Melioidosis in Dogs
Due to the high probability of there being a reoccurrence even with antibiotics, your veterinarian may ask you to bring him in regularly for checkups to ensure the infection is not active again.