What is Q Fever?
Q fever in dogs (clinically known as Coxiellosis) was first discovered in 1935 in Queensland, Australia. The “Q” stood for “Query,” as the source of the disease was unknown upon discovery. After further investigation, it was determined the bacteria Coxiella burnetti was the organism causing the disease.The highest concentration of the organism is found in birthing tissue. Cattle, sheep and similar farm animals that give birth to unusual or stillborn offspring are the most common ways the disease is spread. The humans caring for these animals during the labor process can become sick after exposure to the placenta and other tissues/liquids associated with birth (including milk, blood, urine, and feces).Q Fever is caused by the bacteria Coxiella Burnetii. The disease affects ruminants (cattle, goat, sheep), as well as household animals (dogs, cats), and humans. In the majority of cases, infected animals will not show signs of illness but will output large amounts of bacteria while giving birth via the placenta, aborted fetuses, or reproductive tissues. Humans are most likely to contract the disease by inhaling airborne material, especially after an animal birth.
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Symptoms of Q Fever in Dogs
Clinical signs are nonspecific, and most dogs show no symptoms at all until the disease has progressed. The major (if only) indicator of Q Fever is reproductive problems resulting in some or all of the dog’s puppies presenting stillborn or deformed, although this is not common. Other symptoms are general and overlap with many other issues, which makes it tough to difficult immediately. These symptoms take anywhere between 5 to 35 days to signal and may include:
Humans who might have been in contact with the bacteria are at risk of developing the following complications:
- Liver complications such as hepatitis
- Respiratory infections like pneumonia
- Heart trouble such as endocarditis
- General flu-like symptoms
There is only one main type of Q Fever in Dogs. It is an infectious, zoonotic disease, present all over the world with the exception of New Zealand. This disease is highly contagious through the air and as such is recognized for being a prime choice in bioterrorism. Q Fever bacteria are hard to get rid of because it is resistant to common disinfectants, heat, drying and lasts for a long time on fur/fiber that can then transmit into the air. However, high-heat pasteurization does kill the organism.
Causes of Q Fever in Dogs
This organism thrives in bird and rodent reservoirs. Ticks are carriers and transmit the disease to wildlife, farm animals and family pets (including dogs) through tick bites and via the inhalation of tick feces shed off of fur and in the air. Though this disease is less prevalent in dogs than in farm animals, dogs who are exposed to the following are at risk for transmission:
- Infected wildlife carcasses
- Sick farm animals and their offspring
- Livestock environment where the hardy bacteria are present
- The most common mode of transportation is through ingesting or inhaling the bacteria particles, which can be achieved through drinking the unpasteurized milk of an infected animal or breathing dander/dust that is contaminated. This bacteria can live on surfaces for up to six months.
Diagnosis of Q Fever in Dogs
Diagnosis is based on a tissue culture of the suspected infected dog or aborted fetus. This serologic test will specifically look for antigens that match the disease. If your dog has displayed any signs of an abnormal birthing process, including sick or stillborn offspring, it is important to make sure the veterinarian is notified so the necessary tests can be run. Q Fever in dogs can be very dangerous because of the lack of knowledge of its existence and can be fatal if left untreated.
Treatment of Q Fever in Dogs
Commercial vaccines have been developed to help stop the spread of this disease; however, none of them are currently available in the United States.Medications
There are two methods of treating Q Fever in dogs; one is prophylactically, and the other is upon recognition of symptoms. Both methods utilize the antibiotic Tetracycline. Prophylactically, the antibiotic can be added to the drinking water of dogs and farm animals that are pregnant or have recently given birth. If symptoms are suspected, and testing comes back positive, regular dosing will be administered to the affected animal(s).
Recovery of Q Fever in Dogs
Recovery is promising if caught in time and antibiotics are administered. There are no known permanent or lasting side effects from the disease once treated. The safest way to ensure your dog is protected is to be vigilant in having any and all aborted or sick fetuses tested by the veterinarian, as well as further permanent disposal (such as burning) of any materials, supplies, or other substances that may have come in contact with the disease through the birthing process.