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What is Septic Shock?

There are two categorizations of bacterial infection in dogs — bactermia and sepsis. Bactermia is a temporary presence of bacteria in the blood stream, while sepsis is when bacteria are in the bloodstream for a longer period of time, causing illness. When sepsis becomes severe, septic shock can occur.

Symptoms are broken down into early and late stages. Early stage symptoms may include increased heart rate, shaking, fever, and rapid breathing. Late stage symptoms may include low body temperature, difficulty breathing and organ failure. Treatment of sepsis typically requires IV fluids, antibiotics, cardiovascular support, insertion of feeding tubes, and others, up to and including surgery. While recovery from sepsis depends on the severity and underlying conditions, most cases in which the pet has gone into septic shock have a grim prognosis.

While there are thousands of different types of bacteria in the world, only a few kinds can cause disease. Bacteria enter the bloodstream on a regular basis though this usually occurs in small quantities. When there are more bacteria than the white blood cells are able to remove, an infection develops. There are varying degrees of infection. For example, bactermia is a more temporary infection and rarely exhibits any symptoms. Sepsis, on the other hand, is when the bacteria in the blood stream cause illnesses. Sepsis is more severe and will exhibit symptoms. A septic shock is a severe form of sepsis.

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Septic Shock Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $9,500

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Septic Shock in Dogs

Symptoms of sepsis may vary depending on the severity and progression of the condition, as well as the underlying causes of the septic condition. Symptoms are typically broken down into two stages of progression, early and late.

  • Early stages:
    • Shaking
    • Fever
    • Weakness
    • Confusion
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Bounding pulses
    • Rapid rise in temperature
    • Rapid breathing or panting
    • Decrease in urinary output
    • Glucose deficiency in bloodstream
    • Red mucous membranes
  • Late stages:
    • Pale mucous membranes
    • Inconsistencies in pulse
    • Cool extremities
    • A daze-like condition
    • Low body temperature
    • Organ failure
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Fluid retention
Types

When illness develops from an excess of bacteria, there are two categorizations used to identify the severity of illness.

  • Bactermia is a term used to describe a presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. Temporary bactermia may occur with dental procedures, because the bacteria in and around the gums are freed into the bloodstream. This can also occur when bacteria from the intestine passes into the bloodstream, but these are removed when the blood then passes through the liver. Cases of bactermia are usually not serious.
  • Sepsis, commonly referred to as septic shock, is when illness results from bacteria and/or their toxins remaining in the bloodstream for a period of time. Sepsis is less common than bactermia and usually occurs when there’s an infection at some other place in the body, such as the lungs, stomach, or urinary tract. Sepsis can also occur when there is surgery being done on an infected area of the body. The risk of sepsis can be increased by the presence of a foreign body. Animals with immune system disorders are more vulnerable to sepsis. Septic shock is an extreme condition of sepsis.
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Causes of Septic Shock in Dogs

Cytokines, which are substances the immune system produces to fight infections, and toxins produced by bacteria is often the cause of sepsis. These substances cause dilation of the blood vessels, which leads to a drop in blood pressure. The flow of blood is reduced, including blood flow to important organs like the kidneys and brain. The body tries to compensate for this by increasing heart rate so that more blood is pumped. Over time this weakens the heart and blood flow is even further reduced. Sepsis most regularly originates from the GI tract, respiratory tract, severe dental problems, chronic UTIs, and infected wounds.

Conditions that may increase the likelihood of sepsis:

  • Surgery, especially if the location of the surgery is infected
  • Existing infections
  • Immune system disorders
  • Pneumonia
  • Uterine infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Skin infection
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Diagnosis of Septic Shock in Dogs

Diagnosis of septic shock may require a variety of tests.

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests that look at levels of white blood cells, oxygen levels, platelet count, lactic acid concentration and levels of metabolic waste products.
  • Electrocardiogram, looking for heart irregularities.
  • Blood cultures to identify the infectious bacteria.
  • Urinalysis
  • Urine culture
  • X-Rays of the chest and abdomen
  • Ultrasound of stomach and heart
  • If there is abnormal fluid found in the chest or stomach, a fluid analysis should be completed.
  • Catscan or MRI

Because sepsis is an infection of the blood, your vet will look for certain findings in the blood work that is done. This can include the following:

  • Increased or decreased count of white blood cells
  • Very high or very low blood sugar
  • Increased or decreased count of red blood cells, from dehydration or anemia
  • An increase in liver enzymes
  • An increase in kidney values
  • Abnormal clotting

Septic shock can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has septic shock or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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Treatment of Septic Shock in Dogs

Sepsis treatment is focused on removing the source of the infection, with a secondary goal of treating the symptoms. Possible treatments that achieve this include:

  • IV fluids to increase blood pressure
  • Antibiotic therapy
  • Cardiovascular support
  • Colloid and vasopressor administration
  • Drugs to increase blood flow to vital organs
  • Nutritional management
  • Administration of oxygen
  • Placement of feeding tubes, due to a decreased appetite and struggle eating
  • Surgery, typically used to drain abscesses or remove dead tissue.
  • Persistent monitoring for any change in status, particularly in clotting, hydration, and organ functionality.
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Recovery of Septic Shock in Dogs

Close monitoring is an essential part of the recovery process. Your vet may do follow-up tests, such as blood work, and will focus on organ function, hydration, and potential clotting. Treatment and follow-up will likely be completed in the hospital to monitor indicators of relapse—such as white blood cell count, blood sugar level, red blood cell count, liver enzymes, kidney values, and clotting. While recovery of sepsis depends largely on the severity of the condition and the underlying issues that led to sepsis, conditions in which the pet goes into septic shock have a grim prognosis.

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Septic Shock Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $9,500

Average Cost

$3,500

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Septic Shock Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Kiwi

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Miniature Pinscher

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating. Vomiting

Hi, my dog was recently operated for pyometra. She was in heat maybe 1 - 1 1/2 month ago and afterward she was lethargic, vomiting, not eating, bloated stomach. So we took her to the vet, they did a CBC test and noticed that she had a very high count of white blood cells. (46,000) They gave us antibiotics. We returned the next day because she still didn’t eat and the second visit we mentioned she was recently in heat. The vet then ordered an X-ray exam and noticed an enlarged uterus and he said it was filled with pus. They performed immediate surgery and removed her uterus intac. They tell us she has to say with them for a minimum of at least 3 days so they can monitor her. We are told she is given IV FLUIDS and two different types of antibiotics. We were notified that my dog still doesn’t want to eat DAY 1 POST OP and they can’t release her if she doesn’t eat. They say that she is in very great spirits though. 3 days POST OP and still having same problem, she won’t eat and she is vomiting some. They performed another CBC test and she still has a high blood cell count. They tell us it’s a blood infection from pyometra. My question is... what is the proganois? Will my dog survive? What is the mortality rate? My dog is also 11 years old.

May 16, 2018

Kiwi's Owner

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2 Recommendations

It is always good practice to ensure that a dog is eating and drinking after surgery; severe infections like pyometra can take a toll on a patient and may take some time for recovery. I don’t have any statistics, especially since there are many variables, but with antibiotic and fluid therapy the prognosis is more favourable; however I cannot give a specific prognosis without personally examining Kiwi. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 16, 2018

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Sugar

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Labrador Retriever

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4 Days

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hello, I have a lab that became septic very quickly and for no known reasons. She hadn’t had surgery or been ill prior to going lethargic. She spent 3 days in the hospital on fluids and came home on antibiotic and special dietary food. I believe we caught it early. After we finished the antibiotic, she seemed great and was her old self again for a week. She then quickly went lethargic again and appeared to have relapsed or gotten it again. I’m trying to figure out if this is normal or if it is possible that there is something at my home that caused it again as opposed to it being a relapse. Could she be ingesting something in the yard that is causing it? Any thoughts are appreciated. She is a lab and does like to get into things, but would the bacteria go septic that quickly? Or is it more likely a relapse?

April 20, 2018

Sugar's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

For Sugar to be having that problem repeatedly, there is probably something that is causing the ongoing problem, whether it is an internal problem or something that she is eating that is affecting her GI tract that dramatically. Without knowing more about her, it is hard for me to comment, but an ultrasound might be in order to search for any masses or abscesses, and if she is known to eat things that she should't, paying close attention to her and not letting that happen would be a good idea until you determine what the problem is. I hope that she is okay.

April 20, 2018

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Septic Shock Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $9,500

Average Cost

$3,500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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