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What are Tetanus?

The first sign that your dog has tetanus is usually a stiffening of the neck, jaw, and hind legs. This progresses into a stiffening of the entire body, with muscle spasms and pain when touched. Because dogs usually have a resistance to the clostridium tetani bacteria, any side effects may take longer than usual to begin, and when they do, they may not progress to the whole body. However, if you do not get your dog treatment right away, the toxin may eventually spread to include the rest of the muscles. There is an antitoxin, so the sooner you can get your pet to a veterinary professional the better the treatment will work.

Tetanus is a serious condition in which a toxin or poison blocks the nerve signals and produces severe contractions of the muscles. The source of tetanus toxemia is the clostridium tetani bacteria, which lives in the stomach of cows and horses. Your pet can come into contact with the bacteria through the soil and it enters your dog’s body through a cut or puncture wound. Even after the wound heals, the bacteria stay in your pet’s body and multiply. When the cells die, they discharge a strong nerve toxin, which triggers the contractions of the muscles, lockjaw, and dehydration.

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Tetanus Average Cost

From 586 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,500

Symptoms of Tetanus in Dogs

The symptoms of tetanus may not appear for several weeks, and by then the wound may be healed so you may not know what is causing these effects. However, it will be obvious to a veterinary professional, so it is best to take your dog to the veterinarian at the first sign of tetanus. Some things to watch for are:

  • Stiffening of the neck and jaw
  • Standing with straight, rigid legs
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain when touched
  • Erect ears
  • Stiffening of the tail
  • Drooling
  • Abnormal facial expressions
  • Swelling of the face
  • Fever
  • Difficulty eating and drinking
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Death due to inability to breathe

Types

Any dog can get tetanus, but some dogs are more susceptible than others:

  • Between three months to two years old
  • Dogs that spend most of their time outdoors
  • Large breeds (German shepherd, Labradors)
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Causes of Tetanus in Dogs

The cause of tetanus is the clostridium tetani bacteria. It can get into your dog’s body through an open cut or wound, possibly causing stiffening of the muscles, and difficulty eating, drinking, and breathing.

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Diagnosis of Tetanus in Dogs

The only way to get a concrete diagnosis of tetanus is to see a veterinary professional. The veterinarian will need to do a complete physical examination, first looking for an injury or the sight of the infections. After this, the veterinarian will check your dog’s heart rate, blood pressure, weight, temperature, and reflexes. Because of the hypersensitivity to touch, she will be very gentle with your pet, but may use sedation if it seems like the examination is causing too much pain and stress.

The laboratory tests that need to be done include a chemistry profile, complete blood count, and a urinalysis. The chemistry levels will usually show an increased amount of creatine phosphokinase (CPK) and the blood count will find increased numbers of white blood cells. The urinalysis may show protein in the urine due to the muscle contractions. Another test to help diagnose tetanus is an electromyography, which records the electrical activity of the muscles.

Tetanus can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has tetanus 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 Tetanus in Dogs

Treating tetanus includes stabilizing your dog, medication, and observation. Although some veterinarians may do things differently, treatment is usually similar for all dogs.

Stabilization

The veterinarian will first start intravenous (IV) fluids to stop the dehydration and oxygen therapy to prevent respiratory failure.

Medication

Antitoxin (tetanus immune globulin) will be given to stop the progression of the tetanus. Additional medications may be antibiotics (metronidazole), anticonvulsants (diazepam), muscle relaxants (baclofen), and possibly a strong sedative (acepromazine) to keep your pet calm.

Observation

Your dog will require round the clock care and observation so hospitalization is necessary. The length of stay depends on how serious your dog’s condition is and how well the treatment is working. Most dogs require at least 7 to 10 days of hospitalization. A feeding tube and ventilator may both be used until your pet is able to eat and breathe independently.

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Recovery of Tetanus in Dogs

Your pet’s diagnosis depends on the stage of infection when your dog received treatment and how well the treatment worked. If your dog was already showing serious side effects upon arrival at the clinic, such as respiratory failure, the prognosis is guarded. Your dog’s age and health are important to recovery as is proper nursing care. When you get home, keep your dog in a dark and quiet area. You will need to spend at least a week carefully watching your pet to be sure there are no further complications, and a follow-up with your veterinarian in about a week for another examination will be required.

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Tetanus Average Cost

From 586 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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Tetanus Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Magic

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street dog

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2 Years

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

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Stiffness, Lockjaw

Can dogs and cats be administered human tetanus vaccination? Also what vaccine can be given to a dog suffering from Tetanus?

July 26, 2017

Magic's Owner

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1 Recommendations

There is currently no licensed tetanus vaccine for dogs, I cannot recommend the off label use of a prescription medicine. There are other causes of stiff jaw in dogs including masticatory myositis and temporomandibular joint ankylosis. Visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

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JuJu

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Pit

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Stiff Neck And Can'T Open Mouth Bad Breathe,Swoll

My pitbull she is 3 has jus been diagnosed with Tetanus.She has recently jus been spayed.I brought n a 85lb pit now she's 73lbs.She has been admitted to hospital because her facial features have changed and she hardly ate or drank water.She was foaming alot at the mouth her breathing seemed to b getting harder.Will she pull thru being hospitalized and treated for Tentaus?

July 26, 2017

JuJu's Owner


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0 Recommendations

The prognosis for tetanus is dependent on the severity of the condition, the timeframe from infection and the treatment given. Treatment consists of inpatient care of fluids, antibiotics, muscle relaxants and symptomatic therapy. It is impossible to give a prognosis since I haven’t examined JuJu, your Veterinarian would be in a better position to indicate chances of recovery. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

She has been admitted n hospital iv of fluids and Tetanus antidote is being given. Given also muscle relaxer 2 help calm her.Quiet padded cage n ICU.I won'the c her because she gets 2 excited and makes her shake so jus been viewing her progress by video.About 5 days we think on really seeing some progress.Fingers crossed and prayers.Thank u.

July 26, 2017

JuJu's Owner


My dog got fixed last Thursday i got her pain meds for after.. I thought she was having an allergic reation so i stopped giving the meds when i noticed a diffence in her face her eyes looked like they were sunk in her head and she didnt want a lot of her food.. The next day she threw up and wouldnt eat or drink so i got her to the vet that spayed her. They said she most likely had tetanus but they had to google to find out and have never treated a dog with tetanus.. They said to give them 24 hours to help her if no improvement they said we need to put her down what can i do? Im going to try to take her elsewhere tomorrow.. I need help. If anyone knows what i can do to help please text or call me 2512002681

July 26, 2017

Beth H.

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Tetanus Average Cost

From 586 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

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

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