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Can Dogs Get E. coli?


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Updated: 9/14/2021

Whether you know what it is or not, just the phrase “E. coli” is enough to make you squirm. You know that it has to be bad. The Center for Disease and Control Prevention defines and explains E. coli as: 

“Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.”

E. coli is an infection in the intestines that can make humans extremely sick, but can dogs get this, and if so, how does it affect them?

Can Dogs Get E. coli?


As you can see above, animals (including dogs) can get E. coli from eating food infected with this bacteria. Some people might simply consider E. coli to be exclusively a human illness, but dogs can fall victim to E. coli as well. It is not only possible for dogs to get E. coli, but because of the different trash that dogs eat, and the unclean environments some dogs may live in or are born into, E. coli in dogs and puppies is not rare.

Does My Dog Have E. coli?

E. coli is only harmful in large, or concentrated amounts. The symptoms of infection can include:

  • Vomiting

  • Lack of appetite

  • Dehydration

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Depression

  • Lethargy

  • Malaise/weakness

  • Diarrhea

  • Low body temperature

  • Bluish gums, nostrils, ears, lips, and anus

Although E. coli has to be very concentrated to actually hurt your dog, things can happen quickly with this infection. If you think that your dog might have E. coli, be sure to make a veterinary appointment as soon as possible.

Sadly, the most common cases of E. coli in dogs are in puppies. The condition is extremely common in puppies who have unhealthy mothers (such as stray animals). Puppies who are born in an unclean environment are susceptible to this infection. Adult dogs can also get E. coli from certain foods that they might eat. Feeding raw meat can increase your dog’s risk of contracting this infection.

When you take your dog to the vet for a suspected E. coli case, this is what you can expect:

  • Testing of a fecal sample

  • Anal exam

  • Blood count

  • Urinalysis

For more information, visit: E. coli Infection in Dogs

How Do I Treat My Dog’s E. coli?

Your veterinarian can use several treatments, depending on the level of progression of the infection when your dog arrives at the animal hospital. These can include:

  • IV to promote electrolytes

  • Oral solution of glucose (in severe diarrhea cases)

  • Antibiotics with be prescribed to fight the E. coli

The outlook for treatment is often bleak, although catching the condition quickly can help improve the dog’s chances.

If your dog tests negative for E. coli, check out another article that highlights some other bacterial infections your vet may investigate.

How is E. coli Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Like in humans, E. coli can be present in the digestive system of dogs, but be benign, or non harmful, in small amounts. E. coli  is most prevalent in the young, regardless of species, because they have not built up their immune systems yet. E. coli  is a fast-moving infection that can be very dangerous to anyone.

How is E. coli Different in Dogs and Humans?

Many times, the animals that get E. coli are stray animals that birth their young in dirty, dangerous places. Because many people now have their babies in hospitals, the risk for E. coli in human infants is less than in puppies and kittens.

Case Study

In this case study, a litter of three stray puppies was brought in with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. When examined, the puppies acted lethargically but had a rapid heart rate. Fecal matter was examined, with results indicating that these puppies were suffering from E. coli infection. The case veterinarian treated the puppies’ diarrhea with an IV of fluids. The vet also used an antibiotic called ceftiofur. The puppies contracted E. coli from being born in an unclean environment. Unfortunately, only one puppy survived the infection. Although only one puppy lived, this was considered a good sign, as the mortality rate of puppies with E. coli is 95%.

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