Campylobacter is a bacteria that can cause mucousy or watery diarrhea in dogs and cats. This bacteria is a common cause of diarrhea in people, and many times, the person who has diarrhea actually got it from their pet.
This bacteria is most commonly diagnosed in puppies under 6 months of age or kittens under 12 months of age. While any animal can get campylobacter it is most likely to cause problems in young animals.
Many animals can carry campylobacter and not have any symptoms at all. (You can read more about this later in the article). But, if an animal gets sick with campylobacteriosis they will usually have the following symptoms which start happening 2-5 days after getting infected:
The diarrhea usually lasts for 7 to 10 days, but there can be some animals that can get recurrences of diarrhea or even have chronic diarrhea.
Somehow the bacteria has to be ingested. This is usually a result of fecal matter being swallowed. It could be picked up in water, or from contaminated poultry, meat or milk products. The organisms can live for 4 weeks in feces. They can live for 4 days in water.
There are a few ways to diagnose this bacterial infection:
Some animals can be carriers of campylobacter and never get sick. One study showed that 40% of dogs who had been in a kennel or a shelter had a positive stool culture for campylobacter. These animals who are shedding campylobacter can do so for up to 4 months. In that time period, it is possible for the dog or cat to transmit the bacteria to its human family.
If a dog or cat tests positive for campylobacter there is no way of knowing for sure if the campylobacter is the cause of the diarrhea. Many times, a pet will test positive for campylobacter, but the actual cause of the diarrhea can be something else. However, in most cases, if campylobacter is present then we do tend to treat with antibiotics. One of the main reasons to do so is to prevent the animal from spreading the bacteria to a human. We generally use one of the following antibiotics to treat the condition:
We are not sure if antibiotics kill the bacteria, but it is believed that it can prevent the animal from spreading the bacteria to others.
Your vet may also suggest other treatments for diarrhea such as special food, probiotics, and possibly even fluid therapy or electrolytes if your pet is dehydrated.
There is definitely a risk of a person getting campylobacter from their pet. Campylobacter is the cause of 5-11% of all human cases of diarrhea. 5% of these cases are believed to have come from the person's pets. The remainder are because of eating undercooked contaminated meat.
Campylobacter is easily disinfected with bleach. So, if your pet has been diagnosed with campylobacter and has had diarrhea in the house, cleaning with a bleach solution (if possible) will help. It is also important to thoroughly wash your hands after handling any fecal material.
Dr. Marie was quick to respond and thorough in suggesting treatment for my cat. I am so thankful- I have been so worried about my cat. Now I have additional options to discuss with my vet.
The service was incredibly fast and the vet's suggestions were right on target. This was incredibly helpful given that none of the vets in my area, mine now included, will take off hours calls now.