Dog Tetanus Symtom & Treatment

Tetanus is an acute, often-fatal disease of the nervous system which is caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. However, it is not that commonly found in dogs. Contaminated wounds are the sites where tetanus bacteria multiply. Deep wounds or those with devitalized (dead) tissue are particularly prone to tetanus infection. Puncture wounds such as those caused by nails, splinters, bullets (more common in Armed Forces dogs, hunting dogs, etc.), or insect bites are favorite locations for the bacteria to enter. The bacteria can also be introduced through burns, any rupture in the skin, and injection-drug sites. Tetanus can also be a risk to both the mother and puppies (through the uterus after delivery and by means of the umbilical cord stump).

The potent toxin which is produced when the tetanus bacteria multiply is the cause of the harm in this disease.

The tetanus toxin affects the site of interaction between the nerve and the muscle that it stimulates. This region is called the neuromuscular junction. The tetanus toxin heightens the chemical signal from the nerve to the muscle which causes the muscles to continuously tighten up in a huge continuous (“tetanic” or “tonic”) contraction or spasm. The incubation period between exposure to the bacteria in a contaminated wound and development of the initial symptoms of tetanus ranges from 2 days to 2 months, but is commonly within 14 days of injury. During a 1 to 7 day period, progressive muscle spasms caused by the tetanus toxin in the immediate wound area may progress to involve the entire body in a set of continuous muscle contractions. Uneasiness, headache, and irritability are common.

The tetanus neurotoxin causes the muscles to tighten up into a continuous (“tetanic” or “tonic”) contraction or spasm. The jaw is “locked” by muscle spasms, giving the name “lockjaw” (also called “trismus”). Muscles throughout the body are affected, including the vital muscles necessary for normal breathing. When the breathing muscles lose their power, breathing becomes difficult or impossible and death can occur any moment if you do not administer any you life-support measures. Even with breathing support, infections of the airways inside the lungs can lead to death. If you cannot get in touch with a vet, wash the wound and disinfect it with oxygen peroxide or potassium permanganate (A poisonous salt that forms dark purple crystals and is purple-red when dissolved in water). In serious wounds, it is advisable to give the dog an anti-tetanus vaccine or serum. But it’s always preferable to get the help of the veterinarian.

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