Toxic Shock Syndrome in Dogs


Canine toxic shock syndrome is a rare and dangerous condition caused by certain strains of streptococcal bacteria. Harmful biological chemicals released by the pathogens can overwhelm your dog's immune system in a matter of hours, causing neurological problems and widespread organ failure. Pets may catch the disease through intimate contact with an infected dog, including licking, biting or sharing water bowls. Seek help from a veterinary professional immediately if you believe your pet is suffering from toxic shock.

Bacterial Poisoning

The Streptoccoccus canis bacteria is thought to be the primary culprit behind streptococcal toxic shock, although other pathogens also may cause the syndrome. The invading organism releases a biological chemical called an exotoxin, which can be compared to the harmful compounds found in rat poison. Once infected, your dog's body is essentially fighting a bacterial infection as well as an influx of blood toxins.

Signs of Infection

The onset of toxic shock can occur with alarming speed and little forewarning. The transition from good health to medical emergency can occur in just a few short hours, with potentially fatal symptoms emerging in as little as six hours after the first visible signs.

Early Symptoms

The early indicators of toxic shock are easy to confuse with the side effects of many other conditions. These general symptoms may be fleeting at first, but quickly will devolve into more obvious signs of illness. Symptoms of initial infection include:

  • Episodes of vomiting.
  • Inability to walk or stand.
  • Convulsions or minor muscle spasms.
  • Body temperature higher than 105 degrees. 

Advanced Symptoms

The condition rapidly becomes life-threatening as the patient's immune system collapses under the pressure from the toxins. You will notice additional symptoms at this stage, including:

  • Persistent coughing.
  • Bleeding from the nose or mouth.
  • Significant bruising.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Treatment and Prognosis

Your pet's chances of recovery hinge upon prompt diagnosis and treatment. Antibiotic injections and toxin therapy provided immediately after the first signs of infection greatly increase your dog's chances. The presence of advanced toxic shock symptoms indicates serious damage to your dog's body, which means standard treatment may fail to reverse the condition. The mortality rate for dogs at this stage of toxicosis approaches 80 percent of reported cases.

Risk Factors

Toxic shock is reported infrequently by veterinarians, affecting an estimated 1 in 50,000 dogs, according to Kansas State University's K-State Perspectives. Certain breeds, including the Great Dane, Shar-Pei and greyhound, appear to have a higher chance of suffering from toxic shock syndrome. The bacteria responsible for the syndrome is relatively common, so it is difficult to eradicate it from the environment. Sterilize any injuries with antibacterial soap or ointment to avoid infections.

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