Causes, Symptoms of Salmonella, E. Coli & Giardia in Pets
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Can pets with salmonella, E. coli or giardia have diarrhea and/or vomiting?
Typically when dogs or cats get diarrhea, pet parents normally suspect food is the main culprit. However, dogs explore the world through their mouth and are quick at ingesting non-food related items that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Salmonella in dogs, E.Coli and giardia are some of the bacteria that your dog can bring home.
All of these could be mild for adult pets or they may be asymptomatic. However, for younger animals, that may not be the case. There are lots of studies that point to younger animals e.g., ruminants having problems dealing with giardia. Salmonella, E. coli, giardia and campylobacter could result in clinical signs if the pet is younger, senior, has gastro issues or immune compromised.
We’ll walk you through the causes and symptoms of these bacteria in dogs. For dogs, transmission can be from contaminated food, water or eating goose poop. “Increased exposure to goose feces may potentially lead to the transmission of infectious diseases to wildlife, livestock, pets, and people.” (Graczyk et al. 2008).6
Salmonella in dogs & cats, causes of salmonella and symptoms
According to the paper “Salmonella has been isolated from droppings of Canada geese (0–8% except one site where the prevalence was 20%, n = 50) in UK parklands, and it has been shown that Salmonella bacteria in Canada goose droppings can multiply and survive for up to one month in this environment.”1
How does a dog or cat get Salmonella?
Basically, if salmonella is detected in a pet, it is hard to tell if it was because your pet may have had it when it was healthy.
There are lots of different types of salmonella. However, “many dogs and cats are asymptomatic carriers of salmonellae.”2 That is one way of saying that your dog and cat naturally carry a type of salmonella. From another source, “Veterinarians are faced with a quandary when attempting to diagnose small animals with suspected bacterial associated diarrhea because the isolation rates of these pathogenic bacteria are similar in diarrheic and non-diarrheic animals, and because the incidence of bacterial-associated diarrhea is extremely variable. Salmonella species are commonly isolated from both healthy and hospitalized dogs and cats.”3
However, it is possible to have heavier bacterial loads from contaminated food (kibble as well as raw food diets) or goose poop, cat poop or an infected dog’s poop.
Typically for kibble, the contamination happens after extrusion as high heat (above 75 degrees Celsius) kills most strains of salmonella. Thus, it is important to wash your hands after feeding kibble just like for raw. Freezing food tends to prevent the Salmonella from growing but it may remain viable and grow if not thawed out properly.
In the case of having immune compromised humans in the house, it is always an important consideration for feeding raw or kibble. In either case, prevent your pets from licking your face or hands just to reduce the possibility of human illness.
How do you know a dog or cat has Salmonella? Symptoms of Salmonella in dogs and cats
Dogs and cats that become ill from salmonella may have diarrhea with blood or mucus sometimes. They could be lethargic and potentially could vomit. This could lead to decreased appetite as well. Fever is also a possibility.
The age of the pet, prior illness might lead to complications.
E. coli in dogs, causes of E. coli and symptoms
The study found that “prevalence of E. coli in Canada goose droppings in parks in the USA varied considerably among seasons (as low as 2% in the cold season, and up to 94% in the warmest months; n = 397).”1 For humans, they concluded that the E. coli was not harmful to humans but it was wise to minimize contact with fecal matter. The study however did not look at ingestion of goose poop by dogs.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacteria that is normally an important part of the healthy intestinal tracts of both humans and animals. However, there are types of E. coli that can be quite harmful.
How do dogs and cats get E. coli?
Similar to salmonella, E. coli naturally occurs in the intestines of dogs and cats. Contaminated food, water as well as goose poop are culprits in dogs getting sick. Note that freezing does not kill E. Coli. Like salmonella, high temperatures usually above 70 degrees Celsius is what kills E. Coli.
What are the symptoms of E. coli in dogs and cats?
Watery diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, dehydration, lethargy, and weakness may all be symptoms of E. coli infection. Similar to salmonella, this tends to affect puppies and senior dogs.
Is E.Coli contagious from dog to human. According to the CDC, a harmful type of E. coli transmission to humans is from deer, goats, sheep, or cows. Dogs and cats are excluded as part of zoonotic transmission to humans. “Treatment is not recommended because they (infected pets) do not usually show any signs of illness with E. coli O157.”4 If the diarrhea is severe though, you should call your vet.
Campylobacter in dogs
Same issues, causes as salmonella and E. coli in dogs.
Giardia in dogs, causes of giardia and symptoms
Giardiasis is a chronic, intestinal protozoal infection seen worldwide in most domestic and wild mammals, many birds, and people. Infection is common in dogs, cats, ruminants, and pigs.
“Due to high prevalence of Giardia, geese and swans become suspects of transferring the pathogen to humans, but this potential risk is still not well understood.”1
What causes Giardia in dogs and cats?
Transmission occurs by the fecal-oral route, either by direct contact with an infected host or through a contaminated environment. Most dogs become infected by drinking water contaminated with feces or eating goose poop or other dog’s poop. How contagious is Giardia in dogs? Your dog can become infected from sniffing an infected dog’s butt and then licking its nose.
“In dogs and cats, animals under the age of 6 months are reported to have the highest infection rates. One study reported that the prevalence was also relatively high in cats between the ages of 6 months and a year.”7 “One study found an increased prevalence among dogs that visit dog parks.”7
Giardia then infects the small intestine, and infected dogs pass microscopic cysts in their stool. You can get giardia from your dogs or cats although according to the CDC, the chances are low.
In terms of raw dog or cat food, it is less likely to have giardia as constant freezing kills the cysts. Also high temperatures can kill giardia cysts as might be the case for kibble.
Giardia genotypes and infection
There tend to be seven genotypes for giardia A to G. Normally, type C and D are found mainly in dogs. Type F mainly in cats and type A and B, affects humans. However, type A and B can also affect dogs and cats. “G. duodenalis assemblage A has been reported in domesticated livestock including cattle, water buffalo, …; and in companion animals including dogs, cats, pet ferrets and chinchillas. In these species, it is usually (though not always) less common than species-specific assemblage types (e.g., assemblage E in livestock, C and D in dogs, or F in cats).”7 Reinfection can also happen to your dogs and cats.
What are the symptoms of Giardia in dogs and cats?
Giardia may produce weight loss and chronic diarrhea. Feces usually are soft, poorly formed, pale, malodorous, contain mucus, and appear fatty. The diarrhea can also have small amounts of fresh blood in it and mucus. Occasionally, vomiting occurs. “Acute, chronic or intermittent diarrhea or soft stools may be seen in some dogs and cats. The stools are typically light-colored and mucoid. They are often malodorous, and may contain undigested fat, but blood is rare. Vomiting occurs occasionally, but fever is not usually present.”7
How is Giardia in dogs and cats diagnosed and treated?
Most vet offices use the fecal floatation. In this test, the vet mixes pet poop with a special liquid that causes the parasite eggs to float for examination under microscope. However, giardia cysts are only shed intermittently, so you have a 50% chance of finding giardia. The ELISA test for giardia is better with 95% chance of finding giardia according to Dr Karen Becker.
Usually, vets prescribe metronidazole (Flagyl) for giardia. Vets may alternatively prescribe fenbendazole (Panacur), which deworms the pet as well.5 Note that these medications are used for only dogs and cats that show clinical signs.
We’d recommend dog owners prevent their dogs from eating goose poop.
- If IN DOUBT about what it ingested and your dog/ cat is not acting normal, call your vet!
What to do if pet has ingested/ swallowed a non-diet item
- Poop, Scoop and Test. Pick up the dog/ cat poop for the vet clinic to test even if you don’t have an appointment.
- Ask your vet for bloodwork, urinalysis, and X-ray to help them eliminate the possibilities.
How to prevent Salmonella, E. coli and Giardia in dogs and cats
Why does the FDA have a zero-tolerance policy against salmonella in pet food? The FDA made this change as preventing salmonella is more about ensuring that humans that live with pets do not get sick.
There is already knowledge that dogs and cats may tend to carry salmonella already. They are also able to deal with some loads of salmonella or E. coli infection without being symptomatic.
- Please prevent your dog from eating goose/ dog/ cat poop or drinking from outside standing water. This is especially important for puppies!
- Use dog wipes to clean their paws/ wash the paws when you get home.
- Pick up dog poop with a poop bag without holes in it.
- If feeding raw pet food, ask your manufacturer to see if they utilize phages in killing salmonella.
- If feeding kibble, wash your hands after handling just in case contamination happens during the spraying process of manufacturing.
- Wash your pet bowl for food and water daily and use a different sponge for your pet.
- Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands after picking dog poop, touching pet food (kibble and raw alike) as well as treats.
- Wipe your dog’s mouth with a dedicated face towel that is frequently washed in hot water.
- After diarrhea or vomiting, clean and disinfect household surfaces, your pet’s bed, toys, and/or cat litterbox.
- Wash the dog or cat completely if diarrhea or vomit is caked on their hair, wear gloves if possible.
We put together this information to help customers understand the different bacteria that can cause a dog/ cat to have diarrhea/ vomiting. They are not meant to replace Vet advise. For more information on other causes of dog diarrhea and/ or vomiting read our Dog Troubleshitting guide.
Please comment to let us know what you think about this guide? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
- Potential disease transmission from wild geese and swans to livestock, poultry and humans: a review of the scientific literature from a One Health perspective. by Johan Elmberg, Charlotte Berg, Henrik Lerner, Jonas Waldenström, and Rebecca Hessel https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5443079/
- Salmonellosis in Animals by Walter Grünberg , DVM, PhD, DECAR, DECBHM, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Giessen, Germany. Last full review/revision Aug 2020 https://www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/salmonellosis/salmonellosis-in-animals?query=salmonella
- Raw Meat Diet transcript from Dr. Karen Becker https://karlaspets.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Dr-Becker-Raw-Diet-Article.pdf
- E.coli infection https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/ecoli.html
- Effectiveness of Fenbendazole and Metronidazole Against Giardia Infection in Dogs Monitored for 50-Days in Home-Conditions https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8032893/
- Survey of Canada goose feces for presence of Giardia https://faculty.cnr.ncsu.edu/christophersdeperno/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2016/01/PR91-GiardiainGeeseHWI.pdf
- Giardiasis https://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/giardiasis.pdf
- CDC Giardia and Pets https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/prevention-control-pets.html
- Giardiasis http://www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/giardiasis-giardia/overview-of-giardiasis