Tetanus is a rare but often deadly infectious disease that damages the animal’s nerves and is caused by bacteria.
Tetanus poisoning affects the muscle-controlling nerves. Therefore, dogs that have contracted tetanus typically develop spasms of the head and the limbs. One symptom of tetanus is an abnormal wrinkle on the dog’s head. The wrinkle starts between the eyes and can extend all the way to the back of the head. The dog’s ears are also often affected, and the tips of the ears are as a result, drawn together more tightly than usual. In some cases even the muzzle is affected, in which case, the corners of the muzzle are drawn backwards. As a result, salivation is increased and the dog has problems swallowing. Sometimes, the jaw locks completely and leaves the animal unable to eat at all. The facial expression of dogs with tetanus is unusual and odd. In very severe cases the head and limbs are spread apart and can barely move or be moved. The animal also develops a high fever and the heart may be damaged. If the dog survives the first few days, chances of recovery are good.
The spores of the bacteria responsible for causing tetanus can be found almost everywhere. The infection is caused by the penetration of said spores into wounds. In an environment with an insufficient oxygen supply, the bacteria can multiply and excrete poisonous substances that are responsible for the accompanying symptoms. The spores rarely enter through surgical wounds, more often they enter through wounds that are caused by bites or other injuries. The bacterium can also enter the system through the intestines or the uterus.
Diagnosing tetanus is relatively simple and requires a clinical examination. Usually, an antibiotic treatment lasting a few days is sufficient. Dogs suffering from tetanus should be given plenty of rest and have to be artificially nourished if their swallowing muscles have been affected by the bacteria.
If your dog is having seizures and spasms you should immediately consult a doctor. Since tetanus occurs rarely in dogs, animals are seldom vaccinated. If there are a number of tetanus cases in your area, your dog should be vaccinated. Consult your veterinarian with regards to a vaccination and if necessary, add it to your vaccination plan.