"Sepsis in Dogs

"Sepsis in Dogs

Health & Safety

Sepsis is a term that refers to a bacterial infection which gets into a dog's bloodstream thus invading their entire system. The condition is often referred to as septic fever or blood poisoning and it can be life-threatening more especially when it results in a dog's blood pressure falling dangerously low and they suffer a high fever. Dogs suffering from sepsis must be given immediate veterinary attention because if they are not, they could fall into what is known as septic shock which sadly usually proves fatal.

Symptoms Associated with the Condition

When dogs develop sepsis, there are certain signs to watch out for that something is seriously wrong with them. The symptoms associated with the condition typically include the following although it is worth noting that symptoms can vary quite a bit:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Rapid heart rate which is known as tachycardia
  • Heart murmur
  • Gastrointestinal issues

It is also worth noting that sepsis is not the same as bacteremia although both show similar symptoms and both conditions can come on quickly or more slowly depending on the underlying cause of the problem.

The Causes

The primary cause of a dog developing sepsis is due to them having been exposed to organisms like the E.Coli bacteria. However, dogs suffering from the following conditions are more at risk of developing sepsis too:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney issues
  • A weakened or compromised immune system

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would ideally need to have a dog's full medical history and be told how the onset of any symptoms first presented themselves. The more information a vet can be given, the better as this all helps when establishing a definitive diagnosis. The sort of tests a vet would typically recommend carrying out could include the following:

  • A complete blood count
  • A full biochemical blood profile
  • A urinalysis
  • X-rays which would establish any abnormalities in a dog's internal organs

The vet would also want to rule out any other health issues that might be causing the problems and this includes the following conditions:

  • An autoimmune disease
  • Thyroiditis
  • Lupus

Treatment Options

Treatment options depend on the underlying cause of the problem. However, the success of any treatment also depends on how quickly it is set in place and how well a dog responds to a treatment. There is always the risk of complications when dogs suffer from sepsis with the main concern being when their blood pressure drops dangerously low. Other complications include the following:

  • Imbalances in blood sugars
  • Imbalances in electrolytes
  • Infections
  • Abscesses

A vet would typically prescribe a course of antibiotics or antimicrobials and it is essential the course be completed for the treatment to effectively kill off any bacteria. Even if a dog shows signs of improvement after a few days of being given their medication, they still need to complete the course otherwise the bacteria could build up a resistance to the drugs. The other thing to bear in mind, is that although a dog might appear to be better after a few days, a little further down the line they could fall ill again if they have not been given the complete course of antibiotics.

The Importance of Diet

Studies have shown that diet can play a key role in supporting a dog when they suffer from sepsis and bacteremia. Should a dog not be able to eat on their own, a vet would need to make sure they are being fed intravenously until they can eat on their own again. As such, a dog might need to be hospitalised until their condition is stabilised and they can eat of their own accord.


The prognosis for dogs suffering from sepsis rather depends on the underlying cause, how quickly they are treated and how well they respond to a treatment. If a dog is not treated as a matter of urgency when they suffer from sepsis or bacteremia, the prognosis is extremely poor with most dogs succumbing to septic shock.

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