Diarrhea Solutions, Diseases, Puppy and Kitten Care

Campylobacteriosis: Campylobacter in Dogs and Cats

How serious is Campylobacter in dogs? Campylobacteriosis is an infectious bacterial diarrheal disease that can affect both animals and people. Campylobacter is the bacteria that is responsible for the disease, and it can be found in the intestinal tracts of animals worldwide including dogs and cats.

How Do Dogs Get Campylobacter?

How did my dog get Campylobacter? The Campylobacter bacteria is shed in the feces of infected and asymptomatic carrier animals. The most common way campylobacter is transmitted is by ingesting feces-contaminated food or water. Campylobacter can also be easily spread through raw meats, especially chicken.

Puppies or kittens under six months of age are the most susceptible. Dogs and cats over six months are more resistant and may become asymptomatic carriers, keeping the organism in the cattery or kennel.

Campylobacter Symptoms in Dogs and Cats

Neonates often break with the disease in the weaning period or shortly after arriving at a rescue or kennel. While adult dogs and cats often don’t show symptoms of the disease, younger animals more generally show clinical signs.

Campylobacter symptoms in dogs and cats can include vomiting and watery diarrhea that contains mucus and sometimes blood. Other possible symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain and fever.

In humans, Campylobacteriosis is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. The best prevention is hand washing with soap and water, drinking safe water and using care when handling raw meat.

Campylobacter Treatment Dog and Cat

When it comes to treating Campylobacter in dogs or cats, there are different treatments that have shown varying amounts of success. It is important to keep animals on medication for a minimum of 21 days to clear Campylobacteriosis in dogs and cats – we don’t want to create carriers by stopping treatment too early. In addition to treatment, electrolytes such as Breeder’s Edge Puppy Lyte and Kitten Lyte are especially important with any diarrhea to prevent dehydration. Probiotics have also helped speed recovery.

  • Antibiotics such as Azithromycin (Zithromax®) or erythromycin are the best choice for eliminating the symptoms if it’s given early in the illness.
  • Cephalexin at 15 mg/lb twice daily has also been used successfully, although approximately 10% of patients receiving this medication can show signs of GI irritation.
  • Tylosin (Tylan®) at 10 mg/lb can be given orally twice daily in the food or mixed in water, using it as the only water source (Plumb).
  • Probiotics have been shown to play a role in the prevention and treatment of puppies with campylobacter. It is recommended to give mom a probiotic two weeks before, and two weeks after whelping since it takes two weeks to change mom’s gut flora and we want her to give only good bacteria to babies after whelping. Products like Doc Roy’s® GI Synbiotics provide live (viable), naturally occurring microorganisms to maintain a healthy microbial balance. For the newborns, Breeder’s Edge® Nurture Flora is a probiotic designed specifically for newborn puppies.
  • Keeping the GI tract of puppies, kittens and adult dogs and cats healthy is essential in preventing a Campylobacter outbreak. Preventing and treating intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia and giardia will reduce the likelihood of a co-infection with Campylobacter. Deworming the dam from day 42 of pregnancy through to day 14 of lactation with Fenbendazole will reduce the transmission of roundworms though the placentas and hookworms through the milk. If this protocol is not followed, deworming pups starting at day 14 of age and kittens at day 21 of age will help reduce the parasite load and create overall better health.

Whole Kennel Treatment

We need to remember there are carriers in the kennel or cattery that are seeding the bacteria to the neonates. In treating the whole kennel, we can target the asymptomatic carriers and eliminate the bacteria out of the kennel.

  • Tylan or lincomycin can be used in the nursery or whelping area. Both can be used in a self-medicator for automatic watering systems or added to water bowls.
  • Tetracycline in the water of non-pregnant adults has been tried, but monitoring is necessary as resistance is quickly seen. Never use tetracycline in neonates or pregnant moms as it will stain the non-erupted teeth brown.

Preventing Campylobacter in Dogs and Cats

Prevention includes not feeding animals raw or undercooked meat. You should isolate any animal that shows signs of the disease, and always keep food and water bowls clean. We don’t want the food and water to become contaminated or the disease will spread.

By understanding the disease and eliminating it from the adult carriers, we can control new cases in future puppies or kittens – the goal is no treatment in the next litter!

If you have more questions on campy in dogs or need help with treating campylobacter in dogs, call a Revival Pet Care Pro at 800.786.4751.

Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services. This article has been updated/reviewed by Dr. Greer.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.