Seasonal Diarrhea - by P.J Gray
So your dog has diarrhea again? Remember last year when you went through the same thing about this time of year?
Many people, especially in parts of the country which have definite seasons, notice that their pets have diarrhea in the spring and, to a lesser degree, in the autumn.
After being plagued with this seasonal problem and doing some research, Ive come to the conclusion that the most probable cause is a bacteria called Clostridium difficile.
Clostridium difficile is a gram positive motile bacteria that is especially fond of soil. Found virtually worldwide, the bacteria likes warmth and wet conditions. When stressed by unfavorable conditions, the bacteria forms spores which will tolerate extreme conditions which the living bacteria will not.
What makes spring and autumn the primary time for this type of diarrhea is that, after winter, the spring warm-up of the soil allows the spores of the dormant bacteria to form into fully active bacteria. Our dogs, who were inside most of the time due to winter conditions, are now outside, in/on that soil and are constantly being exposed to the newly born bacteria. After being cooped up, the dogs are playing, getting tired, and generally both stressing and building their immune systems. Bacteria and dogs meet! Result: Diarrhea!
This spore forming bacteria is a normal resident of the intestine that, under the right (or wrong for our purposes) conditions, starts to flourish and results in a watery diarrhea or soft, unformed stool. (We call them cow patties) When out of control, this bacteria produces a toxin that is the real cause of the diarrhea.
Under normal circumstances, the bodys immune system keeps this bacteria under control and at a level which doesnt result in accidents in the house and difficult to pick up yards.
Mild cases of Clostridium difficile result in the unformed, watery stool that we see almost every spring and just cant seem to stop with a single dose of antibiotics. A more severe case of this bacterial overgrowth causes diarrhea that contains blood and mucous, abdominal cramps and can also cause an abnormal heart rhythm.
All too frequently, this is when the discussion starts about problems with what we are feeding or problems with the dog feed. Often, people change the brand of feed that they are using thinking that the changing feeds will solve the problem. Unfortunately, this change of feeds wont solve the diarrhea problem and may even make the problem worse. Changing feeds can disrupt the normal intestinal flora and allow the Clostridium an opportunity to flourish.
The overuse of antibiotics may well be one secondary cause of the proliferation of Clostridium D. in that the use of antibiotics may alter the normal intestinal flora and increase the risk of developing Clostridium diarrhea. Actually, limiting the use of antibiotics can lower the risk of developing Clostridium D. diarrhea.
Clostridium D., as the cause of diarrhea, is confirmed by the presence of a toxin in a stool sample. A positive culture for Clostridium D. without a toxin assay is not enough to make the diagnosis of Clostridium D. associated disease as the sole cause for the diarrhea since the bacteria is a normal resident of the intestinal tract.
Lomotil (registered trademark) or Immodium (registered trademark) should NOT be used as they may increase the severity and may be one cause of insuseption.
Individuals with Clostridium D. associated diarrhea shed spores in the stool that can be spread from dog to dog (or other species). Spores can live up to 70 days in an neutral environment and can be transported on surfaces to other individuals.
Ok, how to control this yearly menace. Maintain the normal bacteria of the gut through the use of a good probiotic (4 in 1 Probiotics or BacPakPlus) . Raising the pHlevel of the intestinal tract seems to help through the use of (Ox-E-Drops)
Realize that with summer heat and drier conditions, the bacteria wont be as viable and not as much of a risk to your dog. By summer, the dogs have been out enough to have built immune systems and have raised their stamina so that they are not so tired and susceptible to the bacteria. With winter conditions, the bacteria are also not viable and are in their spore state just waiting for spring. Not only are winter conditions not as conducive to acquiring the bacteria outside, most dogs stay inside the majority of the time which doesnt allow them as much exposure to the bacteria.
Metranidazole and Vancomycin are the drugs of choice - (using both) but, with extended use, also can make the problem worse unless you are double dosing your probiotics.