What are Bacterial Infections?
Bacteria are single cell organisms that reproduce by dividing. There are good and harmful bacteria. Good bacteria can benefit your health and the environment, while harmful bacteria cause illness and infection. Pets just like humans often develop bacterial infections, and if left untreated these infections can lead to more severe health complications.
The symptoms and signs of bacterial infections include:
- Abscesses on the skin
- Wound infections
- Lack of appetite
- Runny nose or eyes
- Infections of the skin, eyes, ears, urinary tract or respiratory system
- Inflammation and redness
- Pain and discomfort
- Lethargy and weakness
What Causes Bacterial Infections?
There are various types of bacterial infections affecting the skin, eye, ear, urinary tract, kidneys or nervous and respiratory system and these include:
Bacterial skin infections also known as pyodermas are caused by Staphylococci (Staph bacteria) and affect both dogs and cats. The Staph bacteria usually live harmlessly on the skin and as a result of itching, infection occurs. The common symptoms include yellow pustules, scabs, reddened skin and lesions. Fleas, ticks, allergies, weakened immune system, stress, poor diet and underlying illnesses may all contribute to bacterial skin infections. This infection is not contagious to humans or other animals.
Streptococcal infections are caused by streptococcus bacteria and commonly affect both cats and dogs. It is prevalent amongst young and old animals because they have weakened immune systems. In young animals, the immune system is not fully developed and not strong enough to fight off infection while in older animals the protective mechanisms have declined.
Staphylococcal infection is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria which can be found in the environment, in the upper respiratory tract of animals or on the skin of a host as a parasite. It affects both dogs and cats and is spread between animals and sometimes, humans.
Leptospirosis infection is caused by spirochete bacteria and is highly contagious. It is spread through the contamination of water or soil and the urine of carrier animals. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, lethargy, reddening of the mucous membranes and conjunctivitis. If not treated, it can lead to kidney inflammation. It affects dogs more than cats, and routine vaccinations are necessary to prevent the infection.
Actinmycosis infection is caused by Actinomyces bacteria and is normally found in the mouth. Nocardiosis infection is caused by nocardia bacteria and is found in the soil. In both these infections, the bacteria enter through a skin wound resulting in the lymph nodes becoming swollen. This infection may spread to the abdomen or chest where pus starts to build up.
Brucellosis infection is caused by Brucella canis and is most common in dogs kept in kennels. This infection is usually occurs during breeding season and is spread through contaminated urine, vaginal discharge of a female or the semen of a male dog. Male dogs may experience fertility problems or develop prostatitis while infected pregnant females abort their fetuses or if born, puppies die shortly afterwards.
Diagnosing Bacterial Infections
The diagnosis of bacterial infection in cats and dogs is based on the symptoms, review of the medical history and thorough physical examination. Certain tests such as blood tests, cultures, skin biopsies, sensitivity testing or allergy testing may also be performed to determine the cause of bacterial infection. In addition, it may be necessary to perform other tests to rule out any other conditions.
Help for Bacterial Infections
Depending on the type of bacterial infection, and your pet’s overall health your vet may recommend various treatment options to clear the infection. Medications usually include a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in the form of drops or topical ointments.
In the case of bacterial skin infections, allergy shots and certain shampoos may be prescribed to relieve symptoms. Making certain dietary changes and including regular exercise as part of your pet’s daily routine can also strengthen the immune system and ward off infection.
Natural and holistic treatments have been used for centuries to support a healthy immune system. A combination of herbal ingredients are safe and gentle to use and address overall health and wellbeing. Herbs such as Taraxacum officinalis (Dandelion), Echinacea purpurea, Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha), and Sylibum marianus (Milk Thistle) help to cleanse and purify the system, support immune functioning, and maintain liver health.