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Tetanus: Your Pets Can Get It Too

Most of us humans are vaccinated against tetanus.  We get the shots when we’re little and boosters later in life.  Dogs and cats, on the other hand, don’t need them.  Emergency veterinarian Dr. Madelyn Goocher explains, “Dogs are about 200 times more resistant than humans and cats are about 2,400 times more resistant to tetanus than humans are.”

However, that doesn’t mean they can’t get it.  Dr. Goocher has treated a range of tetanus patients at Southeast Veterinary Specialists.  “The two forms we see most commonly in dogs and cats is a localized form, where they just get rigidity or muscle spasms in a local area, so if it’s on the foot or the leg, that leg will kinda be extended out.”  That form can then develop into the generalized form.  “They’ll have their ears pinned back, their brown will be furrowed.  They’ll have seizures, go into a coma, they can have respiratory problems, so it can become quite severe, especially if left untreated.”

Severe- even deadly.

The key is early treatment.  Izzy’s parents noticed she was looking more like “Grumpy Cat” than her usual self, so they brought her into SVS.  “She was in hospital for about 2 days,” says Dr. Goocher.  “We treated her with an antibiotic, the tetanus immunoglobulin, which is the tetanus antitoxin and we did have to give her some sedation.”

Because tetanus patients are particularly sensitive, they have to take extra precautions in the ICU.  For example, they put a towel over the cage, they’ll give the patient a sedative, even put cotton balls in their ears so they’re not distracted by outside noises.

Izzy is lucky her owners caught the tetanus.  It was a rare case, which thanks to early treatment, has turned her frown upside down!