The effects of botulism on animals
THE clinical signs of botulism usually start as hind limb weakness that then extends up to the front limbs, head and neck, this can lead to complete paralysis and sometimes death.
Botulism can affect most species of animals and although not common it is seen in cattle, horses, sheep, goats and sometimes dogs.
Botulism is caused by ingesting the toxin that is secreted by the clostridium botulinum bacteria.
This toxin is a neurotoxin and it binds to nerves preventing them functioning and causing paralysis.
This toxin is the same toxin that is used for botox injections in people.
Clostridial bacteria such as the clostridium botulinum bacteria can form spores and last in the environment for a long time, and when conditions are right they multiply and grow.
The botulism bacteria likes to grow in rotten and spoiled foodstuffs, so when an animal eats the rotten food this is when they can contract botulism.
Botulism is quite difficult to diagnose as there are no real specific tests for it and often clinical signs may take hours to days to develop after the toxin is consumed by the animal, thus making detection of the toxin very difficult.
If a dog develops botulism the treatment involves supportive care and nursing, recovery from paralysis is very slow but possible.
Treatment can be very expensive depending on the severity of the symptoms as swallowing and respiration can be affected in addition to the paralysis, so the dog may need weeks of intensive care.
In farm animals, unless symptoms are mild it is much harder to manage botulism, often the animals die or need to be euthanased.
Prevention of botulism is not easy, but if there are areas that have a high incidence then cattle and sheep can be vaccinated against botulism.
For other animals such as dogs, the best thing to do is try and ensure they don’t eat any rotting dead animals, or drink from any stagnant dirty water sources when they are out for a walk.