The Silent Assassin

An experience with Clostridium & Giardia


Have you ever wondered why your dog suddenly get sick with diarrhea or go “off” for no apparent reason? You’ve changed nothing to their regime but something hits them like a sledgehammer. It starts with one or two and before you know it, you are going through a nightmare.

  • You try all the known remedies.
  • You consult your Vet.
  • You start them on antibiotics..

If you are lucky, you get them over it within a few weeks, lose those weeks of income plus the money you spent fixing them.

You got lucky this time, if you call losing money and seeing your dog’s sick.
Compared to what can happen if that bug takes a real good hold, you are indeed lucky.

We’d like to share a story about a kennel that wasn’t quite so lucky.

It all started with the Canine Corona Virus. Like most participants, it made its mark on this 18 dog kennel. The whole kennel didn’t get it at once. It took 2 months of diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss before it completed its job.
It was devastating to the owner/trainer and his dogs.

The slow journey bringing his dogs back to health and fitness started.
That journey ended as quickly as it began because the real devastation was just about to start.

A bacteria called Clostridium decided to take advantage of the damage the Corona Virus had done and decimated the whole 18 dogs once more.
About the same time, a parasite called Giardia somehow invited itself to the party as well, unbeknownst to the owner.

Electron Micrograph of Clostridioides difficile bacteria from a stool sample

Faecal tests confirmed heavy infestation of Clostridium, but not Giardia.
The onslaught of diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, loss of weight and lethargy were both soul destroying for the owner/trainer and diabolical for the dogs.
Under Vet’s advice, antibiotics and diet change were engaged.
This seemed to improve them until the next wave came a few weeks later.
One morning there were 2 sick, the next morning 5, then the next 12.

Second faecal test confirmed Clostridium was still there.
Different antibiotics and they seemed to improve…until the next wave hit harder still. Two dogs nearly lost and the owner about to give it all away.

Third faecal test confirms Clostridium and GIARDIA.
Treated with antibiotics and Panacur.
Again they seemed to improve until, yes, the next wave came rolling in.

Electron Micrograph of the surface of the small intestine of a Gerbil infested with Giardia

Just stop for a minute and think how you would cope if this hit your kennel.
Think of the frustration watching your dog’s suffer, the mental anguish you’d suffer, the financial hardship, the level of mental stress and physical exhaustion.
It’s crippling.

Fourth faecal test confirms low level Clostridium and NO Giardia, but the symptoms are still there.

On the advice of a Professor of Veterinary Pharmacology, Giardia was targeted and Clostridium ignored with a high dosage of the antibiotic Metronidazole.
Finally, along with a stringent biosecurity protocol, progress was made.
EIGHT MONTHS LATER!!!

The reason this article is called The Silent Assassin is because Giardia is one of the hardest bugs to detect in a faecal sample.
The cysts or eggs are not always shed in faeces every day, so faecal testing is not always accurate.
It is spread by faeces or digestion of water contaminated by infected faeces.

With every season brings new challenges to us and our dogs.
All of the above disasters were spread by faeces.
We all need to be more vigilant in hygiene and biosecurity protocols and that especially includes all racetracks and trial tracks where a huge number of dogs congregate.

This disastrous story might have been avoided with a little extra care.

Wash bays and empty out areas are potential hazards that can harbour bacteria and viruses capable of causing damage to your dogs.

Be vigilant, be safe and stay healthy.


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