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Helicobacter Infection

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Overview

Helicobacter is a spiral-shaped bacterium that affects the stomach and can cause peptic ulcers and cancer in humans but may or may not cause disease in cats and dogs. While it has been shown that helicobacter can live in the stomachs of cats and dogs it has been a controversial issue as to whether it indicates disease. In fact, helicobacter is often found in the stomachs of healthy dogs. Still, helicobacter has recently been identified as a carcinogen as it is related to the development of stomach cancers such as adenocarcinoma and lymphoma. There has been a great deal of study into the implications of helicobacter infections in humans but as of yet there is still little information about the progression of this infection in animals.

Indeed, helicobacter is very common in the gastric systems of dogs. As many as 60-80% of dogs that are brought to the veterinarian because of vomiting have been found to have helicobacter infections. In fact, as many as 80% of healthy dogs will have helicobacter in their stomachs. One of the main concerns is whether dogs can pass these bacteria to humans as the implications of helicobacter infections in humans are much more serious. The spread of the bacteria is also unclear although fecal-oral or oral-oral hypotheses have been made.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The main symptoms of a helicobacter infection are likely occasional vomiting and poor appetite. Still, many animals will carry the bacteria without ever showing any negative symptoms whatsoever. For this reason, it can be very difficult to determine whether your animal is suffering from a helicobacter infection and many veterinarians do not recommend treatment.

Diagnosis of a helicobacter infection involves a number of tests. Firstly, a bacteria culture must be taken to determine if there are any abnormal bacteria present in the stomach. In addition, a microscopic tissue analysis will determine if there has been any tissue damage. Impression smears, urease tests, polymerase chain reaction tests, and serum tests are also common diagnostic steps in determining whether there is a helicobacter infection. Typically, differentiating bacterial diseases can be quite difficult as their symptoms (especially in cases of gastro-intestinal infection) can be quite similar. Specifically identifying a helicobacter infection might not even be necessary as treatments tend to also be similar. Still, the vomiting and appetite changes in your pet can lead to more serious conditions so any bacterial infection of the gastro-intestinal tract should be dealt with immediately.


Treatment

The most common treatments for helicobacter infections include antibiotics or antibiotics in addition to medications that reduce gastric acidity. Bacteria survive in a very specific environment. Temperature, moisture, and pH are crucial environmental elements that determine the survival of bacteria. Subtle changes in these elements can cause the bacteria to die thus by reducing the acidity of the stomach you can make the stomach environment unsuitable for helicobacter.

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