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Tetanus - Lockjaw

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<htmltitle name="Tetanus in Cats and Dogs | Symptoms and Treatments for Pets with Lockjaw" />  
<htmltitle name="Tetanus in Cats and Dogs | Symptoms and Treatments for Pets with Lockjaw" />  
[[Category:General Pet Health]]
[[Category:General Pet Health]]
== Overview ==
Tetanus, commonly known as Lockjaw, results in spasms, over-activity and rigidity. Both dogs and cats are quite resistant to this disease. Pets suffering from tetanus may have injuries around the mouth. Wounds that are at least one centimetre in depth may be considered tetanus-prone.
The tetanus toxin is tetanospasmin, secreted by a bacterium Clostridium tetani. These anaerobic bacteria thrive in conditions with no oxygen. Wounds could result from bites or rolling in the soil where the clostridia or soil bacteria live, particularly in a farm environment. The bacteria can infect contaminated wounds, dead tissue, surgical wounds, burns, frostbite, open fractures or abrasions and lacerations. Punctures that have a small narrow opening can block oxygen and provide a favourable environment for the Clostridium. During wound contamination, the tetanospasmin attaches to local nerves and spreads through tissue spaces and lymphatic and vascular systems. The toxin migrates through neuromuscular junctions and enters the central nervous system. This process interferes with the release of neurotransmitters and glycine. The results include dangerous over-activity in the muscles that could lead to fractures, spasms, and rigidity. As the pet’s facial muscles pull back, the symptom of risus sardonicus or sardonic smile shows. This progressive infection affects muscle spasms in the jaw characteristic of lockjaw.

Latest revision as of 23:02, January 25, 2010

Symptoms and Diagnosis

A wound is often the starting point one to two weeks before symptoms show. Puppies teething may also be susceptible. Symptoms of Tetanus include losing the ability to blink, eat, and swallow. A pet that cannot blink will flash a third eyelid that moistens the eye. Sensitivity to light and sound may lead to spasms or seizures. Spasms of facial muscles can cause ears that normally hang low to stand up. Dogs will show “risus sardonicus” or sardonic smile as the facial muscles pull back. The developing infection that affects muscles in the jaw makes eating and swallowing particularly difficult. Pets can develop pneumonia. In advanced cases, the pet suffers from limb stiffness and has problems walking or can no longer walk.

No test exists for the diagnosis of tetanus. The animal’s appearance and history of the wound must be carefully considered.


The veterinarian may use antibiotic therapy to kill the clostridia bacteria. Options include penicillin or metronidazole. Consideration of the side effects with long time use should be taken into account. Cleaning the wound and sedating the pet to control spasms and seizures will also benefit. Administering Acepromazine, a commonly used tranquillizer in veterinary medicine, and Chlorpromazine, for nausea control, can reduce the pet’s sensitivity to light and noise.

Owners of pets suffering from Tetanus can offer supportive care at home. A dark room with little stimulation may help the pet after hospitalization. Offering a liquid diet or slurry can provide nutrition if the patient has clenched jaws. Providing soft bedding adds comfort and helps prevent bedsores. After the first week of treatment, improvement may occur. After one month, pet may recover completely. Although tetanus is rare in dogs and cats, this disease, if left untreated, is highly fatal.

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