Friday, March 28, 2014

What does tetanus look like in companion animals?

This photo features on the cover of this month's Australian Veterinary Practitioner. This little lady has generalised tetanus, characterised by spastic paralysis of her limbs - causing her to maintain this painful, starfish position. With treatment and time she was able to wag her tail and shuffle forwards - and yes, she did make a full recovery.

Sometimes a picture is worth one thousand words and that is particularly true when it comes to tetatnus.

Tetanus is something we think about when we tread on a rusty nail or re-use intravenous needles, but companion animals can get it too. They're not quite as susceptible as we are (according to Craig Greene, editor of Greene's Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat, horses, guinea pigs and humans are most susceptible while mice, rabbits, dogs, cats and chickens are less susceptible) but it can make their lives pretty miserable.

Canine generalised tetanus has been reported frequently, but evidence-based treatment guidelines are lacking. You can read more in the article I co-authored with Dr Peter Irwin (if you're an ASAVA member click here, otherwise check your library for Fawcett A. and Irwin P. (2014) Review of treatment of generalised tetanus in dogs. Australian Veterinary Practitioner 44(1):574-578.)
This cat has localised tetanus - note the extensor rigidity of the right hindlimb only. This is the most common clinical presentation of tetanus in cats.