What to Know about E. coli in Dogs and Cats

Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli. MedicalRF.com/Getty

E. coli can effect dogs, cats and humans. The bacteria known as Escherichia coli or E. coli is one of the most common bacteria found in the world. It is a normal inhabitant of the gastrointestinal tract of all animals. However, under certain circumstances, this bacteria can also be responsible for causing disease.

Enterotoxigenic E. coli is an example of one type of Echerichia coli that can cause disease, more specifically food-borne disease, most commonly.

In the case of enterotoxigenic E. coli, the bacteria produces a toxin that acts on the inside of the infected intestinal tract to cause diarrhea. This disease can occur when contaminated food or water is ingested.

Echerichia coli Infection in Dogs and Cats

Dogs and cats can be infected with E. coli in much the same way that people can be, by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

  • There have been many recalls of commercial pet food diets and treats involving contamination with E. coli. Ingestion of these diets and treats could potentially cause infection in your dog or cat. This could potentially result in your pet becoming a carrier of the disease as well.
  • There is also concern that feeding a raw diet may result in increased risk of a pet shedding E. coli in the feces.

E. coli Infection in People

Though family pets, such as dogs and cats, can be a potential source of E. coli infection, there are many other sources of infection as well.

The ingestion of any source of contaminated food or water can cause the disease. Signs most commonly seen are diarrhea and abdominal pain. Less commonly, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, headaches, and muscle pain can also occur. Typically, most people recover from infection with enterogenic E. coli without incident.

Related: E. coli Infection in People from the CDC

Prevention of Enterotoxigenic E. coli Infection

Hygienic measures are the most reliable method of preventing infection with enterotoxigenic E. coli.

  • Practice good food handling techniques when preparing food and cook all meats thoroughly prior to consumption.
  • Practice good hygiene, including washing your hands frequently and thoroughly. Teach your children to do so also. Wash your hands after handling your pet's food.
  • If feeding your pet a raw diet, be aware of the potential for increased risk of shedding of E. coli.
  • Avoid drinking water from potentially contaminated sources.
  • Be cautious of unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming.
  • Stay informed about recalls on both pet foods and human food products.

Please note: This article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Related Reading: Salmonellosis - Infection With Salmonella Bacteria